Far in the North, at the deep end of Hokkaido and just before reaching Russia, stand Wakkanai and the Cape Soya, respectively the northernmost city of Japan and the country’s northernmost point. Five hours away of Sapporo, the prefecture’s busy capital, the northern landscapes is really different – cold and dry and with very few trees. And many wild animals are to be spotted in the area, even inside the city. Sika deer, prey-birds and foxes for example.
Summer 2017 was the time for us to discover Hokkaido’s famous sight according to the list we are following to explore Japan – and we were glad to write about Biei hills, Asahiyama zoo and Shiretoko. But these were not our first memories in the northern island. Back in 2016, we first reached Wakkanai thanks to our first and only JR Pass. The sight was stunning enough that we wanted to come back to Japan, and now write about the quiet city.
At the time, we only wanted to reach Japan’s northernmost point – Cape Soya and its unique triangle.
Wakkanai’s flora seems to be suffering from the long and snowy winters, offering light greens and very few trees. But the wildlife is strong, even really close to housings. We came across sika deer several times while biking around. They were not really scared by our sight.
Reaching Wakkanai without going further North to Cape Soya would be a pity. Japan’s northernmost point is 37 km away from the city center, just across Soya Bay. A statue of Japanese explorer and geographer Mamiya Rinzo is to be found there. Just across the sea is Russian Sakhalin island, standing 42 km away on the other side of La Pérouse strait (named after the French explorer; or Soya strait in Japanese).
How to get there?
Wakkanai is only 1h50 away from Tokyo Haneda by plane. The journey is much longer by train and takes at least two days, with a Tokyo-Sapporo on the first day (Tohoku Shinkansen to Hokuto and then Hakodate main line, about 8h30) and the 5 hours-long Sapporo-Wakkanai on the next day. The whole trip is covered by the JR pass.