HOME Hokkaido Hokkaido Otaru Local Recommendations: Top 10 Things to do in Otaru!
Local Recommendations: Top 10 Things to do in Otaru!

Local Recommendations: Top 10 Things to do in Otaru!

Date published: 9 May 2020
Last updated: 13 November 2020

Otaru is one of Hokkaido’s leading tourist destinations. Once a prosperous economic center, the city retains the character of those days in its large buildings, warehouses and canals. As a developed port city and an excellent fishing ground, there are also numerous markets selling fresh seafood throughout the city. Here are one local writer’s top ten recommendations for enjoying Otaru.

Table of Contents
  1. 1. Otaru Canal's “secret” North Canal
  2. 2. Enjoy Otaru Maritime Cruise
  3. 3. Fun shows at the Otaru Aquarium
  4. 4. Otaru Sushiya Dori: where sushi restaurants line the street
  5. 5. Reasonably priced seafood at Otaru Poseidon
  6. 6. Hokkaido Railway history at the Otaru Museum
  7. 7. Treat your taste buds to the original taste of Otaru Beer
  8. 8. Taste Ainu sake at Tanaka Sake Brewery Kikkogura
  9. 9. Well-known ramen and yakiniku “Pirate Ship”
  10. 10. Find your favorite melody at the Otaru Music Box Museum
  11. More than a day trip! Take plenty of time to feel the splendor of Otaru

1. Otaru Canal's “secret” North Canal

1. Otaru Canal's “secret” North Canal
Otaru Canal, symbolic of Otaru tourism

Otaru Canal is a highly popular spot for tourists. When it “finished its role as a canal,” plans were made to fill the waterway. However, in the 1980s, after a long controversy, some of the land was reclaimed and roads, walking paths, and townscapes were constructed, creating the canal’s well-known present-day appearance.

Night view of the North Canal and the illuminated ski slopes

At Asakusabashi Gaien, the park that’s one of Otaru’s main tourist sites, many people stop to take souvenir photos or ride rickshaws. If you want a quieter view of the canal, head north. The 40m section commonly known as the “North Canal,” still has the feeling of days past, when the canal was still in use. Warehouses now hold fashionable restaurants, creating a calm atmosphere. From December to March, Otaru’s ski slopes are illuminated adding to the special night view. Be sure to stop by the “secret” North Canal.

  • Otaru Canal
    小樽運河
    • Address Minatomachi, Otaru, Hokkaido, 047-0007
    • Phone: 0134-32-4111 (Otaru City Economic Department Tourism Promotion Office)
      Hours: 9:00 - 17:20 (main office, closed Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays)

2. Enjoy Otaru Maritime Cruise

2. Enjoy Otaru Maritime Cruise

The area around Otaru has a beautiful coastline, and some scenery can only be seen from the water. When the weather is nice, Otamoi Tours offers a scenic view of the seaside cliffs. There are four tour courses, ranging from the 90-minute “A Course” to the 40-minute “D Course,” offering flexibility according to your schedule and budget. In addition to sightseeing boats, Hokkaido’s only “yakatabune” (dinner cruise boats) traverse the bay. Both types of cruises operate from late April to mid-October, but be sure to check the official websites when planning your trip for important information.

  • Otaru marine sightseeing boat
    小樽海上観光船
    • Address 4-4, Minatomachi, Otaru Shi, Hokkaido, 047-0007, Japan
    • Phone Number 0134-29-3131
    • Hours: 9:00 - 17:00 (April - October), sightseeing vessels in operation seven days a week
      Fee: Depends on the tour course

3. Fun shows at the Otaru Aquarium

3. Fun shows at the Otaru Aquarium

The Otaru Aquarium has a variety of shows and animal exhibitions including the aquatic stadium’s dolphin jumping and sea lion shows and the walrus aquarium where 1 ton males splash water around. The penguin show is the highlight, with laughter-inducing birds “too free to follow the zookeeper’s instructions.” The outdoor sea park utilizes a natural cove and when the surf is strong, wild sea lions and harbor seals evacuate the coast, but the show animals are cared for within the aquarium.

