Asahikawa (旭川市) – Wakkanai (稚内市) – Cape Soya (宗谷岬)
Waking up today, we knew we would have a loooong train ride from Asahikawa to Wakkanai which is going to take 220mins (less than 4 hours). So again, raided the nearest Lawson and Seicomart for our breakfast and makanan inside the train before dragging our now-still-light baggage to a simple and spacious Asahikawa Station.
Because we bought the JR Hokkaido Pass, we reserved our seats for free at the JR Information Center before passing through a manned gate, showing our Pass and get it chopped (only for the first trip everyday). Checking the train information board, we proceeded to Platform 6 and waited for our Limited Express Soya blue colored train.
For the next 4 hours, it was rolling fields after rolling fields as the train zooms at 100km/h – 120km/h north-bound. Most of the train stations after Asahikawa were small and unmanned stations.
After exhausting all our food, we finally arrived at Wakkanai Station at 12.40noon – exactly on the dot. This station is northernmost railway station in Japan. Hopefully we can visit Ibusuki – the southernmost railway station all the way down at Kyushu – someday.
As we were dragging our luggage to our stay for the night, Hotel Saharin – we encountered a wild Ezo stag just nonchalantly grazing without a care in the world. These subspecies of the Sika deers are native only to Hokkaido island.
After checking in, we quickly went to the nearest Toyota rent-a-car to drive to the most northern point in Japan. To drive in Japan, you need an internationl driving license. For Malaysians, you need to go to JPJ to apply for the extra permit (valid for a year). Normally will take half a day to finish and your pocket RM150 lighter.
Again, we always stop at the nearest Seicomart konbini too fill our “picnic basket” at Cape Soya. Seicomart is a Hokkaido-based chain convenience store and most of them are situated outside Sapporo. It is our favorite konbini-chain as they have special (dairy) products not found in the other major ones like 7-11s (Sebun), Lawsons or FamilyMart (Famima). If they have a “Hot Chef” sign, even better – meaning they serve freshly made food from an on-site kitchen which is nice and hot.
The trip from Wakkanai to Cape Soya was so breezy with the constant wind blowing in our car as we drove with the windows down most of the way. So nice.Unlike roads in Penang, theirs is smooth as silk and if we drive till dreaming, swerving just a bit to the middle… the car will sound a warning to wake you from your day dream. After 45 mins of hair blowing, we finally reach Cape Soya.
The wind at Cape Soya does not let up – it blows and blows non-stop. Not a good place for toupee-wearing visiors. We walked near the freezing waters and notice lots of kelp (konbu) gently dancing with the current. Across the waters are the Sakhalin islands of mother Russia. We couldn’t see it because of the cloudy skies.
Since they were so many people at the popular nothern point monument – we decided to visit a couple of monuments just above a hill nearby. Again, saw some Ezo deer fawns grazing the perfectly manicured green field. These are not Nara deers and they do not practice bowing to visitors so they will just scamper away if any humans near them.
We’re not really interested in monuments, so we left to find the white road of Soya Hills which is somewhere amongst the green rolling hills. Along the way, we stopped to see Soya Black Cattle hanging around the beautiful landscape. These cattles are bred for their meat.
Over 50 wind turbines dotted the gentle flowing landscape of Soya Misaki, making them Japan largest wind farm. Such an amazing sight although we didn’t have enough time to drive near them. After a few wrong turns, we finally drove on the bumpy “white road”. It is made up of crushed white scallop shells thus it gets really loud driving on it. The crushing noise is further amplified by the quiet surroundings.
After the bone shaking experience (sorry rented car), we made it back to the carpark next to the northern point monument to quickly grab a few photos since the main bulk of bus tourists had already left for their hotels at a “late” 4pm.
Quickly snapping a few pictures at the Northern Point monument, it is time to MAKAN! (eat). First is a small cute corner shop selling tako (octopus), hotate (scallop), ika (squid) and tsubu (whelk). We tried the scallop soup with senbei (crackers) and a stick of fresh scallops. Slurping on the delicious hot soup with the cold sea wind blowing is pure heaven. The scallops were huge and so tasty. Cannot remember the price but it was quite cheap for such wonderful servings.
After the standing meals.. we cannot tahan d, we had to search for more food. Since there is not much shops we around, we opt for a random ramen shop just across the parking lot. I cannot remember what I ordered as it was pretty “normal” but Elaine ordered the Hotate (Scallop) Ramen. Gosh! it was dem bloody good good. The bowl was wiped cleaner than using Glo dishwasher. I think it was 800y for the big scallop ramen bowl. The shop ojisan (uncle) was very friendly too, asking us where we were from – looking at our wide-eye sampat reactions.
After filling our stomach with happiness, we went for another photo-op because the whole area was bathe in beautiful golden glow of the setting sun.
As we were making our way back to Wakkanai town, we still had one more eating stop to make. It is at the most northern McDonalds outlet in Japan. Since our tummy were fully loaded, we just bought some drinks and sat with a freezing Ronald outside the premise.
After returning our rented Toyota, we walked to the Wakkanai North Breakwater Dome, since it was on the way back to our hotel. The Roman-inspired structure is over 400m long and is used to protect from the wind and waves. We can attest to the wind part. Wakkanai is sure full of wind.