2 Sōya Misaki – Abashiri – -Shiretoko – Nosappu Misaki

北海道 Hokkaidō – Sōya Misaki to Nosappu Misaki


Sōya Misaki to Nosappu Misaki Route

Saturday 7th July 2012 (continued) – Sōya Misaki to Hamatonebetsu.

Becomes strong side wind after leaving Sōya Misaki as I head down the coast. Meet a Hokkaido fox and a couple of cyclists going the other way. Get onto the back road I used last year.

Another long distance cyclist, heading the other way.

The long and winding road

Make it to Hamatonebetsu at around 7:00pm. It is festival time and campground is busy. They let me stay free. There are team performances similar to kapahaka of what looks like school pupils. Impressive, and is followed by fireworks – hanabe. Hunger is avoided by a food stall selling chicken and chips. Fireworks are quite impressive too!

Performance at the summer festival

Sunday 8th July – Hamatonebetsu to Okoppe.

Have met Junzou in the campground, the 5th time since Morappu. He makes me breakfast, including ham and egg, delicious! Such as nice change from banana and bread! Thank you!

Junzou and I at the Hamatonebetsu campground.

Meet cycling Mr Lee from Taiwan at the Seicomart. He has already ridden 40km and I am just starting.

Head wind for the 90km to Okoppe so not sure I can make it. Intermittent showers promise more rain but fail to deliver. Arrive at Esashi Road Station, built in the shape of a ship and meet two other cyclist there, who are heading north.

Esashi Road Station, done up in the shape of a ship

Shortly after leaving a fox comes right up to me, usually they are timid and run away from humans.

Hokkaido fox

Seems slow going but eventually I arrive at Okoppe right on 6:00pm. Mr Lee is there with 3 other people, he and I are the only two who talk.

Go to sleep to the sound of heavy rain and I’m very happy I am not camping.

Monday 9th July – Okoppe to Saroma-ko.

The rain stops early morning and I head off. Say bye to Mr Lee. Occasional showers dying out with another headwind.

The Okoppe Seicomart doesn’t have rubbish disposal boxes so take mine inside but the attendant refuses to accept it. Never had that before. They sold the rubbish to me so have a responsibility I think. I go out and leave it for her to remove later.

Progress down the coast is slow. The weather is nice as is the forecast so decide to stay at Saroma-ko campground like 4 years ago. Arrive at 6:00pm just as the office closes and cannot use the shower, damn!

Sunset at Saroma-ko

Dark clouds gather and just as I erect my tent it starts to rain. It gets heavy, move tent to a more sheltered spot as strong wind picks up. So much for the forecast!

Tuesday 10th July – Saroma-ko to Abashiri.

Fine by morning and looks like a tailwind for a change. Get onto the cycling road to Abashiri. See fox, arrive at Ubaranai where there is another rider house in train.

The cycling road to Abashiri.

Take a few photos, have early lunch. Just about to leave I discover a coffee shop in the old station. Meet Hiroaki the manager who is into Bolivian music and making flutes. Have an interesting chat, record him do a performance and have a nice coffee. Thank you Hiroaki!

Hiroaki, the coffee shop manager, maker of fine flutes and Bolivian music!

Arrive at Abashiri early afternoon, use internet at the info centre then go to the campground. Take onsen at nearby hotel. Chat to interesting lady on the way back to the campground.

Another nice sunset over Abashiri-ko.

Wednesday 11th July – Abashiri to Shari.

Nice sunny day, washed clothes and decided to pack up and go instead of staying. Have another Sukiya meal, like yesterday.

Yakult Lady at Abashiri

Abashiri has a prison museum and is famous for the sea ice in winter. I believe it, as it is cold enough in summer! Use info centre’s internet until 3:00pm then head for the rider house at Shari, 40km away.

Abishiri Quasi-National Park and Koshimizu Natural Flower Garden.

I arrive at 7:00pm, passing Abishiri Quasi-National Park and Koshimizu Natural Flower Garden on the way. Rider House is a nice place. Well set up and run.

A bloom in Koshimizu Natural Flower Garden.

Forecast at 3:00pm was good until tomorrow afternoon but clouds have started to gather and it is raining by night time. Good job I decided to leave Abashiri campground!

Shari-dake from Shari town.

Thursday and Friday 12th and 13th July – Shari.

Rest days, rained most of Thursday so stayed another night. Went shopping before lunch. Watched two Shiretoko videos at the michi-no-eki.

Bike parking area

Other guest on his Harley

BMW rider uses plastic bags for shoes!

A very rare bike in Japan – a Royal Enfield, imported from the UK

Staff are helpful and friendly. Thank you Sachi for letting me use your computer to do the long delayed photo editing and blog update, so stay another night!

Only the second time I have stayed 3 nights, the last time was at Aso on Kyushu. Owner gives me slice of melon.

Sachi with her “new” bike!

Saturday 14th July – Shari to Rausu.

Easy ride to Utoro, meet a couple of cyclists, one of whom stops to chat. Mr Lam from Hong Kong, now resident in Hokkaido and on a weekend ride over Shiretoko Touge (Pass) to Rausu.

Mr Lam from Hong Kong.

This is an area of long straight roads, nearby one goes for 28kms!

Heading towards Shiretoko Peninsula, note the long straight road.

and even someone walking….!

Coastal scenery

Oshin Koshin Falls

Start of the 700m climb to Shiretoko Pass, looking back to Utoro

The steep climb over Shiretoko Touge starts just after Utoro. 20 years ago I did it going the other way, on what was the last cycling day of a 6 week bike ride. This time on the way up, pass a couple of friendly Hokkaido foxes. Watched from a distance as someone in a car stops and feeds one of them.

