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Minakami Biosphere Reserve, Japan

Although it is only about one hour away from Tokyo, Minakami Biosphere Reserve is abundant with valuable nature. The site includes the central divide of the island Honshu formed by 2,000 meters high mountainous backbone including the Tanigawa mountain range. Significant differences in the environment between the eastern and western slopes as well as between the mountainous and the lowland areas create a distinct biological and cultural diversity. The main activities are agriculture and tourism.

Designation date: 2017


Regional network:  EABRN, SeaBRnet

Ecosystem-based network: Mountains




    Surface : 91,368 ha

    • Core area(s): 9,123 ha
    • Buffer zone(s): 60,421 ha
    • Transition zone(s): 21,824 ha 

    Location: 36°50’58”N – 139°00’10”E

    Administrative Authorities

    Ministry of the Environment, Forestry Agency, Gunma Prefecture, Niigata Prefecture, Minakami Town
    Minakami Biosphere Reserve Governance Board
    318 Gokan, Minakami Town
    Tone Gun, Gunma Pref 379-1393

    Tel.: + 81278255032


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    Ecological Characteristics

    Gunma Prefecture is located in the center of Japan. Minakami Biosphere Reserve consists of the entire area of Minakami Town which is the northernmost of Gunma Prefecture while the rest belongs to neighboring Uonuma City, Minamiuonuma City, and Yuzawa Town, all in Niigata Prefecture.

    The total area is 91,368 ha, over 90% of which are forests. The altitude ranges from about 300 to 2,000 meters ASL.The Tone River, having the largest basin area in Japan, originates on Mt. Ominakami-yama located in the northernmost of Minakami Town. It supports lives and livelihoods of 30 million people in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

    The mountain ridges on the borders of Gunma and Niigata Prefectures provide the central divide, where the air masses over the Pacific and Sea of Japan collide. It is one of the heaviest snowfall areas in the world.In addition to the steep rock faces and bare rocks, the significant amount of snow accumulated during the winter season forms distinctive landforms such as nivation hollows, flood plains, river terraces as well as the periglacial. Furthermore, the glacier marks of the ice age have been found in the area despite the elevation of only about 2,000 meters ASL, which is relatively low for this to occur.

    The unique landforms and geology together with its distinct climate foster distinctive ecosystems where rare and diverse fauna and flora persists. This includes endemic species such as Hosobahina-usuyukisou.


    Socio-Economic Characteristics

    Within this area there are Satochi and Satoyama which have rural landscapes. They have been protected as part of the residents’ daily life. The traditional and rural culture supported by rich natural resources are alive and well protected.

    The “Takumi-no-sato” located in the wide rural landscape provides visitors with various experience programs and interaction with the local population. This is achieved by incorporating natural landscapes and local life activities as resource. Conservation of natural resources utilized by sustainability in agriculture (rice and apple harvesting) as well as tourism including hot springs, mountain climbing, and skiing are part of the area's promotional strategy. 


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    Last updated: April 2020