Thursday, December 1, 2016

Cape Soya

As I wrote in the previous post, hubby and I had been on a sightseeing trip to Hokkaido in mid-June for my birthday. On the day of my birthday on 19th June, we visited Cape Soya. Cape Soya is the northernmost point of the island of Hokkaido. It is situated in Wakkanai City of Soya subprefecture. With coordinates of 45 degrees, 31 minutes, and 14 seconds north, Cape Soya is the absolute tip of Japan. The cape is located about 25 kilometers northeast of the center of Wakkanai City. The cape is a well known tourist spot and sees a steady stream of visitors arriving and departing by buses, cars or motorcycles. It is also known as the 'Cape of Monuments' because of its rich history and this fact is commemorated with many erected monuments. It should be noted here that the true northernmost point under Japanese control is a small deserted island called Bentenjima, located 1 kilometer northwest of the cape. In addition, Cape Soya is just 43 kilometers away across La Perouse Strait from the southernmost cape named Cape Crillon of Sakhalin Island in Russia. It is actually possible to catch a glimpse of the island of Sakhalin on a clear day.


As written in the previous post, hubby and I stayed at a hotel in Asahikawa City on the nights of 18th and 19th June. On the morning of 19th June, we got up early and left the hotel at about 9 am. We rented a car from a car rental service named Orix-Rent-A-Car located adjacent to the hotel. I would like to mention here that it was my 50th birthday that day. So hubby rented a car named Toyota Corolla which also celebrated 50 years of production this year. It was a very thoughtful and kind gesture on hubby’s part. Anyway, by 9.15 am we were all set to start our road trip from Asahikawa City to Cape Soya in Wakkanai City. Cape Soya is located about 250 kilometers north of the car rental place in Asahikawa, and it took us about 4.5 hours of car ride to reach the cape. It was a long scenic road trip across half of Hokkaido. There were stunning views all around us. Such scenic views seemed to stretch on endlessly. After about 105 kilometers of driving, we took rest at Michinoeki roadside station in Bifuka Town. There we saw a shop selling various local products like wooden animals and dolls. We bought a couple of wooden animals about which I have written in an earlier post in July. We also bought some local food products and continued on our way towards the cape. Soon afterwards we started seeing endless green pastures and blue or cloudy skies along the way. There were hardly any cars on the road with non-existent traffic. So we stopped along the road and got out of the car for some time to enjoy the green pastures with grazing cattle. It felt so peaceful and serene. Afterwards, we again continued on our way. As we neared the cape, we started seeing sea on one side and green pastures on the other. We also saw many wind turbines in the green pastures. We made one more stop along the road to enjoy the fresh air, cool breeze, and the peaceful greenery all around us. Finally at about 2 pm, we reached Cape Soya. We thoroughly enjoyed the 4.5 hours of road trip.
I am standing along with Toyota Corolla car we rented in Asahikawa City for our trip to Cape Soya

Toyota Corolla car celebrated 50 years of production this year

Hubby all set to start on our road trip to Cape Soya

I am standing at Michinoeki roadside station in Bifuka Town

A shop at the roadside station where we bought a few wooden dolls

I am standing along with many wooden animals and dolls inside the shop

There were hardly any cars on the road

Hubby having some snacks while driving

We saw scenic views and green pastures all along the road

Cattle grazing in the green pastures

Serene and peaceful view

Hubby clicking photos of the grazing cattle

As we neared the cape, we saw sea on one side and green pastures on the other

Many wind turbines in the green pastures

Wind turbines in the green pastures and I


We parked our rented car at a parking lot and walked up to Cape Soya, the northernmost point of Japan. Although it is a cape, there is actually only a roundly curved flat coast. At the absolute tip of the cape, we saw a monument named the ‘Monument of the Northernmost Point of Japan’. It is a stone monument of triangular pyramid shape and marks the northernmost point of freely-accessible Japanese territory. It is built at 45 degrees, 31 minutes, 22 seconds north. The monument expresses peace and cooperation, and has the letter ‘N’ in the center indicating north. We took a few photos of us along with the stone monument for the sake of memories.
I am standing at Cape Soya

I am sitting on a makeshift bench along with the ‘Monument of the Northernmost Point of Japan’ in the background

The stone monument of triangular pyramid shape marks the northernmost point of freely-accessible Japanese territory

