Do you know the things you could do and see in Wakkanai? Sometimes it is ignored by many tourists who actually just come here to take the ferry to the Rishiri Island and Rebun Island.
A day trip to Wakkanaki is enough to see its popular sightseeing spots. Here, I would highlight a number of things you could do and see right there in Wakkanai.
If you have not heard of this place before then through this post I make you aware of this port city of the Hokkaido region. Though time will tell whether you visit it or not.
You better feel yourself that – today you are going to have a virtual trip to Wakkanai. I can’t wait to share the things I have experienced throughout my numerous trips to this northernmost city of Japan.
People usually are familiar with the cities & towns of Hokkaido such as Sapporo, Asahikawa, Abashiri, Otaru, Hakodate, Furano, Biei, Kushiro, and Nemuro including the Rebun Island & Rishiri Island as they are the top holiday destinations in Hokkaido but what’s Wakkanai? It is the northernmost city in Japan, blessed with diverse nature.
Extreme weather in winter makes it a unique winter destination in Japan. The city has got a reputation of being the number one Japan most windy city.
You would have to be dressed well otherwise windy winter weather here makes you feel sick and uncomfortable to travel around. So be careful! However, let’s explore Wakkanai!
1) Visit Cape Soya or Soya Misaki
What is the northernmost point of Japan? That’s Cape Soya or so called Soya Misaki. It is a nice windy place to spend some time enjoying the nearby ocean views and the wind turbines.
On a clear day when the weather is not foggy you could see Sakhalin (a large Russian island). Honestly, many people come to Cape Soya to see it, some are lucky while some visitors leave it with a sad mind.
They cannot blame the weather, it is their luck! Those who have seen certainly enjoyed a lovely view of Sakhalin (the southern tip) from a far distance.
On the day I was there the weather was clear and I was quite happy to the Russian island of Sakhalin. I wanted to see it from the northernmost point of Japan as it was one of my dreams.
According to my experience, come here in summer on a sunny day and I hope you could see it. Please before you arrive here check out the weather forecast.
It is windy there and if you are not accustomed to living in a cold weather then I suggest you wearing a jacket or sweater. You can check out this wonderful Columbia men jacket.
There is a gray concrete triangle monument that represents Japan’s northernmost point. There is another monument of a great Japanese explorer of the late Edo period called Mamiya Rinzo.
You can see other beautiful monuments including an old naval watchtower on the uphill of Cape Soya. If you feel yourself hungry then head to the restaurant you see there and order some ramen.
There are also shops to buy snacks, candy and ice-cream. The cape is very spacious, quiet and peaceful. You can take a bus from Wakkanai Bus Station (located near JR Wakkanai Station) and get off at Cape Soya bus stop.
Remember, buses are infrequent here so you are strongly advised to buy return ticket and not to miss your bus way back to Wakkanai city.
2) Explore the Beauty of Soya Hills
You can visit Soya Hills at the time you visit Cape Soya. Wakkanai offers us to see the most scenic coastline in Japan. That’s not the end of the story!
There is a place known as Soya Hills that resembles Europe. It reminds me of some impressive looking hilly landscapes of New Zealand, Ireland and England.
You would not find forest there but tons of healthy green grasses. No doubt this is a perfect place for grazing cattle.
There are about 57 wind turbines scattered on the top of the hill. Apart from this there are about 3,000 Soya Black Cattles. In 2004, it was designated as a Hokkaido Heritage.
In June, you could spot flowers on the hilly slopes. On a sunny day, the view of green hills along with grazing cattle is amazingly impressive.
It is said that the whole area was formed during the Ice Age by glaciers around more than 10,000 years ago.
If you want to see how periglacial landforms look like then Soya Hills should be your dream destination. The best way of exploring this beautiful landmark is by a rental car. Drive your car along the steep hilly road and enjoy the scenic beauty of surrounding nature.
3) Visit Wakkanai Park
Journey around the very north of Japan is always great to me. Wakkanai – the northernmost city of Hokkaido offers a picturesque place to visit. That is Wakkanai Park! The best time to visit it in summer when flowers bloom and the sky is clear on a sunny day.