Car occupants feeding Hokkaido fox

Also saw a deer but no bears.

Route 334 winding its way to the top

When I arrive at the top the clouds part and we can see Mt Rausu for a few seconds. Then just as quickly they close in again and wind picks up.

Summit of Shiretoko Pass, just before the cloud descends and I flee!

Starts to look like it could get unpleasant so quickly leave, it is a long run downhill from here! While cycling down and running the video camera, people in a car and on a motor bike go past me on bends. Very silly people!

Screech to a halt at the first sign of habitation and smell of sulphur. As I do the following car also stops, and the passenger hangs a greenstone tiki pendant out of the open window. She says “New Zearand, right?” “Yes sure, wha….” and was about to have a conversation when they drive off, to park their car I thought but they keep going.

This is the campground and onsen we stayed at 20 years ago. The onsen is still free but the campground charges a fee. It has also expanded with more tentsites and an office. Deer graze in the campground untroubled by people. The onsen is busy – it is Marine Day long weekend.

Rausu Onsen Campground.

Went for a stroll around the camp while it was still light. See a bike with what look to be familiar clothing but owner is away. Hear people speaking English and see one is a girl wearing a headscarf, a rare sight in Japan. I guess she is probably from Malaysia.

Sunday 15th July – Rausu to Betsukai.

Pack up and go check to see if the bike has left. No but is about to do so. Sure enough it is my friend from Kagoshima who I first met at Nadachi Road Station south of Niigata. we waste a bit of time catching up.

Old friends meet again.

Overcast when I finally depart but start with a 5km freewheel downhill to Rausu. As I leave the michi-no-eki someone shouts and see a lady waving. Never sure what to do in these situations I keep going – are they waves of farewell or come and talk? Maybe it was the tiki lady from yesterday (both cars were white), but guess I will never find out now.

Easy run down the coast but stays overcast and cold with headwind.

Discover there are no campgrounds on Nemuro Peninsula, the nearest being at Betsukai. The last rider house is too early to stop so keep going. My Kagoshima friend said he was going to the Betsukai campground, which is the nearest place to Nosappu, so decide to head there.

On the way stop at a newly opened michi-no-eki with a display on the 4 islands Russia invaded at the end of World War II and still hold today. Interesting stuff, something I was not aware of.

Road station dedicated to the 4 occupied islands.

“Oi, we want our islands back!” A statue at the road station.

A map showing the distance from mainland Japan to the four islands

Relations between the two countries are restrained while the islands remain occupied. No transport services operate to or from the islands.

Kunashiri, one of the islands occupied by Russia since WW2.

At a convenience store someone stops to talk. Toshi is from Tokyo and moved here 5 years ago. He is friendly with JET language teachers in the area, having once dated a Kiwi lady on a contract there.


He tells me of the best route to Betsukai – along some backroads. I take it but kind of get lost due to there being a shortage of road signs and low cloud hiding landmarks.

I first realise there’s a problem while crossing a river – it is going in the wrong direction! The roads are long, straight and deserted! For the first time I use the compass on my watch. Sure enough I need to turn round and go the other way. Fortunately it was only about 2km so no big deal.

Arriving at Betsukai before dark I make my way to the campground. I am surprised to see my friend has only just arrived. The campground provides a large awning as shelter for around 6 tents, there are four of us. The cloud descends to become mist with a gentle drizzle. At 600yen the onsen is the most expensive yet.

Betsukai camp.

Monday 16th July – Betsukai to Nosappu Misaki.

My friend got a job on a farm yesterday, so instead of going to Nosappu Misaki as intended he is cycling home to Kagoshima and returning with his car. We say bye-bye.

Proceed towards Nemuro, the nearest town to Nosappu Misaki, under low cloud and sometimes gentle drizzle. At Swan 44 michi-no-eki ask about camping and told there is none, but can unofficially stay there if I want.

Soon after leaving a passing cyclist from Kyoto stops to have a chat. He tells me of the the place he stayed in Nemuro – free but must spend at least 1050yen on crab meat.  Same applies to the one at the cape. I don’t want to buy any crab so consider my options.

from Kyoto

In fact he is the first of about 6 cycle tourists who pass going the other way today. One even had a Maruishi Emperor! Not quite like mine but close.

Approaching Nemuro “city”.

Arriving at Nemuro the low clouds lower and become fog. Real fog, and cold, not more than 10c. If it wasn’t the last official day of the ride it could be really depressing! Continue on the last 22km with no change.

Almost there!

At 3:00pm I’m finally on the last stretch – Nosappu Misaki. A collection of mostly old buildings with more shops than tourists. And not a bus in sight, meaning probably the sort of tourists who don’t spend money.

Monument of Bridge on the Four Islands

Wander around for a bit, take a few photos, look at the monuments, buy an ice cream and bumper sticker. There are four Japanese islands off-shore that were occupied by Russia at the end of WWII and remain so to this day. It is still foggy and cannot see them.

Nosappu Misaki, not quite.

Take photos of me at the cape, but when inspecting more closely, it seems to be not quite the most easterly point. I ask in the souvenir shop and discover that the real end point is behind the lighthouse, hidden under a blanket of fog.

Go over to the lighthouse and meet the people speaking English at Rausu yesterday. They are from Libya, Egypt and Jordan, (quite a long way from Malaysia) and study at Sapporo University! My curiosity is satisfied. After a chat we continue our separate ways.