Enlarged view of the stone monument

Backside of the stone monument and the sea indicating the absolute tip of the cape

I am standing on the stone monument

Hubby and I standing on the monument


Right next (west of) to the northernmost pyramid monument, we saw a striking standing bronze statue of Mamiya Rinzo in 18th century garb. Mamiya Rinzo was a Japanese explorer from the Edo period and is commemorated for his geographical explorations of the region. He is famous for the discovery of Mamiya Strait (Tatar Strait) in 1809, as well as for determining that Karafuto (presently Sakhalin Island) is actually an island. Mamiya’s name lives on in history for his discoveries, which were great achievements towards filling in missing pieces of the world map at that time.
I am standing along with the bronze statue of Mamiya Rinzo

Hubby and the great 18th century explorer


Adjacent (east of) to the northernmost tip monument, we saw an extraordinary musical monument named ‘Soya Misaki’ Music Monument. It is a black monolithic panel and is a monument to traditional ballad style of Japanese music called Enka. This monument is engraved with the lyrics and music score of ‘Soya Misaki’ (Cape Soya in Japanese), a song in tribute of the springtime splendors of this region. ‘Soya Misaki’ was written by local songwriter Yoshida Hiroshi and composed by famous Enka music composer Funamura Toru, and was released in 1972. When it appeared on a television music program in 1976, ‘Soya Misaki’ became a nationwide hit, and continues to be sung to this day as a masterpiece which stirs the hearts of travelers. Visitors to the cape can stand before this monument, press a button in a stainless steel pillar and hear the refrains of the score and lyrics engraved on the stone. Hubby listened to the music and hummed along with the song.
I am standing in front of ‘Soya Misaki’ Music Monument

Hubby listening to the popular traditional song ‘Soya Misaki’


About 10 meters east of the music monument, we saw several steps leading down to the sea. We walked down the steps to touch the sea water at the northernmost point of the cape. That day the sea was very calm and we saw many seagulls flying over the sea. I would like to mention here that on a clear day, it is possible see the faint shoreline of Sakhalin Island in Russia which is located just 43 kilometers north across the Soya Kaikyo (La Perouse Strait). Since it was a cloudy day, it was rather unfortunate that we could not catch a glimpse of Sakhalin Island. We loved the scenery all around us. The view of the wide sea from the cape was spectacular. It was so serene and peaceful. Looking at the coastal line and the horizon, we felt that we were indeed standing at the northernmost point of Hokkaido. We felt a sense of fulfillment standing at the northernmost point of Japan.
Hubby walked down the steps leading to the sea at the northernmost point of the cape

I am standing next to the sea

A seagull resting on a rock in the sea

Calm sea with Sakhalin Island (not seen that day) on the horizon


Afterwards we stood at the cape appreciating the beautiful views all around us. We noted that a television crew had arrived with all their equipment to film a show. We were delighted to see the comedian duo named Sandwich Man busy filming a television show. It was fun to watch them act.
I am very happy to see the television crew with all their equipment

The comedian duo Sandwich Man busy filming a television show


Next, we walked across the road to a park named Peace Park located on a higher hilly ground above Cape Soya. From such a higher lookout point on the hill, the view of the northernmost point of the cape as well as the wide sea looked breathtaking. We enjoyed the views and it felt great to be on top. Towards the west side on the hill, we saw a red and white striped lighthouse. It is the third-built lighthouse in Hokkaido and is the northernmost lighthouse in Japan. It has been protecting the safety of ships since the light was first turned on in 1885. Right next to the lighthouse, we saw several deer grazing on the hill. Afterwards, we leisurely walked around on the hill park and saw several foxes towards the eastern side of the park. It was fun to see deer and foxes freely roaming around on the hill.
The ‘Monument of the Northernmost Point of Japan’ at Cape Soya (center of photo) and the wide sea as viewed from the hilltop

Hubby walking up the steps towards the Peace Park located on the hill

The northernmost lighthouse of Japan located towards the western side on the hill

I am posing along with the lighthouse

Several deer grazing near the lighthouse and I am posing in the foreground

Deer and hubby dear

A fox walking near the eastern end of the hill park

Several foxes playing on the hill


Although Cape Soya is a geographic novelty and wonder, there are more than a dozen monuments scattered around the cape. The rich history of the cape is commemorated with many erected monuments. Therefore the cape is also referred to as the ‘Cape of Monuments’. In the Peace Park located on the hill, there are about ten historical monuments. We explored the Peace Park in details and paid our respects in front of all the monuments and sobering statues. These historical monuments made us contemplate on wars and history. The cape and the park are actually a history book on statuary. In the next ten paragraphs, I will write little bit about each of the monuments located on the hilly park.
I am standing at the Peace Park located on a hill high above Cape Soya. A few monuments and the sea are seen in the background.