  • Otaru Aquarium
    おたる水族館
    • Address 303-3, Shukutsu, Otaru, Hokkaido, 047-0047
    • Phone Number 0134-33-1400
    • Hours: Normal hours, March 20, 2020 (Friday, public holiday) to November 23, 2020 (Monday, national holiday) 9:00 to 16:00 (last entry 15:30); Winter hours, December 12, 2020 (Saturday) to February 28, 2021 (Sunday) 10:00 - 16:00 (Last entry 15:30); Other night extensions available; Closed November 24, 2020 (Tuesday) to Friday, December 11, 2020 (Friday); Check official website for further details.
      Admission: 1,500 yen for adults, 600 yen for children (elementary through junior high school students), 300 yen for infants (3 years old and above)
      Closed days:

4. Otaru Sushiya Dori: where sushi restaurants line the street

4. Otaru Sushiya Dori: where sushi restaurants line the street

Otaru has excellent fishing and approximately 200m from the Otaru Canal is an area full of long-established restaurants called “Otaru Sushiya Dori” (Sushi Shop Street). Some top recommendations include “shako” (mantis shrimp) and “hakkaku” (tokubire, or sailfin poacher) which are in season in winter. Shrimp, often boiled in Honshu, is served fresh in Otaru. There are always delicious seasonal menu items, so be sure to ask for recommendations when ordering.

  • Otaru sushi shop street
    小樽寿司屋通り
    • Address Shinonomecho, Otaru Shi, Hokkaido, 047-0024, Japan

5. Reasonably priced seafood at Otaru Poseidon

5. Reasonably priced seafood at Otaru Poseidon
Located in a renovated historic building (Photo courtesy of Otaru Poseidon)

If you want to enjoy seafood or roast chicken rice bowls at a reasonable price, try Otaru Poseidon. Popular with local customers, the shop prides itself on taste, price, and being unique to Otaru. With a kids’ room, it’s ideal for families.

A treat for the eyes and the stomach! (Photo courtesy of Otaru Poseidon)

The most popular Poseidon dish is a gorgeous bowl of various seafood including tuna, sea urchin, shrimp, salmon, etc. (2,200 yen, excluding tax). In the fireside grill, seasonal ingredients are carefully prepared in a secret sauce and Poseidon also serves a limited number of “one-coin” rice bowls (500 yen ,excluding tax), which make for an attractive budget meal.

  • Otaru POSEI DON
    小樽ポセイ丼
    • Address 4-9, Sakaimachi, Otaru Shi, Hokkaido, 047-0027, Japan
    • Phone Number 0134-61-1478
    • Hours: 11:00 - 21:00 (last order, 20:15), open daily

6. Hokkaido Railway history at the Otaru Museum

6. Hokkaido Railway history at the Otaru Museum
ArtNat / Shutterstock.com

Because the railway opened in 1882 ran from Temiya (Otaru City) to Horonai (Mikasa City), Otaru is called “the birthplace of the Hokkaido Railway.” The Otaru Museum displays many steam locomotives imported from the United States during Hokkaido’s pioneer era. The “Iron Horse” locomotive, manufactured in the US in 1909, travels back and forth across 400m of the museum grounds, and other vehicles that can actually be used will entertain railroad fans and casual visitors alike.

  • Otaru Museum
    小樽市総合博物館 本館
    • Address 3-6, Temiya, Otaru Shi, Hokkaido, 047-0041
    • Phone Number 0134-33-2523
    • Hours: 9:30 to 17:00, closed Tuesday (or the Wednesday following a Tuesday holiday)
      Admission: 400 yen (300 yen in winter)

7. Treat your taste buds to the original taste of Otaru Beer

7. Treat your taste buds to the original taste of Otaru Beer
Faer Out / Shutterstock.com

Otaru Beer is an additive-free organic beer that complies with German manufacturing methods, and bears the slogan “Like No Other” Otaru Beer Otaru Warehouse No.1, along the canal, houses a pub that serves the basic Pilsner, Dunkel, and Weiss varieties as well as limited edition seasonal beers. The pub is the perfect place to enjoy fresh beer and dishes made with local ingredients.

