"Wakkanai North Breakwater Dome" - The 12th entry in our Hokkaido Heritage Series.
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In Wakkanai, the northernmost town in Japan, there is a huge structure with smooth curves and thick supporting pillars reminiscent of ancient Roman ruins. This is the "North Breakwater Dome" a symbol of the Hokkaido's northernmost harbor. Allow me to tell you about the history of this unique structure, which was used on the old Sakhalin route.
This massive semi-circular structure is 472 meters long, and is supported by 70 large pillars. Completed in 1936, it was designed by Hokkaido University graduate Makoto Tsuchiya, who was just 26 at the time. It is an incredible feat for such a young designer to create a structure that has stood through the years and now acts as a historic monument.
The "Wakkanai Route" was opened in 1923, and connected Wakkanai and Sakhalin by sea.
Wakkanai JR Station was opened in 1928 under the name "Harbor Station" as a transportation hub for the area. A harbor and wharf were also under construction at the time and, although the process was to be carried out quickly, high waves and strong winds plagued the teams slowing progress.
It was during this time Makoto Tsuchiya was assigned to the Wakkanai Harbor Office.
Tsuchiya was given the task of designing a large breakwater structure using what was then a difficult to work with material, concrete. Although Tsuchiya had studied the material in University, he was shocked to be given such an important task with such a short time limit.
He had only two months before construction was to begin.
Instructed by his director to include eaves, he began by doing strength calculations and creating models. After many different designs he arrived at the dome shaped structure we see today.
It seems that Mr. Tsuchiya was inspired by ancient Greek temples he had seen during his studies, and modeled his design after them.
Construction on the dome began in 1931 and was completed five years later in 1936.
In 1938 tracks were added inside the dome and it became known as "Wharf Station." Passengers heading to the Sakhalin route were able to board their ferry, located in the adjacent harbor, without having to go outside.
Due to the large amount of natural resources in the Sakhalin area, it is said that nearly 400,000 people moved to this area.
However in 1945, as conditions worsened due to the second world war, people began to leave one after another.
It seems that families who had become separated during the war would post their contact information on the dome's pillars when they reached Wakkanai.
In August of that same year, just nine years after the dome was completed, the train route was abolished.
Although only used for nine years, the dome has become a symbol of the value of the Sakhalin route of old.
To this day the structure protects Wakkanai from strong winds and high waves, and there are still workers on active duty.
In 1978 the structure was refurbished and reinforced to protect it from earthquakes. It currently acts as an event venue as well as a concert and exhibition hall.
The dome has stood unchanged for 80 years, protecting the area from harsh weather.
Designed by a young graduate who was able to express his creativity and give birth to a beautiful monument to civil engineering. If you visit Wakkanai please take some time to visit the dome and take in it's size and beauty for yourself.
North Breakwater Dome is located 500 meters, about a ten minute walk, from Wakkanai JR Station.
Website: http://www.hokkaidoisan.org/ (Japanese)
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hokkaidoisan (Japanese)
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Kosuna)
Photographs provided by Ken Goto and the Hokkaido Heritage Council.
Ken Goto's Website: http://kengoshima.com/ (Japanese)
Ken Goto's Blog: http://ameblo.jp/kengoshima (Japanese)