Wakkanai, Hokkaido 稚内
Wakkanai in Hokkaido is the most northern city in Japan and an air, rail and ferry travel hub for visiting nearby Cape Soya (Soya Misaki), which is the northern-most point in Hokkaido, and the offshore islands of Rebun and Rishiri in the beautiful Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park.
Wakkanai has a population of just over 40,000 people. Tourism, seaweed harvesting (kombu), and fishing are its major industries.
Wakkanai Koen, a park close to Wakkanai Station, has excellent views from the Centennial Memorial Tower.
Cape Soya (Soya Misaki) is firmly on the tourist route and sees a steady stream of visitors arriving and departing by bus, car or motorcycle from Wakkanai, braving the elements for obligatory souvenir photographs (kinnen-shashin) before dashing into the local outlets for tasty soft ice cream or souvenirs such as dried fish. Some are lucky, and on fine days they are able to see the ex-Japanese territory of Sakhalin (now in Russia) on the horizon just 43km away to the north.
While most visitors take in the view in minutes, those who linger longer find that the geographical novelty of Soya Misaki is just a small part of its significance. Hokkaido's Cape Soya (45°31'N; 141°56'E), the northernmost tip of Japan, could as well be dubbed the 'Cape of Monuments,' as it is rich in history much of which is commemorated there.
Cape Noshappu is the second-most northerly point after Cape Soya and is a peaceful place with more fine views, especially the sunset which is justly famous.
The Wakkanai Noshappu Aquarium (Tel: 0162 23 6278) is located here, a 15 minute bus journey from Wakkanai Station. The Wakkanai Lighthouse is the tallest in Hokkaido and situated at Cape Noshappu.
There's a small onsen hot spring at Wakkanai Onsen Domu (Tel: 0162 28 1160) south west of Noshappu Cape on the coast. It is open from 10am-10pm.
Accommodation in Wakkanai
If you are heading out to Rebun or Reshiri, you will probably need to spend a night in Wakkanai on the way there or on the way back.
Wakkanai has a fair range of hotels, minshuku and ryokan (Japanese inns). Choose from a selection of hotels in Wakkanai of which recommended places include the Dormy Inn Wakkanai, the Hotel Kabe Shiosaitei, the Tabinoyado Ubukata and the Ryokan Iwaki, all close to JR Wakkanai Station.
Access - Getting To Wakkanai
The nearest access point to Rebun and Rishiri, Wakkanai, can be reached by road, rail and air. Trains start in Sapporo and take five to five and a half hours to Wakkanai, highway buses take six hours Sapporo-Wakkanai. From Sapporo Station the Limited Express Super Soya 1 is direct to Wakkanai and costs just over 10,000 yen, and also covered by the Japan Rail Pass. Trains and buses also run from Wakkanai to Asahikawa.
There are flights from both Sapporo and Tokyo to Wakkanai Airport. Wakkanai Airport is just over 30 minutes by bus to Wakkanai. There are flights from Sapporo New Chitose Airport to Rishiri Airport (1 hour).
From Wakkanai, Heart Land Ferry operates car ferries to Rishiri and Rebun and between the two islands. Heart Land Ferry presently operates ferries from Wakkanai to Sakhalin in Russia and between Esashi and Okushiri Island and Setana and Okushiri Island in the south west of Hokkaido.