Yes, it's that magical time once again! After a week of hiatus, it is time for #FridayNightHistory in which I try a radical change of topic and answer the question: what is the northernmost train station that's ever been in Japanese territory?
Let's talk about Sakhalin.

Geographically, Sakhalin is part of the Japanese archipelago. It is now Russian territory. And of the indigenous peoples of that region who lived and still live there, one of the most prominent were the Nivkh, who are also sometimes called Gilyak.
Nivkh has a lot of loan words with Ainu, because of lengthy interaction between the two cultures. This includes the word koton-- cognate with the Ainu word kotan-- meaning "town." Keep that word in mind, it's going to matter in a little while.
The island of Sakhalin, which sits just north of Hokkaido, was the subject of Russian and Japanesse colonization for centuries prior to the 20th century.
By 1905, in the Meiji era at the tail end of the Russo-Japanese War, Sakhalin was divided by treaty at the 50th Parallel-- north of that was Russia, south of that was Japan; under Japanese rule, the island was called Karafuto 樺太.
There was rail connection and one major highway between the two halves of Sakhalin, generally speaking, the development of transportation nodes was gradual.
So, which rail station was the northernmost rail station? That's a distinction that changed gradually over time, as the network expanded northward.
But, by 1944, the distinction of northernmost station was held by Koton Station 古屯駅 (told you that word was going to matter in a little while!), in the town of Koton, at 49.835278, 142.816667
It was within 17 kilometers of the border crossing, and while average passengers could travel to the station, it was not listed in railway timetables, owing to the fact that it a dual use civil-military rail station.
Here's my annotations on a relevant map segment from OpenStreetMap, to give you a sense of scale.
The name Koton, as with many other stations on the rail lines in Japanese-held Karafuto, came from local place names, and this close to the 50th parallel, many of them were Nivkh.
Remember, regardless of where the border was or is drawn, the Nivkh, Uilta, Ainu, and other peoples were there before the Russian or Japanese empires, and any industrial expansion or building of cities in this region was the work of colonization and forced labor.
The rail network was still in the middle of expansion, albeit slowed by the exigencies of war, when the Red Army invaded and captured southern Sakhalin in the closing weeks of the Pacific War.
The area around Koton Station was the site of fighting during the Soviet-Japanese War of August 1945; as it was immediately south of the border, this is where some of the early fighting took place.
On 1 February 1946, Koton Station-- along with the rest of the Japanese-built railways in Karafuto (now Sakhalin)-- was officially removed from the list of Japanese rail stations by the Ministry of Railways.
Exactly two months thereafter, the station was formally integrated into the Soviet rail system on Sakhalin, becoming Pobedino Победино. It's still there.
While Japan has renounced its claim to Sakhalin, the status of the southernmost group of the nearby Kuril Islands, captured by the Soviet Union at the same time, remains in dispute.
What happened to the old border at the 50th Parallel?
As it turns out, there's a monument to the Red Army there, with a tall, narrow peak representing the point of a bayonet, and a perpendicular arrow pointing south in the direction of the army's advance.
Google Streetview has an excellent view of the site:… The line where the peak of the monument sits is the 50th parallel, the old border exactly.
If you poke around in the user-uploaded photos and see the broken bits of concrete platform surrounded by woods, that's the site of one pair of the old border markers, several of which were returned to Japan and are on display in Hokkaido today.
Here's one pair owned by the city of Nemuro:…
Today, the northernmost train station in Japan is Wakkanai Station at 45° 25′ 1.3″ N, 141° 40′ 37.2″ E in Wakkanai, Hokkaido.

Across the Sōya Strait, visible on a clear day, lies Sakhalin.

I'm Nyri and this has been #FridayNightHistory.

Now, questions?

(Sources to follow in blogpost version)
Thanks for reading! #FridayNightHistory is made possible by readers like you. To support this and more, sign up at Patreon, send 1-time donation here: , or buy my new novel #GreyDawn via ! You rock my world!

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