Cape Soya the northernmost point in Japan

On the morning of August 2 we took the local bus from Wakkanai to Cape Soya and saw the island of Sakhalin in the distance across the strait. Cape Soya is known as the northernmost point in Japan (although tecnically the small deserted island Bentenjima just 1 km off the Cape to the northwest is slightly further north). Cape Soya attracts tourists from around the world to see the Monument of the Northernmost Point of Japan (日本最北端の地の碑) and at least ten other monuments located on the cape.

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We walked the northernmost point and waded in the waters of the Sea of Okhotsk that stretches from Hokkaido and these waters known as the Soya Strait between Cape Soya and Sakhalin and beyond to the east from Hokkaido, the Kuriles and north to Kamchatka. The Soya Strait was also called the Strait of La Perouse after the French explorer after Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse, who sailed through the channel in 1787 and explored vast areas of the Pacific and the coast of Northeast Asia before disappearing in 1788 and years later found to have been shipwrecked at Vanikoro. A monument to La Perouse was installed 2007 at which time I corresponded with one of the monument organizers a retired French Navy Captain named Jacques Bodin who had contacted me through maritime research connections. Now I can write to Captain Bodin that I have seen his work at Cape Soya, a monument with two stone sail and fitting tribute to the French ships Astrolabe and Boussole under the command of La Perouse during his voyage to the Pacific.

About 20 years after La Perouse sailed to Sakhalin a Japanese explorer named Mamiya Rinzo embarked in a small boat from a cove along Cape Soya to cross the straits to Sakhalin and explore the Asian coast even further up the Amur River. There is a bronze statue of Mamiya Rinzo at Cape Soya in commemoration of his expedition. We explored the cape from the explorer’s statue to the top of the hill where the La Perouse monument is located and took photos at the crane shaped Tower of Prayer, a memorial of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 a commercial airliner that was shot down by the Soviet Union in 1983 just over Sakhalin. I was in Japan at the time of this tragedy and remember the events vividly.There are monuments to earlier tragedies such as the Monument of Peace, a memorial of USS Wahoo lost during WWII, and others both at Soya and on the trail to Wakkanai Tower that we would hike that afternoon after the bus ride back to town.

An uplifting monument is the Akebono Statue that commenmorates Hokkaido’s dairy farms and milk production. The waving arms of the farmer seem to move in the breeze from the sea. An interpretive sign in six langugages reminds us that the cold Wakkanai weather is not suitable for rice farming and so dairy farming is common to the area. We saw not only dairy cattle during our train raide from Sapporo to Wakkanai but also wild deer along the wooded hills and forests along the way.

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