Otaru, Hokkaido, is a city that used to be known as the “trade hub in the North of Japan”. Located at just a 30-minute train ride away from Hokkaido’s main city, Sapporo, there are various artefacts in Otaru that remind people of its glorious era. Some of the significant sites include the Otaru Canal, obsolete bank buildings as well as red brick warehouses. Here are 10 places you must visit to truly maximise your time in Otaru!
1. Fantastic night view of the Otaru Canal
Otaru developed into an established trade hub during the Meiji Era (1868 – 1912) and is now one of the cities that represent Hokkaido. Located at just a 30-minute train ride away from Sapporo, it is an easily accessible city and the Otaru canal is one of the most symbolic tourist spots there. The picturesque canal has a different feel, depending on whether it is day or night. During the day, the canal radiates an atmosphere that reminds people of Otaru’s impressive epoch as a trade hub. At night, the boulevard along the canal is lit up by 63 gas lamps, creating a romantic atmosphere perfect for a date.
2. A different perspective: The Otaru Canal Cruise
The Otaru Canal is no doubt the most symbolic place in the city, and walking along it is a good way to explore the various sites in Otaru. The Otaru Canal Cruise lets you have a different view of the canal, bringing you through the different locations such as the famous southern side of the canal, the port, and the quieter northern side of the canal.
Otaru Canal Cruise
Address: 5-4 Minatomachi Otaru Hokkaido
Access info: 10-minute walk from JR Otaru Station
Opening hours: First cruise from 9 am
Opening seasons: June - August
Duration: Approximately 40 minutes
Cruise fare: 1,500 JPY (14.60 USD) for daytime and 1,800 JPY (17.50 USD) for night cruise
3. Charming music boxes at Otaru Orgel Music Hall
Among the items that represent Otaru is the music box. Otaru Orgel Doh, which means Otaru Music Box Hall in Japanese, is located in a red brick building which was built all the way back in 1912. The five-storey shop displays antique music boxes and has over 3400 music boxes for sale. The Music Box Museum as well as the Music Box and Handicrafts Studio are located next to it too!
4. LeTAO: The local confectionary store
The renowned confectionary store from Otaru is famous for its delicious cheesecakes and chocolate. Spend a relaxing time at the café in the main branch of LeTAO in Sakaimachi Street!
LeTao main branch
Address: 7-16 Sakaimachi, Otaru-city, Hokkaido
Access info: 10-minute drive from Maruyama Park metro station
Opening hours: 9 am - 6 pm
Fixed holiday: nil
Contact: +81 120-46-8825 (toll-free)
5. Discover Otaru’s origin at the Wall Street of the North
Located 10 minutes from Otaru station, you will witness rows of grand western-style buildings at the Wall Street of the North. These buildings, which used to house branches of Bank of Japan and Mitsui Bank, supported Otaru when it was developing as a trade hub.
Located near the Japan Railway Otaru Chikko Station, Grand Park Otaru hotel is perfect if you are planning on spending a night in Otaru. At night, lights from the ferries and yachts look like jewellery on the ocean, and you can enjoy the splendid view of the sunrise at the Otaru port in the morning.
Grand Park Otaru
Address: Chikko 11-3
Price: from 85 USD
Access to health care professionals Parking Process in place to check health of guests Laundry 24-hour security Facilities for disabled guests 24-hour front desk Thermometers for guests provided by property
7. Tenguyama - a mountain filled with fun
There are various attractions in Tenguyama apart from the majestic view of Otaru. At the top of the mountain which you can access via the Tenguyama ropeway, the Shimarisu Kouen (Chipmunk Park) lets you interact with and feed the adorable chipmunks. You can also speed down the 430 metres (1410 feet) long Tenguyama Slider bobsleigh at 40 km/h (25mph)!
8. Learn the history of the Hokkaido Railway
The coal industry played a huge role in the development of Hokkaido. In the past, the Hokkaido Railway was rapidly built in a matter of 10 months in order to transport coal from central Hokkaido to the Otaru port. By 1882, the Hokkaido Railway became the longest railway in Japan - even longer than those in Tokyo! At the Otaru General Museum, you can view the artefacts to find out more about how Hokkaido became what it is today.
Otaru City General Museum
Address: 1-3-6 Temiya, Otaru-city, Hokkaidō
Access info: 10-minute drive from Maruyama Park metro station
Opening hours: 9:30 am - 5 pm
Fixed holiday: Tuesdays
Contact: +81 134-33-2523
Entrance fee: 400 JPY (3.90 USD)
Hotel Vibrant Otaru, also found along the Wall Street of the North, is located in a building used by the Hokkaido Takushoku Bank in the past. The grand hotel lobby carries the atmosphere of a bank and there are two rooms in the hotel that are former bank vaults. Your dream of spending a night inside a bank can actually come true!
Unga no Yado, Otaru Furukawa is conveniently located right beside the symbolic Otaru Canal. The hotel has two natural onsens and you can choose between Western or Japanese cuisine for breakfast. More importantly, you can have an exclusive view of the beautiful Otaru canal all for yourself!
A city that revolves around the port
In the past, the Otaru canal served as an important route to transport goods from the port to the warehouses. Today, it is a symbol of the city, attracting tourists from all over the world.
Starting out as a small port, Otaru developed into a fantastic city which is today brimming with beautiful scenery, mouth-watering food and unique culture. It is only a 30-minute train ride from Sapporo, so don’t forget to plan a few days of Otaru sightseeing during your Hokkaido trip!
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