Now I have reached the fourth and last corner, all there is left is to turn round and go back. It is not really the end, now I go to Tohoku.

The red circle indicates the real Nosappu Misaki!

Bumper stickers from the beginning and end points!


1 Response to 2 Sōya Misaki – Abashiri – -Shiretoko – Nosappu Misaki

  1. Alex Chan says:

    Kuril Islands dispute
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    Coordinates: 44°6′N 146°42′E
    The Kuril Islands with the disputed islands

    The Kuril Islands dispute (Russian: Спор о принадлежности Курильских островов), also known as the Northern Territories dispute (Japanese: 北方領土問題 Hoppō Ryōdo Mondai?), is a dispute between Japan and the Russian Federation over sovereignty over the South Kuril Islands. The disputed islands, which were annexed by Soviet forces during the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation at the end of World War II, are currently under the Russian administration as South Kuril District of the Sakhalin Oblast (Сахалинская область, Sakhalinskaya oblast), but are claimed by Japan, which refers to them as the Northern Territories (北方領土 Hoppō Ryōdo?) or Southern Chishima (南千島 Minami Chishima?), arguably being part of the Nemuro Subprefecture of Hokkaidō Prefecture.

    The San Francisco Peace Treaty [1] with Japan from 1951 states that Japan must give up all claims to the Kuril islands,[2] but it also does not recognize the Soviet Union’s sovereignty over the Kuril Islands.[3] Furthermore, Japan currently claims that at least some of the disputed islands are not a part of the Kuril Islands, and thus are not covered by the treaty.[4] Russia maintains that the Soviet Union’s sovereignty over the islands was recognized following agreements at the end of the Second World War.[5][6] However, Japan has disputed this claim. The disputed islands are:

    Iturup (Russian: Итуруп)/Etorofu Island (Japanese: 択捉島 Etorofu-tō?)
    Kunashir (Russian: Кунашир)/Kunashiri Island (Japanese: 国後島 Kunashiri-tō?)
    Shikotan (Russian: Шикотан)/Shikotan Island (Japanese: 色丹島 Shikotan-tō?)
    Habomai rocks (Russian: острова Хабомаи ostrova Habomai)/Habomai Islands (Japanese: 歯舞諸島 Habomai-shotō?)


    1 Background
    2 Modern dispute
    2.1 World War II agreements
    2.2 San Francisco Treaty
    2.3 1956 Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration and dispute over the composition of the Kuril islands
    2.4 Recent developments
    2.4.1 Visa issues
    2.4.2 Visit by President Medvedev
    2.4.3 Reinforcement of defences
    2.4.4 Russian fighter jets intrusion
    2.4.5 2013 Abe visit to Moscow
    3 Current views
    3.1 Japan’s view
    3.1.1 Public attitudes in Japan
    3.2 Russia’s view
    3.2.1 Public attitudes in Russia
    4 See also
    5 References and footnotes
    6 Further reading
    7 External links

    Japanese Iturup residents (then called Etorofu) at a riverside picnic in 1933

    The first Russo-Japanese agreement to deal with the status of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands is the 1855 Treaty of Shimoda which first established official relations between Russia and Japan. Article 2 of the Treaty of Shimoda, which provided for an agreement on borders, states “Henceforth the boundary between the two nations shall lie between the islands of Etorofu and Uruppu. The whole of Etorofu shall belong to Japan; and the Kurile Islands, lying to the north of and including Uruppu, shall belong to Russia.” The islands of Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai Islands, that all lie to the south of Etorofu, are not explicitly mentioned in the treaty and were understood at the time to be a non-disputed part of Japan. The treaty also specified that the island of Sakhalin/Karafuto was not to be partitioned but was to remain under a joint Russo-Japanese condominium.[7]

    In a subsequent 1875 Treaty of Saint Petersburg Russia and Japan agreed that Japan would give up all rights to Sakhalin in exchange for Russia giving up all rights to the Kuril Islands in favor of Japan.

    The Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 was a military disaster for Russia. The 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth, concluded at the end of this war, gave the southern half of the Sakhalin Island to Japan.

    Although Japan occupied parts of Russia’s Far East during the Russian Civil War following the October Revolution, Japan did not formally annex any of these territories and they were vacated by Japan by the mid-1920s.

    There was practically no hostile activity between the USSR and Japan after the Battle of Khalkin Gol ended the Japanese-Soviet Border Wars in 1939 and before the USSR declared war on Japan (Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation) on August 8, 1945.The Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact was signed in Moscow on April 13, 1941,and the treaty did remain in force till April 1946. It was after Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration on August 14, 1945, and announced the termination of the war on August 15, 1945, that the Soviet Union started the Invasion of the Kuril Islands, which took place between August 18 and September 3, expelling the Japanese inhabitants two years later.[8]
    Modern dispute
    World War II agreements

    The modern Kuril Islands dispute arose in the aftermath of WWII and results from the ambiguities in and disagreements about the meaning of the Yalta agreement (February 1945), the Potsdam Declaration (July 1945) and the Treaty of San Francisco (September 1951). The Yalta Agreement, signed by the US, Great Britain and the Soviet Union, stated:

    The leaders of the three great powers – the Soviet Union, the United States of America and Great Britain – have agreed that in two or three months after Germany has surrendered and the war in Europe is terminated, the Soviet Union shall enter into war against Japan on the side of the Allies on condition that: [….] 2. The former rights of Russia violated by the treacherous attack of Japan in 1904 shall be restored, viz.: (a) The southern part of Sakhalin as well as the islands adjacent to it shall be returned to the Soviet Union; [….] 3. The Kurile Islands shall be handed over to the Soviet Union.

