Shirakami-sanchi refers to a 130 000ha mountainous zone stretching around the border between the two prefectures of Akita and Aomori. The mountains, flanked by forests, form tiers between 100m and 1 200m altitude. Its central zone (17 000ha) has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As the area is not easily accessible and lies far from built-up areas, it is home to an almost unspoilt beech grove that is the only one of its kind in the world. It boasts more than 500 species of plants and extremely diverse wildlife.