ERIMO, Hokkaido — Even on a sunny day in early summer, cold, strong gusts blowing off the Pacific chill tourists who come from around the country to see Hokkaido’s famous cape.

“It’s too cold to enjoy the view. I can’t stay out here for even five minutes,” said Katsunori Kanahara, 34, of Tochigi Prefecture, who stood shivering on an observation deck. While the cape’s scenic beauty attracts some 400,000 visitors a year, its fierce wind, with an average speed of 40 kph, is also notorious.

The Erimo Municipal Government has recently succeeded in turning this seeming drawback into an advantage. Two windmills and a wind museum have now become symbols of the cape. Buffeted by winds stronger than 36 kph throughout the year, the cape is the most suitable place for wind power generation in Japan, experts say.

In 1996, two 35-meter-high windmills were built on a hill near the cape where hundreds of cows graze. The project was undertaken by the Erimo Research Institute of Wind Power Generation, a joint venture owned by Tokyo-based companies.

The Danish-made mills provide environmentally friendly energy, with a total output of 1.75 million kwh in 1997, enough electricity to supply 500 households. “It gives a charm to Erimo’s somewhat monotonous scenery,” said Hidekazu Kumagai, a local government officer.

So far, more than 116,000 visitors have come to The House of the Wind museum at the cape since it opened in June last year. With its high-tech features, the museum will blow you away — literally.

Those who are not satisfied with natural winds blowing outside can enter a room in the museum to experience winds of up to 90 kph. “Children love the room,” said Kumagai.

With eight immense 25-meter-tall glass windows, the museum also provides a spectacular ocean view. “You don’t need to stand in the fierce winds anymore,” said Kumagai, who drew up the blueprint for the museum with the help of wind experts.

From within the comforts of the museum, visitors can watch Erimo’s seasonal changes on video or observe seals that live 2 km away from the cape. They can also walk through a special tunnel to enjoy mysterious sounds and lights reflecting constantly changing wind directions and strengths.

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