    Japan—as well as the US—claimed that the Yalta agreement did not apply to the Northern Territories because they were not a part of the Kuril Islands, although US geographers have traditionally listed them as part of the Kuril chain. In a 1998 article in the journal Pacific Affairs, Bruce Elleman, Michael Nichols and Matthew Ouimet argue that the US never accepted the cession of all the Kuril Islands to the Soviet Union and has maintained from Yalta onwards that it simply agreed at Yalta that Moscow could negotiate directly with Tokyo to come to a mutually acceptable solution, and that the US would support in such a peace agreement the Soviet acquisition of the Kurils.[9] As a key piece of evidence, the same article (page 494 of[9]) quotes an August 27, 1945 letter from Truman to Stalin:”You evidently misunderstood my message [about the Kuril Islands]…. I was not speaking of any territory of the Soviet Republic. I was speaking of the Kurile Islands, Japanese territory, disposition of which must be made at a peace settlement. I was advised that my predecessor agreed to support in the peace settlement the Soviet acquisition of those islands.” The Soviet Union—and subsequently, Russia—rejected this position.

    The Potsdam Declaration states the following regarding the Japanese territories: “8. The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshū, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine”.[citation needed] The islands comprising the Northern Territories are not explicitly included in this list, but the US subsequently maintained, particularly during the preparation of the Treaty of San Francisco, that the phrase “and such minor islands as we determine” could be used to justify transferring the Northern Territories to Japan.

    The Cairo Declaration of 1943 did not explicitly mention the Kuril Islands but stated: “Japan will also be expelled from all other territories which she has taken by violence and greed”.

    Japan later claimed that the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Declaration did not apply to the islands on the grounds that they had never belonged to Russia or been claimed by it since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1855, and thus they were not among the territories acquired by Japan “by violence and greed”.
    San Francisco Treaty

    A substantial dispute regarding the status of the Kuril Islands arose between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the preparation of the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951. The Treaty was supposed to be a permanent peace treaty between Japan and the Allied Powers of World War II. By that time, the Cold War had already taken hold, and the position of the U.S. in relation to the Yalta and Potsdam agreements had changed considerably. The U.S. had come to maintain that the Potsdam Declaration should take precedence and that strict adherence to the Yalta agreement was not necessary since, in the view of the U.S., the Soviet Union itself violated several provisions of the Yalta agreement in relation to the rights of other countries.[10] The Soviet Union vehemently disagreed[11] and demanded that the U.S. adhere to its promises made to the Soviet Union in Yalta as a condition of the Soviet Union’s entry into the war with Japan. A particular point of disagreement at the time was the fact that the draft text of the treaty, while stating that Japan will renounce all rights to Southern Sakhalin and the Kuril islands, did not state explicitly that Japan would recognize the Soviet Union’s sovereignty over these territories.[12]

    The Treaty of San Francisco was officially signed by 49 nations, including Japan and the United States, on September 8, 1951. Article (2c) states: “Japan renounces all right, title and claim to the Kurile Islands, and to that portion of Sakhalin and the islands adjacent to it over which Japan acquired sovereignty as a consequence of the Treaty of Portsmouth of 5 September 1905.” The State Department later clarified that “the Habomai Islands and Shitokan … are properly part of Hokkaido and that Japan is entitled to sovereignty over them”. Britain and the United States agreed that territorial rights would not be granted to nations that did not sign the Treaty of San Francisco, and therefore the islands were not formally recognized as Soviet territory.[9]

    The Soviet Union refused to sign the Treaty of San Francisco and publicly stated that the Kuril Islands issue was one of the reasons for its opposition to the Treaty. Japan signed and ratified the San Francisco treaty. However, both the Japanese government and most of the Japanese media currently claim[13] that already at the time of the 1951 San Francisco peace conference, Japan held that the islands of Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and the Habomai rocks were technically not a part of the Kuril Islands and thus were not covered by the provisions of Article (2c) of the treaty. The timing of this claim is disputed by Russia and by some western historians.[14][15] In a 2005 article in The Japan Times, journalist Gregory Clark writes that official Japanese statements, maps and other documents from 1951, and the statements by the head of the U.S. delegation to the San Francisco conference—John Foster Dulles—make it clear that at the time the San Francisco Treaty was concluded in October 1951, both Japan and the United States considered the islands of Kunashiri and Etorofu to be a part of the Kuril Islands and to be covered by Article (2c) of the Treaty.[4] Clark made a similar point in a 1992 New York Times opinion column.[16]

    In a 2001 book, Seokwoo Lee—a Korean scholar on international law—quotes the October 19, 1951 statement in Japan’s Diet by Kumao Nishimura, Director of the Treaties Bureau of the Foreign Ministry of Japan, stating that both Etorofu and Kunashiri are a part of the Kuril Islands and thus covered by Article (2c) of the San Francisco Treaty.[17]

    The U.S. Senate Resolution of April 28, 1952, ratifying of the San Francisco Treaty, explicitly stated that the USSR had no title to the Kurils,[18] the resolution stating:

    As part of such advice and consent the Senate states that nothing the treaty [San Francisco Peace Treaty] contains is deemed to diminish or prejudice, in favor of the Soviet Union, the right, title, and interest of Japan, or the Allied Powers as defined in said treaty, in and to South Sakhalin and its adjacent islands, the Kurile Islands, the Habomai Islands, the Island of Shikotan, or any other territory, rights, or interests possessed by Japan on December 7, 1941, or to confer any right, title, or benefit therein or thereto on the Soviet Union.