The first monument we saw in the Peace Park was a Memorial in Honor of La Perouse. Count La Perouse was a French naval officer who by the order from King Louis XVI in 1785 led two frigates on an exploration cruise through the waters of northern Hokkaido and discovered a strait between Hokkaido and Karafuto (Sakhalin) in 1787. In honor of the discovery and the navigator’s achievement, the strait was named La Perouse Strait (Soya Strait). This monument was constructed in 2007, in commemoration of 220 years after the discovery.
Memorial Monument in Honor of La Perouse


The second monument we saw in the park was a bronze statue named Akebono. This monument was built in commemoration of the amount of milk production reaching over 1 million ton and the number of dairy cattle reaching over 0.5 million in Hokkaido in 1971. The statue features a young couple clad in farm clothes standing strong as they gaze upon the endless expanse of earth, which symbolizes the dawn of dairy farming in this region. Wakkanai is not suited for rice farming due to its cold climate, and most local farms are dairies.
I am standing in front of the statue of Akebono


Next, we saw a pole-mounted directional sign indicating the directions and distances in kilometers to several famous cities in Japan as well as around the world from Cape Soya. It was very amusing to note that Tokyo is located about 1108 kilometers south of the cape while Sakhalin in Russia just 43 kilometers north of the cape.
Pole-mounted directional sign

I am pointing to the board indicating that Sakhalin is just 43 kilometers away


The fourth monument we saw in the park was an Old Former Naval Watchtower. Through enactment of the Treaty of Saint Petersburg in 1875, Japan exchanged Sakhalin Island for the Kuril Islands. Citizens of both nations had been able to live on Sakhalin Island until the treaty established it as Russia’s territory. Due to the treaty, Wakkanai became a border city, leading to rising tensions. So this watchtower was built in 1902 by the Imperial Japanese Naval Military in preparation for a war with the Russian Empire. It was erected to observe the movements of the Russian Baltic Fleet, which was said to be the strongest in the world at the time. The watchtower is a two-story building with a small window on the second floor from which we can overlook the entire Soya Strait through. It was designated a tangible cultural property of Wakkanai City in 1968. Hubby observed the watchtower in details as it reminded him of the Japanese history he learnt during his school days.
Old Former Naval Watchtower

Hubby and the watchtower


The fifth monument we saw in the park was named Peace Memorial. The Soya Strait was a battlefield for the battle between the Japanese and Americans during the Pacific War in 1943. The American submarine USS Wahoo was attacked and sunk by the Imperial Japanese Navy off the shore of Cape Soya, taking the lives of 80 American sailors aboard. Prior to entering local waters, the USS Wahoo had attacked and sunk a number of Japanese ships, including merchant vessels, and was responsible for a large number of Japanese casualties. Thus during the war, many Japanese and American lives were lost in the waters near Cape Soya. This monument of Peace Memorial was constructed to honor the souls of these Japanese and Americans alike, in hope of peace.
Peace Memorial Monument


The sixth monument we saw in the park was named Soya Coastal Waters Navy War Memorial. During the end of the Pacific War in 1945, Soya Maru, a cargo ferry servicing Karafuto (Sakhalin), fell under torpedo attack by an American submarine. A Japanese Navy vessel with 152 sailors aboard maneuvered into the line of fire to shield Soya Maru, and was sunk in the deadly attack. This monument honors the brave spirits of those who gave their lives in the line of duty on the northern seas.
Soya Coastal Waters Navy War Memorial


The seventh monument we saw in the park was a bell named the World Peace Bell. The origin of the ‘World Peace Bell’ lies in a bell made by a Japanese individual in 1954. In order to bring attention to the tragedies of warfare and praise the nobility of abolishing nuclear weapons, the ‘Japanese Peace Bell’ was cast from copper mixed with coins from the 65 United Nations member states of that time, and donated to the UN Headquarters in New York. The World Peace Bell here was cast in 1988, using coins and medals donated by people of 81 nations, and it was raised as the first bell in a movement to spread the original ideology by creating similar bells throughout the world. Hubby and I loved looking at this bell that weighs 365 kilograms and is 60 centimeters high. We both rang the bell hoping for world peace.
World Peace Bell

