Awone Shirakami Jyuniko Resort (sometimes written with “Juniko”) is a nature lover’s dream destination. Nestled within walking distance of the area’s famous Juniko Lakes, and just outside the Shirakami Sanchi World Heritage Site, it offers outdoor activities such as hiking, guided tours, use of a children’s playground, outdoor cooking, and in the winter, an awesome snow trekking experience and a chance to make an igloo. There are buses from the nearby Juniko station, or there is a 150 car parking lot free of charge for guests. The nature experience starts as soon as you enter your accommodation.
There are various accommodations from one person, to group, to barrier-free (handicap accessible), with the highlight of course being one of the picturesque log houses. These two-story log houses are ideal for groups of friends or a family. With six beds in different rooms, just a single bathroom-- but one that has separate sink, toilet, and shower areas-- and a decent sized living area, it is easy to relax after a hard day of exploring the area.
The resort is separated into accommodations and several other buildings. You can further relax in the onsen, which does not offer much of a view but does have a sweet wood aroma to enjoy while you soak. Also, the resort’s restaurant sells breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The cuisine has a good taste, quality, and price. Not overly luxurious, but fancy and filling. In the local area, a special kind of carrot is grown in the snow which makes it extra sweet. The unique flavor was served once as a pudding, and once as a cake during my stay. A spacious gift shop is also on premises. Here you can find all the local specialty sweets, foods, and some crafts produced in the area. There is also a room where you can make your own jewelry or keychain. On a nearby hill is an observation tower, but it is closed during winter months. An event tent, a really BIG one, finishes off main buildings. As you can guess, various concerts or events are held here, often during the busy travel season of summer.
There are a few drawbacks to the resort. One is everything is in Japanese. This includes the language of staff members, written materials (minus some multi-lingual tourist pamphlets), and the entire website. I met with staff during a tour of the facilities with other international guests. They seemed after hearing our concerns, they may implement some changes in this regard in the future. Another drawback is the lack of places to buy food near the resort. The onsite restaurant is great, but there are few or no convenience stores or supermarkets in the area, so getting cheaper food easily may be a bit difficult. Lastly, although winter offers some unique scenery and activities, there are no ski slopes in the area. I heard this is because constructing one so close to a World Heritage Site in not allowed.
Still, even with these few drawbacks, I recommend this resort for those wanting to travel in a group and love nature. The kids will love the playground, the young to old can enjoy hikes and stroll through the forest, and travelers that just want to relax can find a nice nook in the lobby or log house to curl up with a book while occasionally glancing out a window to see the natural surroundings. If you sleep on the second floor beds, a skylight will let you see the famous starry sky the area is known for on a clear night.
Enjoy the nature from start to finish with a scenic trip along the Sea of Japan via the Shirakami Resort.