    The U.S. maintains that until a peace treaty between Japan and Russia is concluded, the disputed Northern Territories remain Japanese territory under Russian military occupation via General Order No. 1.[9]
    1956 Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration and dispute over the composition of the Kuril islands

    During the 1956 peace talks between Japan and the Soviet Union, the Soviet side proposed to settle the dispute by returning Shikotan and Habomai to Japan. In the final round of the talks, the Japanese side accepted the weakness of its claim to Etorofu and Kunashiri and agreed to settle for return of Shikotan and the Habomais, in exchange for a peace treaty. However, the Americans intervened and blocked the deal.[14][16] The U.S. warning to Japan that a withdrawal of the Japanese claim on the other islands would mean the U.S. would keep Okinawa caused Japan to refuse these terms. The U.S. had asserted that the San Francisco Peace Treaty “did not determine the sovereignty of the territories renounced by Japan,” but that “Japan does not have the right to transfer sovereignty over such territories.[18] Nevertheless, on October 19, 1956 in Moscow, the USSR and Japan signed the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration. The Declaration ended the state of war between the Soviet Union and Japan, which technically had still existed between the two countries since August 1945.[19] The Joint Declaration did not settle the Kuril Islands dispute, the resolution of which was postponed until the conclusion of a permanent peace treaty between USSR and Japan. However, Article 9 of the Joint Declaration stated: “The U.S.S.R. and Japan have agreed to continue, after the establishment of normal diplomatic relations between them, negotiations for the conclusion of a peace treaty. Hereby, the U.S.S.R., in response to the desires of Japan and taking into consideration the interest of the Japanese state, agrees to hand over to Japan the Habomai and the Shikotan Islands, provided that the actual changing over to Japan of these islands will be carried out after the conclusion of a peace treaty.”[20]

    The question of whether Etorofu and Kunashiri islands are a part of the Kurils, and thus whether they are covered by Article (2c) of the Treaty of San Francisco, remains one of the main outstanding issues in the Kuril Islands dispute. Based on a 1966 book by a former Japanese diplomat and a member of the 1956 Japanese delegation for the Moscow peace talks, Clark traces the first Japanese claim that Etorofu and Kunashiri islands are not a part of the Kurils to the 1956 negotiations on the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956. The Soviet Union rejected the view at that time, and subsequently, Russia has maintained the same position since then.
    Recent developments

    The positions of the two sides have not substantially changed since the 1956 Joint Declaration, and a permanent peace treaty between Japan and Russia still has not been concluded.[21]

    On July 7, 2005, the European Parliament issued an official statement recommending the return of the territories in dispute,[22] which Russia immediately protested.

    As late as 2006, Russia’s Putin administration offered Japan the return of Shikotan and the Habomais (about 6% of the disputed area) if Japan would renounce its claims to the other two islands, referring to the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956 which promised Shikotan and the Habomais would be ceded to Japan once a peace treaty was signed.[23][24][25]

    Japan has offered substantial financial aid to the Kuril Islands if they are handed over. However, by 2007, residents of the islands were starting to benefit from economic growth and improved living standards, arising in particular from expansion in the fish processing industry. As a result, it is thought that islanders are less likely to be won over by Japanese offers of financial support.[26]

    On February 6, 2008, Japan Today, an English-language news site in Japan, reported that the Russian president had suggested to Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda to finally settle all territorial disputes over the Kuril Islands and had sent him a letter inviting him to come to Russia for discussions.[27]

    The dispute over the Kuril Islands was further exacerbated on July 16, 2008, when the Japanese government published new school textbook guidelines directing teachers to say that Japan has sovereignty over the Kuril Islands. The Russian Ministry of Foreign affairs announced on July 18, “[these actions] contribute neither to the development of positive cooperation between the two countries, nor to the settlement of the dispute” and reaffirmed its sovereignty over the islands.[28][29]

    Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met in Sakhalin on February 18, 2009 to discuss the Kuril Islands issue. Aso said after the meeting that they had agreed to speed up efforts to resolve the dispute so that it would not be left to future generations to find a solution.[30]
    Visa issues

    Russia has given several concessions to Japan in the dispute. For example, Russia has introduced visa-free trips for Japanese citizens to the Kuril Islands. Japan’s fishermen are also allowed to catch fish in Russia’s exclusive economic zone.[31]

    However, tensions seem to be rising on both sides as the Russian Head of the Kuril Region has called for dropping the visa free program[32] and Japanese fishermen were fired upon for allegedly fishing illegally in Russian waters.[33] A Japanese fisherman was shot dead by a Russian patrol in 2006.[34]
    Visit by President Medvedev

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was quoted by Reuters on September 29, 2010, as saying he planned a visit to the disputed islands soon and calling the South Kurils “an important region of our country.”[35] The Japanese Foreign Ministry criticized Medvedev’s statement, calling it regrettable. Many analysts also viewed that the announcement of the visit is correlated with the recent joint declaration regarding World War II between China and Russia, and linked to the Senkaku Islands dispute between Japan and Taiwan.[36] On November 1, Medvedev visited Kunashir Island, sparking a row with Japan.[37] The visit by Medvedev was seen in Moscow as a signal to Japan that its loudspeaker diplomacy on the islands would fail.[38] Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan called this visit “impermissible rudeness”[39] and subsequently recalled his country’s ambassador to Moscow.[40] The day after the visit, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Medvedev planned more visits to the disputed islands, sparking a warning from Tokyo.[41]
    Reinforcement of defences
    Main article: Defence of the Kuril Islands