I am ringing the bell

Hubby ringing the bell


The eighth monument we saw in the park was yet another bell named the Future of Our Children Peace Bell. Fundraising efforts through the collective will of Wakkanai’s residents as well as coins and medals delivered from 98 countries around the world made the creation of this bell possible in 1988, the same year as the ‘World Peace Bell’ about which I have written in the previous paragraph. This bell embodies our wishes for the future happiness and success of our children, as well as the everlasting peace of our households, region, and world.
Future of Our Children Peace Bell


The ninth monument we saw in the park was named the Prayer Monument. On 1st September 1983, Korean Air Flight KE007 from New York to Seoul Gimpo Airport deviated from its scheduled course and entered prohibited airspace above Sakhalin. The airliner fell under missile attack by scrambled Russian fighter jet Sukhoi Su-15, and crashed in Moneron Island Bay, west of Sakhalin. All 269 passengers and crew were lost. Wakkanai, which is the closest city to the scene of the disaster, played a major role as a base camp for investigations and news reports. This tower monument was built two years after the accident by friends and relatives of the victims, to pray for the spirits of those lost in this tragedy and wish for everlasting world peace. The design features the shape of a crane’s neck, to symbolize the long search for the truth about the incident and wish for true peace. The crane is 19.83 meters high representing the year of the accident, and has 16 wings expressing the home countries of the victims, while the 269 white granite stones represent the number of the victims. The beak points to the direction of the sea off Moneron Island where the accident occurred. We noted that the monument area was filled with a lot of Armeria flowers. Seeing the monument and reading the details about the accident had a sobering effect on hubby and me. We prayed and paid our respects to all the victims.
Prayer Monument along with Armeria flowers in the foreground

I am standing near the front side of the Prayer Monument


The tenth structure we saw in the park was a building named Guest House Armeria. The building is located at the southern end of the park and has a landmark windmill attached to its roof. The building also has a huge observation deck from where a commanding view of the Soya Strait and Soya Hills can be seen.
Guest House Armeria with an observation deck and a windmill


At this point, we finished the tour of the Peace Park. Afterwards we had late lunch at a restaurant named Mamiya-dou located at the northeast corner of the park. Hubby had a bowl of Ramen topped with scallops and I had rice and beef curry. We were very hungry, and so the food tasted delicious.
Mamiya-dou restaurant

Hubby’s lunch of Ramen topped with scallops

My lunch of rice and beef curry

Hubby having his lunch


After lunch, while leisurely walking around in the Peace Park we looked down the hill and saw Cape Soya Settlement just east of the cape. The settlement has many facilities known to be ‘the northernmost in Japan’. From the hill, we saw the northernmost gas station named Idemitsu as well as the northernmost public restroom. Afterwards we got down the hill and returned to the cape area, and used the northernmost public restroom. It felt very funny to leave a piece of us behind at the tip of Japan. Next, we visited the northernmost souvenir shop and bought a certificate proving our arrival at the northernmost point in Japan. Standing at the cape, we also saw the northernmost restaurant right across the road. At this point, we finished the tour of Cape Soya. We left the cape area by our rented car, and saw the northernmost post office just 1 kilometer southeast of the cape. We got out of the car to take a few photos of the post office.
Cape Soya Settlement as viewed from the Peace Park hill

The northernmost gas station Idemitsu as viewed from the hill

The northernmost public restroom as viewed from the hill

The northernmost public restroom as viewed from the cape area

The northernmost souvenir shop as viewed from the cape area

We bought this certificate from the souvenir shop which is a proof of our arrival at the northernmost point in Japan

The white building is the northernmost restaurant

The northernmost post office

Hubby standing in front of the northernmost post office


We loved visiting Cape Soya, the absolute tip of Japan. It took us about 4.5 hours of car ride to return to the hotel in Asahikawa City where we stayed that night also. The next morning we went to see Ueno Farm in Asahikawa itself about which I will write in the next post.
Scenic views as seen from our rented car during our return trip from Cape Soya to Asahikawa City

Beautiful views all around


2 comments:

Jyotirmoy Sarkar said...

Lovely shots.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thank you for the comment Jyotirmoy Sarkar.