Translating as “Cold Water River”, Wakkanai overlooks the Sōya Strait at the northern tip of Hokkaido, with views towards the Russian island of Sakhalin. It was originally home to the Ainu people before the village of Wakkanai was founded in 1879. During World War II, it was used as a submarine base by the Imperial Japanese Navy.
Things to do in Wakkanai
Sprawling across a hillside overlooking the Sōya Strait is Wakkanai Park, which is dominated by a tower built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the city’s founding. Pay your respects at the Gate of Ice and Snow that stands in honour of those who died in Karafuto during the Soviet invasion of 1945, then admire the monument to the Sakhalin huskies. Trained locally, these dogs served on several expeditions to Antarctica.
Baseball fans shouldn’t miss a visit to the Daisuke Matsuzaka Museum, which celebrates the life and career of the beloved pitcher “Dice-K” in the hometown of his dad. In addition to uniforms and trophies belonging to the Boston Red Sox player, it also contains memorabilia from his amateur league years.
Want to bathe in Japan’s northernmost onsen? Head to the Wakkanai Onsen Dome, a hot spring facility with nine bathtubs that are fed by sodium saline waters. You can completely relax in the reclining bath, refresh in the waterfall shower or soak up the spectacular views from the outdoor bath. Because of the onsen’s fame, you even receive a soaking certificate to commemorate your visit.
Getting around Wakkanai
Wakkanai Airport is a 20-minute drive from the city centre and has flights to Tokyo and Sapporo. There are regular train services along the Sōya Main Line from Sapporo to Wakkanai and ferries connect to Rebun and Rishiri islands. Buses travel throughout Wakkanai and access most of its attractions.