    On 10 February 2011, Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev called for increased military deployments on Kuril Islands. In making the statement, Medvedev said the islands were an “inseparable” part of the country and a strategic Russian region. No direct reference was made to what military equipment would be deployed on the islands, although the Russian RIA Novosti news agency reported that the new Mistral-class amphibious assault ships, being built in a deal with France, would be deployed to the region.[42] On 15 February, plans for deploying advanced anti-air missiles systems on the Islands were announced.[43]
    Russian fighter jets intrusion

    On the 7 February 2013, Russian Su-27 fighter jets entered airspace over Japanese territorial waters north of the island of Hokkaido. Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-2s were scrambled in response. Russia had been conducting scheduled flights over the Kuril Islands, but a spokesman for the Russian Air Force said that none of their aircraft entered Japanese airspace. This is the first incursion by Russian aircraft since 2008.[44][45]
    2013 Abe visit to Moscow

    After winning the Japanese general election, 2012, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made good on promises to restart talks on the disputed nature of the islands. At the end of April 2013, he visited Moscow for discussion with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Abe said: “The potential for cooperation has not been unlocked sufficiently and it is necessary to increase the cooperation between our countries as partners;” he added that he intended to have a good personal relationship with Putin as a basis for resolving the dispute.[46]
    Current views
    Japan’s view

    Japan’s current view of the dispute is given in the official pamphlet of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs:[47]

    The Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Declaration did not apply to the Northern Territories because those islands had never belonged to Russia even before 1904–1905.
    Russia had not previously claimed the disputed islands, not in all the time since it began diplomatic relations with Japan in 1855. Therefore the disputed islands could not be considered part of the territories acquired by Japan “by violence and greed”.
    The Yalta Agreement “did not determine the final settlement of the territorial problem, as it was no more than a statement by the then leaders of the Allied Powers as to principles of the postwar settlement. (Territorial issues should be settled by a peace treaty.) Furthermore, Japan is not bound by this document, to which it did not agree.”[47]
    Russia’s 1945 entry into the war against Japan was a violation of the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact, and the occupation of the islands was therefore a violation of international law. The Soviet Union repudiated the neutrality pact on April 5, 1945, but the pact remained in effect until April 13, 1946.
    Although by the terms of Article (2c) of the 1951 San Francisco treaty, Japan renounced all rights to the Kuril Islands, the treaty did not apply to the islands of Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and the Habomai rocks since they are not included in the Kuril Islands. Also, the Soviet Union did not sign the San Francisco treaty.

    Public attitudes in Japan

    In Japan, there are various private groups cooperating with local and national government to encourage the Japanese people to push for the return of the islands. One man whose family was evicted from the islands, Kenjiro Suzuki,[48] heads the Tokachi branch of the League of Chishima Habomai Islands Residents (Chishima is the Japanese name for the Kuril Islands).[49] In 2008, the main organization had a budget of approximately 187 million yen (US$1.7 million).[50]
    Russia’s view

    Russia maintains that all the Kuril Islands, including those that Japan calls the Northern Territories, are legally a part of Russia as a result of World War II, and that this acquisition was as proper as any other change of international boundaries following the war.[5] Moscow cites the following basic points:

    The explicit language of the Yalta Treaty gave the Soviet Union a right to the Kurils, and the Soviet Union upheld its own obligations under that treaty.
    Russia inherited possession of the islands from the former Soviet Union, as its successor state, in accordance with international law.
    The Japanese assertion that the disputed islands are not part of the Kurils is simply a tactic to bolster Tokyo’s territorial claim and is not supported by history or geography.

    Russia has said it is open to a negotiated “solution” to the island dispute while declaring that the legality of its own claim to the islands is not open to question.[51] In other words, Japan would first have to recognize Russia’s right to the islands and then try to acquire some or all of them through negotiations.
    Public attitudes in Russia

    In Russia, most of the population—as well as the mass media—strongly oppose any territorial concessions to Japan.[52][dead link] A common view[52][dead link] is that Russia won the Kuril Islands during World War II and is entitled to keep them regardless of the prior history of the disputed territories. Many[52][dead link] believe that taking these islands away from Japan was a just reward for Russia’s sacrifices during World War II and for Russia’s agreement to enter the war against Japan at the request of its allies.[53] The attitudes of the Russian public have hardened in the 2000s. According to a July 2009 poll conducted by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), 89% of respondents were against territorial concessions to Japan in the Kuril Islands dispute, compared to 76% from a similar poll in 1994.[54]
    See also

    Defence of the Kuril Islands
    Kuril Islands
    Soviet-Japanese relations and Russo-Japanese relations
    Foreign relations of Japan
    Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1875)
    All-Russian Committee for Defence of Kuriles
    Ainu people