It is located on a hill that allows you to see the Sea of Okhotsk, Wakkanai City and the Harbor. Sometimes you even could see a Russian island – Sakhalin.
If it is foggy then there is no chance of seeing this island though. The park itself has many historical monuments. Anyone who is interested in History would love this place very much finding the old days memories.
There is a must see monument called Hyousetsu-no-Mon Monument. It was built to honor the people who died longing to return to Sakhalin. When I visited it I felt that it was an honor to be there. Along with visiting it you can visit the Antarctica Expedition Sakhalin Husky Monument, and 100th Year Memorial Tower.
You should walk along the walking trails and enjoy a scenic ocean view. There is a souvenir shop to buy things from and eat snacks, ice-cream and other local delicacies. Oh, there are wild deer as well.
You may encounter a strong windy weather there, most of the time it remains like that. Don’t be surprised if you experience a gentle sea breeze instead of the strong wind. It happens here as well.
In winter, it snowy there and is challenging hiking up to the Wakkanai Park but winter beauty I have found there was amazing that words can’t describe.
4) Be a spectator at the Wakkanai Minato Antarctic Festival
Summer in Wakkanai is very short. Local people here miss it very much. Within this short period of summertime, locals celebrate the Wakkanai Minato Antarctic Festival.
It is the biggest and one and only summer festival held in this port city. This year in 2016, the 56th Wakkanai Minato Antarctic Festival will be held from August 6 to 7.
On the first day, you experience entertaining & eye-catching odori dance shows that begins in the evening at 18:00. Dancers wear colorful traditional costume and perform their dancing in front of hundreds of spectators.
The next day which is the final day of the festival ends with a magical fireworks display. It is held at the Wakkanai Port Northern Breakwater Dome. Those of you who intend to visit this in August have the chance of watching fireworks at night.
In summer, watching Hanabi (firework) at night/in the evening is a must thing to do in Japan. Due to bad weather such as raining and strong wind the festival schedule may change. Therefore please check out the schedule here before you go there.
5) Spend a Freezing Day Watching Japan’s Biggest Dogsled Racing
Not many people here in Japan are aware of the Japan Cup National Dogsled Championship let alone foreign visitors! This is the biggest dogsled racing competition in Japan, held yearly in February at Wakkanai Airport Park.
I think February is the coldest month not only in Wakkanai city but in all over Japan as well. Usually the dogsled racing lasts for two days. During the racing I have seen a tour bus came directly from Sapporo.
Native Japanese dog breeds that race in the competition are cute and they don’t care the freezing weather. In fact, it was me who was worried about the snowy weather. They just want to run! They want their own master wins the completion.
However, I dressed up well and if you have no idea how to deal with Hokkaido’s winter then you could read an article written based on what to wear during winter in Hokkaido.
Attention please!!! Drift ice (Ryuhyo) can be seen at the sea of Okhotsk in February on the coast of eastern Wakkanai. So, if you visit Wakkanai for the Dogsled racing in February I strongly suggest you to go to Cape Soya.
6) Enjoy a Beautiful Sunset View at Cape Noshappu
Every place has its own unique beauty, Cape Noshappu is no different. It is one of the famous places to watch Sunset in Japan in the evening. I think the view of summer sunset from this spot is breathtaking.
Many couples come here to experience a romantic evening while gazing at the setting sun. Try finding the best position to watch the sunset and photographing it. From here you even could look over the Rebun Island, Rishiri Island and Sakhalin Island.
In addition, you should visit the Noshappu Aquarium for feeding seals, Wakkanai Lighthouse (famed as the 2nd largest lighthouse in Japan), Restaurant, and Souvenirs Shop. And don’t ignore the Dolphin monument with a clock attached to it.
Make it a background along with the ocean view and tell your partner/friend to take some photograph of yours. At Cape Noshappu, visitors adore and take photos of the shape of Mount Rishiri that resembles Mt. Fuji.
