Add a little latitude to your life.

Given Japan’s general banana shape, it’s difficult to know where the easternmost and westernmost points are off-hand. On the other hand, north and south are quite easy to see. Setting aside Japan’s disputed islands with Russia for the moment since they’re not very accessible from here, the northernmost piece of land in Japan is said to be the coast of Cape Soya in Wakkanai City on the island prefecture of Hokkaido.

Getting there, however, is not quite as simple since Hokkaido is a very large island and its major urban areas tend to be more towards the southern end. In spite of this, our writer Saya Togashi decided to set out on the long drive from Sapporo, heading along the Nihonkai Ororon Line coastal road for 332 kilometers (206 miles). The Hokkaido Expressway is said to be faster, but covers more distance at 350 kilometers (217 miles), so either way she was looking at more than five hours without stopping.

Hokkaido is also rather rural, leaving few convenient places for Saya to stop along the way, but she pressed on and eventually made it to the outskirts of Wakkanai, where the Cape Soya Lighthouse and famous Monument of the Northernmost Point of Japan were located.

Although things are heating up quite a bit in the more southern parts of the country, the north of Hokkaido was still quite chilly and blustery. In a way, it was kind of fitting though, and gave Saya the vibe that she was at the very edge of Japan.

Tour buses came by periodically and unloaded people who grabbed photos with the monument. Despite its remote location, this area still seemed to be quite a draw. There was also a statue of the northern explorer Mamiya Rinzo who discovered the neighboring island of Sakhalin.

▼ That statue might be a little misleading though. The actual spot where Mamiya departed is about three kilometers away and marked with a different monument

Other than that, Saya initially thought this place looked like just an average coastal town. However, looking more closely she noticed that a whole lot more was going on.

▼ On one street was the “Northernmost Cafeteria.”

Then she saw the “Northernmost Inn” which was unfortunately closed at the time.

Saya even found the “Northernmost Vending Machine” in Japan, which was operated by Coca-Cola.

At the “Northernmost Gas Station” customers can even get a certificate stating that they refueled at the geographic top of the country.

And what trip to the northernmost part of Japan would be complete without a visit to the “Northernmost Souvenir Shop,” which contains the northernmost souvenirs in the land?

With all this declaration of superlative latitude, Saya couldn’t help but get caught up in northernmost fever. She even bought a Cape Soya pennant, which surprised her quite a bit, because pennants stopped being popular souvenirs in Japan back in the ’80s.

All this excitement was bringing her to the northernmost point of hunger, so she grabbed a skewer of the “Northernmost Grilled Squid” in all Japan.

And she finished the meal with a trip to the “Northernmost Public Restroom” in Japan.

“Top of the world, ma!”

The northernmost squid in Japan didn’t really satisfy her though, so she stopped by the “Northernmost McDonald’s” in the country.

In the parking lot she found the northernmost statue of Ronald McDonald, plopped down on the bench like a world-weary sailor.

Saya: “Ronald!”

▼ Saya: “Gyah!”
Ronald: “Welcome…to the end of the wooooorrrrrrld.”

It wasn’t just the fact that everything was so northernmost around here, but completing the long journey gave Saya a great sense of accomplishment. Although the drive along the coast was quite beautiful, spending so much time behind the wheel left her shoulders and back aching.

But she made it, and had a great time as a result. Besides, how many people can say they’ve been to the absolute northernmost point of Japan’s sovereign land?

After heading back to her car which was parked at the monument, she took one last look at the plaque marking her location…

Saya: “Wait… What?”

The fine print of the plaque, which Saya hadn’t noticed until then, informed her that this was technically only the “northernmost point of freely accessible Japanese territory.” She quickly Googled this for confirmation and found that the real northernmost piece of undisputed Japanese land was the uninhabited island of Bentenjima a few more hundred meters out in Soya Bay.

▼ The real northernmost point in Japan

However, even though she wasn’t really at the northernmost point in Japan, there were clearly no McDonald’s or Coke machines on that island, so at least all the other stuff was legit. She also couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that Japan is so big that just when you think you’ve reached the end, it gets a little bigger.

It also inspired her to seek out the other extremities of Japan. Saya had already been to the easternmost point on Hokkaido’s Cape Nosappu, so southernmost Hateruna Island and westernmost Yonaguni Island, here she comes!

Photos ©SoraNews24
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