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 actually 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 a 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.
-Accessible and beautiful all year round.
-Approximately a 50 minute drive from Sakata City.
-There are bears in this area, please bring a bear bell.
-You must stay on the trail as to not damage the pristine beech forest.
-Recommended length of time 1 - 2 hours depending on if you choose to hike the entire course.
See available rental car options here.
-Boots are required during the winter due to snow.
-A rental car is highly recommended due to scarce public transportation in Nahako.
-Be extra wary of Asianic bears during the Fall
-A great outdoor activity even during the rain.
The brilliant fall foliage
Parking and Visitors Center
Nakajimadai during the Fall
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.
The parking lot and visitors center
Unfortunately none of this information here 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.
"Please help us protect the forest by not stepping off the trail of collecting and wildlife"
The Start of the Trail
The start of the wooden walking path
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.
A small river on the trail
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.
Some of the Japanese maple
Also be sure to admire the small details of this forest during your 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.
Moss peaking out under fallen leaves
Nakajimadai is also incredible in the summer
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 20 minutes 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 her where you rest and admire the size and shape of this forest giant.
The Shishigahana Wetlands
Spring water flowing up from underground
Taking a left at the fork will lead you to the expansive Shishigahana Wetlands.
Here you can see rivers flowing up from underground and also 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!
More of the brilliant fall foliage seen throughout the forest.
One of the many gentle streams flowing across the forest floor.
Some of the crystal clear spring water.
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.
Please see below for other nearby sightseeing spots.
Map: 〒018-0151 Akita-ken, Nikaho-shi, Baba, 秋田県にかほ市馬場冬師山
This location is easy to reach via car but only via car. There unfortunately are no bus routes or nearby train stations.
See available rental car options here.