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