A world heritage beech forest in Nikaho City.
Northern Japan is well known for its vast mountains and expansive forests that surround them. Among our favorite is the expansive world heritage beech forest of Nakajimadai at the base of Mt. Chokai in Nikaho City.
Nakajimadai lies in Akita Prefecture just 30 minutes passed the border of Yamagata Prefecture. It is on the northern side of Mt. Chokai that is covered in a huge beech forest that is part of the Mt. Chokai Geo Park.
This forest features a beautiful flat wooden hiking path, a 300-year-old beech tree named Agariko, rivers that emerge vertically from underground, and a large marshland. During the Fall this entire forest ignites in yellow, orange, and red making this the perfect place for a hike through the colors of Fall.
1-2 hours depending on if you choose to hike the entire course.
Nakajimadai National Forest, Yokooka, Kisakatamachi, Nikaho City
Approximately a 50-minute drive from Sakata City.
You must stay on the trail as to not damage the pristine beech forest.
Be extra wary of Asianic bears during the Fall, please bring a bear bell.
Boots are required during the winter due to snow.
A rental car is highly recommended due to scarce public transportation in Nahako. See available rental car options here.
A great outdoor activity even during the rain.
The Parking and Visitors Center
At the start of the trail there is a large parking lot with bathrooms and a small information center that features a small gallery showcasing the beauty of this forest throughout the seasons.
You can also borrow hiking sticks here for the day right next to the front of the small building. These can come in handy for the optional dirt and rock sections of the trail. Note that there are no food or drink vendors nearby, we recommend purchasing some snacks for the trail prior to your arrival.
Unfortunately, none of this information on this sign is translated into English, this includes the most critical rule of the Geo Park that guests must stay on the trail. This is due to the many species of wildflowers and moss that lie dormant beneath the soil.
Fortunately, we did not find this to be a problem as the trail cuts right through the most pristine and beautiful parts of the forest already.
The Start of the Trail
The trail head begins at the edge of the beech forest. There is a sharp transition between the dense and dark Japanese cedar forest surrounding the parking lot and the colors of Nakajimadai.
Walking along this trail, you will quickly descend deeper into the forest where many beautiful sights await.
Some of the notable sights along this trail include a number of small rivers and streams that you cross. These provide a nice break in the forest and offer a clear view of the beech trees and sky.
This forest also has a wide variety of trees and plants including many types of Japanese maple!
This variety is what offers the stunning display of endless shades of fall colors throughout the hike.
Hidden under the fall leaves there are dozens of species of moss, some that even look like little trees like these.
The forest floor changes drastically with the seasons as well.
About 20-30 minutes into your hike, you will come to a fork in the road. To the right is the Shishigahana Wetland trail and to the left is the forest giant called Agariko Daio. As the hike to the left is only a 20 minute round trip, we suggest going left first.
There are a number of very old beech trees along this trail including one that is over 300 years old! This tree has been named Agariko-daio and is designated as one of the 100 Forest Giants of Japan.
Its sheer size and shape make for a beautiful sight even among the thousands of beautiful trees surrounding it. There are benches where you can rest and admire the size and shape of this forest giant.
The Shishigahana Wetlands
Here you can see rivers flowing up from underground and then disappearing back into the earth. The crystal-clear water here is actually spring water that is part of an incredibly vast underground water network constantly fed by melting snow from Mt. Chokai.
In the rivers rich moss can also be seen at the bottom of these gentle rivers and streams.
The trail makes a loop deep into this area where it crosses over many streams. This is the most pristine and fragile area of the forest and is certainly worth the extra time to hike it fully!
If you are a lover of forest hiking, Nakajimadai is a very worthy day trip and one that is best during the summer and fall. It is one of the many beautiful sightseeing spots in the greater Mt. Chokai Geopark and is close by many other beautiful locations.
This location is easy to reach via car but unfortunately are no bus routes or nearby train stations. See available rental car options here.