Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on March 2012With coordinates of 45 degrees, 31 minutes, and 14 seconds North, Cape Soya in Hokkaido is the northernmost point of Japan. and the journey to the top is a long one: an early flight from Tokyo to Sapporo, and from there an eight-hour drive to Wakkanai. Make that 10 hours if you make a wrong turn or two. It’s a long, scenic road trip across Hokkaido. Endless green pastures and blue skies. Fresh air, cool breeze, the sea on one side and rice paddies on the other. Stretches on endlessly.
It’s dark by the time we arrive at the port town of Wakkanai. Here we find road signs not only in Japanese and English, but also Russian, for we are only a stone’s throw away from Sakhalin, across the water. Wakkanai is the last major town before you reach the tip of Japan. From here you can get a ferry to nearby Japanese islands Rishiri and Rebun. You can even catch a boat to Russia.
After a long day of driving through the Hokkaido countryside, we stop over in Wakkanai for the night. Wakkania Youth Hostel turns out to a surprise bargain. Despite the rundown exterior, we are pleasantly surprised. For around ¥2,000 a private room, we eschew the shared dorm for the run of a large furnished mini-apartment. There’s our own washing machine, stove, fridge, TV, bathroom, and a separate tatami room that comfortably sleeps four, though we are only three. Hotel trimmings at hostel prices.
Early the next morning we are on the road again, for Soya Misaki (Cape Soya). From Wakkanai it’s just a 30-minute drive, and all roads head north. No getting lost this time around.
We take the obligatory photo at the monument informing us of the fact that we stand at “the most northern point in Japan.” Lucky for us, it’s a clear September morning, and the faint shoreline of Russia can be seen glowering darkly in the distance. An icy chill runs down our spines.
A shrine offers some northerly prayertime and a souvenir store allows the buying of a multitude of trinkets. Across the road can be found the Peace Park, up on higher ground. From there, you can score a higher vantage point onto the convergence point of the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan. You might even spot the odd fox or two. It feels great to be on top. It’s just a shame that it’s a long, long way back down from here.