    References and footnotes

    ^ Article 25 of The San Francisco Peace Treaty defines the Allied Forces as “the States at war with Japan, […] provided that in each case the State concerned has signed and ratified the Treaty. […] the present Treaty shall not confer any rights, titles or benefits on any State which is not an Allied Power as herein defined; nor shall any right, title or interest of Japan be deemed to be diminished or prejudiced by any provision of the Treaty in favor of a State which is not an Allied Power as so defined.” The Allied powers were Australia, Canada, Ceylon, France, Indonesia, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Republic of the Philippines, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America. The Soviet Union refused to sign the treaty.
    ^ “The history of the Kuril Islands Dispute”. RIA Novosti. 1 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-09.
    ^ Text of Gromyko’s Statement on the Peace Treaty.New York Times, page 26, September 9, 1951
    ^ a b Northern Territories dispute highlights flawed diplomacy. By Gregory Clark. Japan Times, March 24, 2005. “Japanese materials at the time — Foreign Ministry maps, statements by former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida at San Francisco and in his later memoirs, and newspaper reports all make it clear that Etorofu and Kunashiri were most definitely included. The chief U.S. negotiator for the San Francisco treaty, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, agreed. Asked at San Francisco to define the territory of the Kurils, he said only that the Habomais might be excluded (at the time there were suggestions that Shikotan might be part of the Kurils). More was to follow. Questioned in the Diet on October 19, 1951, over whether the word “Kurils” as used in the treaty included Etorofu and Kunashiri, the head of the Foreign Ministry Treaties Bureau, Kumao Nishimura, said unambiguously that both the northern Chishima and southern Chishima (Etorofu and Kunashiri) were included.”
    ^ a b “Japan’s undermining of Russian sovereignty not tolerated” – Medvedev
    ^ (Russian) “О проблеме мирного договора в российско-японских отношениях”. Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 22 July 2005. Retrieved 2009-07-26.
    ^ Ito, Masami, “Russian-held isles: So near, so far”, Japan Times, 18 January 2011, p. 3.
    ^ K. Takahara, Nemuro raid survivor longs for homeland. Japan Times, September 22, 2007. Accessed August 3, 2008
    ^ a b c d Bruce A. Elleman, Michael R. Nichols and Matthew J. Ouimet, A Historical Reevaluation of America’s Role in the Kuril Islands Dispute, Pacific Affairs, Vol. 71, No. 4 (Winter, 1998-1999), pp. 489-504
    ^ Text of Dulles Reply to the Soviet Charges Against Japanese Peace Treaty; THE PRESIDENT ARRIVING TO OPEN PEACE CONFERENCE, New York Times, September 4, 1951; from page 3: “Charge: […] Likewise, the Treaty States that southern Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands are to be detached from Japan but does not state, as previously promised by the United States, that these territories should be handed over to the Soviet Union. Reply: […] As regards South Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands, the treaty carries out the provisions of the Potsdam surrender terms, the only agreement by which Japan and the Allied powers as a whole are bound. So long as other governments have rights under the Yalta Agreement which the Soviet Union has not fulfilled, there is at least question as to whether the Soviet Union can, “with clean hands”, demand the fulfillment of the parts of that agreement it likes”.
    ^ Text of Gromyko’s Statement on the Peace Treaty.New York Times, September 9, 1951; From page 26: “The Soviet delegation has already drawn the attention of the conference to the inadmissibility of the situation under which the draft peace treaty with Japan fails to state that Japan should recognize the sovereignty of the Soviet Union over the southern part of Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands. The draft is in flagrant contradiction with the obligations assumed by the United States and Great Britain with regard to these territories under the Yalta Agreement.”
    ^ Clark, Gregory, “Northern Territories dispute lives on self-righteous deadlock”, Japan Times, 12 May 2009, p. 12.
    ^ The convoluted case of the coveted Kurils. By Kosuke Takahashi. Asia Times. November 25, 2004. “Japan and the Allied Powers, including the US and the UK, signed the peace treaty in San Francisco in 1951, when the Soviet Union participated but did not sign the treaty. At the conference, Japan renounced the “Kuril Islands”, excluding Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan, or Habomai islands, which Japan claimed had always been Japanese territories and wished to claim them after the war.”
    ^ a b Kimie Hara, 50 Years from San Francisco: Re-Examining the Peace Treaty and Japan’s Territorial Problems. Pacific Affairs, Vol. 74, No. 3 (Autumn, 2001), pp. 361-382. Available online at J-STOR.
    ^ Northern Territories dispute highlights flawed diplomacy. By Gregory Clark. Japan Times, March 24, 2005.
    ^ a b Clark, Gregory (July 18, 1992). “Tokyo’s Claim to the Kurils Is Shaky”. The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-13.[dead link]
    ^ Seokwoo Lee, Towards a framework for the resolution of the territorial dispute over the Kurile Islands, Boundary and territory briefing, v. 3, no. 6, University of Durham, 2001; ISBN 1-897643-44-6; p. 15
    ^ a b James E. Goodby, Vladimir I. Ivanov, Nobuo Shimotomai, ‘”Northern territories” and beyond: Russian, Japanese, and American Perspectives, Praeger Publishers, 1995
    ^ Texts of Soviet-Japanese Statements; Peace Declaration Trade Protocol, page 2, New York Times, October 20, 1956; available for fee from the New York Times electronic archive.
    ^ “Texts of Soviet-Japanese Statements; Peace Declaration Trade Protocol.” New York Times, page 2, October 20, 1956. Subtitle: “Moscow, October 19. (UP) – Following are the texts of a Soviet-Japanese peace declaration and of a trade protocol between the two countries, signed here today, in unofficial translation from the Russian”.
    ^ Fackler, Martin (2 November 2010). “Japan Summons Envoy to Russia Over Kurile Islands Dispute”. New York Times. p. A12. Retrieved 2010-11-03. “Japan’s dispute with Russia has divided the two countries for more than half a century, preventing them from signing a formal peace treaty to conclude World War II.”
    ^ European Parliament resolution on relations between the EU, China and Taiwan and security in the Far East #15 [1]
    ^ Soviet-Japanese joint declaration of 1956 — full text in Russian at Wiki
    ^ declaration of 1956, official Japan site — full text in Russian
    ^ declaration of 1956, Japan embassy — full text in Russian
    ^ Islands disputed with Japan feel Russia’s boom
    ^ Japan expects the Kuril Islands return :: In Depth :: Russia International :: Russia-InfoCentre
    ^ Russia hopes to solve territorial dispute with Japan by strengthening trust, Xinhua News Agency, Accessed 19 July 2008
    ^ Japanese schoolbooks to claim Russia’s Southern Kuril Islands, RussiaToday, Accessed 19 July 2008
    ^ Japan, Russia discuss islands row
    ^ “Japan’s statements on Kurils have no legal force – envoy”. ITAR-TASS. 8 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-09.
    ^ “Russia might drop visa-free exchange with Japan”. ITAR-TASS. 8 July 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
    ^ “Fired on Japanese fishing vessels may have intentionally trespassed into Russian waters”. Mainichi Daily News. 2 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
    ^ Japan fisherman killed by Russia BBC News 16 August 2006
    ^ Medvedev vows to visit islands claimed by Japan, Reuters, September 29, 2010. Accessed October 2, 2010
    ^ “China, Russia team up on territorial claims”. Yomiuri Shimbun. 2010-09-29. Retrieved 2010-10-16.
    ^ “Japan in diplomatic row after Russian isle visit”, by Alexei Anishchuk, Reuters, Nov. 01, 2010
    ^ “Snap analysis: Russia scolds Japan with disputed island visit”, by Guy Faulconbridge, Reuters, Nov 1, 2010
    ^ “Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev angers Japan with visit to disputed Kuril Islands”. The Australian. 2010-11-01. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
    ^ “Japan recalls envoy to Russia over Kurils dispute”. The Guardian. 2010-11-02. Retrieved 2010-11-23.
    ^ “Russia warns of more visits to disputed islands”, Reuters, Nov. 02, 2010
    ^ http://jiwk.janes.com
    ^ “Russia to deploy modern missile defense systems on disputed Kuril Islands | Defense | RIA Novosti”. En.rian.ru. 2011-02-15. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
    ^ “Russian fighter jets ‘breach Japan airspace'”. BBC News. 7 February 2013. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
    ^ “Two Russian fighter jets breach Japan airspace: Tokyo”. France 24. 7 February 2013. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
    ^ http://www.aljazeera.com/video/asia/2013/04/20134295949969791.html
    ^ a b Japan’s Northern Territories (Pamphlet). Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
    ^ 抑留55年目の回顧〜「シベリア抑留関係展示会」【3】
    ^ Tokachi branch of the League of Chijima Habomai Islands Residents: 2008 16th Regular Meeting Proposals (paper document in Japanese)「支部長 鈴木 健二郎」
    ^ [2][dead link]
    ^ Russia stands firm in territorial dispute with Japan. RIA Novosti. July 2, 2008.
    ^ a b c [3] By E. Vovk. The Public Opinion Foundation Database. November 25, 2004
    ^ Yatsko V. My Solution of the Kuril Islands Problem
    ^ Sergey Borisov. ROAR: “Trusting relationship unlikely to solve main problem for Russia-Japan”. Russia Today, September 8, 2009.