  • Otaru Brewery / Otaru Warehouse No.1
    小樽ビール醸造所・小樽倉庫No.1
    • Address Otaruungasoukogun, 5-4, Minatomachi, Otaru, Hokkaido, 047-0007
    • Phone Number 0134-21-2323
    • Hours: 11:00 - 23:00, open daily

8. Taste Ainu sake at Tanaka Sake Brewery Kikkogura

8. Taste Ainu sake at Tanaka Sake Brewery Kikkogura
A historic brewery founded in 1899

Tanaka Sake Brewery has a history spanning more than 120 years. In 1989, the factory, “Kikkogura,” was renovated so tourists could see the brewing process as well adding a tasting and purchasing area. The sake lineup is expansive, but you should definitely try “Kamuitonoto” which is a reproduction of the sake Hokkaido’s indigenous Ainu people offered to their gods.

Unique cloudy, white liquor

Kamuitonoto is made from domestic rice bran and Hokkaido rice malt. Saccharified rice malt is added to give it a unique acidity and natural sweetness, resulting in its distinct flavor. Samples are available at Tanaka Sake Brewery and you’ll be amazed by the taste.

  • Tanaka Sake Brewing Kikkogura Brewery
    田中酒造 亀甲蔵
    • Address 2-2, Nobukacho, Otaru, Hokkaido, 047-0016
    • Phone Number 0134-21-2390
    • Hours: 9:00 -18:00, open daily

9. Well-known ramen and yakiniku “Pirate Ship”

9. Well-known ramen and yakiniku “Pirate Ship”
A 1-minute walk from Zenibako Station
The bounty of the sea

If you want to try a shop off the beaten path, head to Kaizokusen (“Pirate Ship”). Located in front of Zenibako Station, between Otaru and Sapporo, it’s a popular local hangout.

The “Pirate Ramen” (850 yen including tax), is a huge bowl of mixed seafood including whelks, shrimp, salmon, scallops, mussels, seaweed. The shop is run by a friendly couple and a casual conversation will make your trip even more memorable.

  • 海賊船
    海賊船
    • Address 2-4, Zenibako, Otaru, Hokkaido, 047-0261
    • Phone Number 0134-62-7655
    • Hours: 11:30 - 13:30, 17:30 - 21:00; closed Sundays

10. Find your favorite melody at the Otaru Music Box Museum

10. Find your favorite melody at the Otaru Music Box Museum
Photo courtesy of Otaru Music Box Museum

If you’re looking for souvenirs, why not head to the Otaru Music Box Museum? The gift shop is lined with unique music boxes, many of which are rare, limited edition pieces only available there. Music boxes that play hit Japanese songs are sold at a reasonable price and make delightful souvenirs. You can also make your own original music box in the “Handmade Experience, Youkobo.”

  • Otaru Music Box Museum
    小樽オルゴール堂 本館
    • Address 4-1, Sumiyoshicho, Otaru, Hokkaido, 047-0015
    • Phone Number 0134-22-1108
    • Hours: 9:00 - 18:00 (summer only), 9:00 - 19:00 (Fridays, Saturday, the day before public holidays), open daily

More than a day trip! Take plenty of time to feel the splendor of Otaru

More than a day trip! Take plenty of time to feel the splendor of Otaru

Otaru combines history and modernity with its renovated warehouses now the sites of state-of-the-art stores where you can try your hand at glass making. In addition to fresh fish, there are other local dishes to try like kamaboko, half-fried chicken, and ankake yakisoba. A day trip won’t be enough to see and do it all, so plan to stay for a few days and nights!

Text by:Masakazu

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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