7) Wakkanai Onsen (Hot Spring) Domu
If you ever visit Japan, don’t forget the three must things to do elsewhere in Japan. 1) Eating local specialties, 2) visiting top sightseeing attractions, and 3) hot spring bath.
I think this is the best travel tip you need before visiting Japan. It is simple but quite valuable. You find onsen almost everywhere in Japan.
In Wakkanai, there is a hot spring, usually known as Domu here. There are many contemporary Japanese Onsen with “5 Star” service.
This one is not like that! It does not provide lodging facility. It is located and adjacent to the West Wakkanai shores that provide an iconic view of Mt. Rishiri and the Sea of Japan including sunsets from the bath tubs. Taking a bath here will be a relaxing moment for you. Guaranteed! Find its official website here for more info.
8) Try Wakkanai’s Fresh Seafood
Many people think Wakkanai as is a heaven of fresh seafood and other marine products especially for Crab. Do you think the same? I think that’s true!
This northernmost port city of Japan is sandwiched between the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk. Here, abundance of fresh seafood is produced by the local fishermen. The city hardly runs out of seafood supply.
You could many local restaurants including Izakaya in Wakkanai located downtown as well as at the top sightseeing spots. Before ordering your food, first take a look at the menu well and then decide which one to try first.
Try Sea Urchin, Ikura and Scallops with sushi rice. Please have some isobeyaki, salmon oyakodon, crab miso soup, ramen, and many more.
Head to Wakkanai Fukuko Ichiba (tourist shopping mall) to buy and have popular seafood dishes. And finally, this is not seafood but I request you to drink at least a bottle of Wakkanaki Milk. It is very yummy after all! Please find out the list of best restaurants and Izakaya in Wakkanai.
Wakkanaki has a MacDonald’s outlet which you can refer it as the most northern MacDonald’s outlet in Japan. If you think fresh seafood here is not for you then have some hamburgers at MacDonald’s. Don’t be surprised if you see restaurants there offer traditional Russian foods.
9) Bird-watching at Onuma Pond
You know that sometimes I spend so much time traveling in a certain place not finding a way of leaving it early. Do you know why? It is because that certain place attracts me much and hold me tight.
I am a nature fanatic who likes bird-watching. Yes, that’s for why I once I stayed for a long time at Onuma Pond. It is located near Wakkanai Airport and it is worth a visit!
Many Swans, Wild Goose, Steller’s Sea Eagle, Herons and other species of migratory birds come to Onuma Pond from Siberia in April and October.
It is their stoppage as they fly off to Eastern part of Hokkaido from Siberia. Thousands of swans arrive here every year. There is an observatory, used for observing the birds. Get a binocular beforehand and spot various species of birds.
10) Wakkanai Port Northern Breakwater Dome
Summer firework display can be watched here. What if you miss the firework? Do you think that it is worth visiting still? What if you come right here in spring, autumn, or winter season? Let me share an idea with you now.
As it is located in the Wakkanai port that is adjacent to JR Wakkanai station area, it would be quite easy to get there. It is only a-5 minute walk from the station, quite near, right?! The dome is unique but I heard people saying that there is nothing much to do there. I don’t agree with them, honestly.
I enjoyed my walk along the walkway inside. Also I have had a pretty good time viewing the surrounding area. And you can organize a nice outdoor picnic party there.
The dome was not built to attract tourist here instead it was built to protect the port from the strong winds and waves. Because of the unique looking dome shape visitors don’t bother to spend some time there. In 2001, the dome has been designated as Hokkaido Heritage.
I don’t know how you do react after virtually discovering Wakkanai’s top 10 things to see and do right here. One important thing about Wakkanai is that it is the only gateway to explore the Rishiri Island and Rebun Island.
I notice that many hikers don’t care of visiting Wakkanai, they only come here to take the ferry to the islands (Rishiri and Rebun). That sounds bad!
In addition, while roaming around Wakkanai you might encounter some wild deer, foxes, seals and birds. Hopefully, you would manage time to discover the beauty of Wonderful Wakkanai.