    Further reading

    Hasegawa, Tsuyoshi. Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan. Harvard University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-674-01693-9.
    Stephan, John J. The Kuril Islands Russo-Japanese Frontier in the Pacific. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974. ISBN 0-19-821563-0
    Kimie Hara, 50 Years from San Francisco: Re-Examining the Peace Treaty and Japan’s Territorial Problems. Pacific Affairs, Vol. 74, No. 3 (Autumn, 2001), pp. 361–382. Available online at J-STOR.
    Seokwoo Lee, Towards a framework for the resolution of the territorial dispute over the Kurile Islands, Boundary and territory briefing, v. 3, no. 6, University of Durham, 2001; ISBN 1-897643-44-6
    Seokwoo Lee, The 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty with Japan and the Territorial Disputes in East Asia. Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal, vol 11 (2002), no. 1, pp. 63–146
    David Rees, The Soviet seizure of the Kuriles, Greenwood Press, 1985; ISBN 0-275-90154-8

    External links

    South Kuriles/Northern Territories:A Stumbling-block in Russia-Japan Relations, history and analysis by Andrew Andersen, Department of Political Science, University of Victoria, May 2001
    Chishima: Frontiers of San Francisco (A documentary film about Kuril Island dispute.)
    Japan’s Northern Territories (Japanese government website)
    The convoluted case of the coveted Kurils analysis by Kosuke Takahashi (November 25, 2004)
    Northern Territories dispute highlights flawed diplomacy by Gregory Clark, Japan Times (March 24, 2005)
    Creative thinking on the Kurils analysis by Kosuke Takahashi (April 20, 2005)
    Akaha and Vassilieva, “Lessons for Improved Japan – Russia Relations”, Asahi Shimbun, June 20, 2005, Monterey Institute of International Studies
    Little known facts in history of the dispute (in Russian).
    Russian view on the history of the dispute (in Russian)
    Takahara, Kanako (September 22, 2007). “Nemuro raid survivor longs for homeland” (Newspaper article). Japan Times. Retrieved 2008-02-01.
    Inventory of Conflict and Environment (ICE), Kurile Islands Dispute

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