Juniko is located in Aomori Prefecture. The location is a part of the Shirakami Mountains which are registered as UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also a part of the Tsugaru Quasi-National Park.
Juniko literally means twelve lakes, but the real number of lakes is 33. Nobody knows why it is called twelve, but some say that if you see the lakes from Mount Kuzure, you can only see 12. Or it could be by coincidence, as the number of big lakes over 10,000 square meters is 12.
It is believed that the lakes were created because the river was stopped by earth and sand after a big landslide of 940m high Mount Kuzure that was caused by the big earthquake in 1704. Other than river water, underground water is also gushing into the lakes. These lakes are surrounded by the beech forest. The water in the lakes is very clear and transparent.
Out of the 33 lakes, Aoike is the most famous one because of its beautiful color. ‘Ao’ means blue and ‘ike’ means pond, so it means Blue Pond, which is an apt name as it looks like blue ink was dropped into the water. There are fallen beech trees under the water, and depending on the angle of the sunshine you can enjoy the changing of the color.
Wakitsubonoike also has a beautiful blue color and was selected as one of the best quality water in Aomori Prefecture. One part is named Nihon Canyon (Japanese Grand Canyon) because of the white surface of the mountain.
Hiking around Juniko
The altitude of the area is between 150 to 250 meters, and the area is about 4 km2 large. You can enjoy hiking all year round and it shows different scenery in each season. Vivid green leaves of the beech trees in spring and summer, yellow and red leaves in autumn and white in winter. In winter it snows here, but you can visit the area wearing snowshoes.
You can get a hiking map at the tourist information office in front of the JR Juniko Station. Depending on how you want to walk, there are short 2-hour courses to 3-day courses that you can walk with a nature guide.
You may encounter some wild animals such as Japanese serows, squirrels, monkeys (Japanese macaque), badgers, rabbits and some birds such as narcissus flycatchers, common kingfishers, and great spotted woodpeckers. If you stop at the Juniko Visitor Center, you can learn more about the geography, fauna, and flora of the area.
Access: 15 minutes ride on the bus from Juniko Station (JR Line) to Oku-Juniko-Chushajo (奥十二湖駐車場) bus stop