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 tastebuds to the original flavor of Otaru Beer
- 8. Taste Ainu sake at Tanaka Sake Brewery Kikkogura
- 9. Well-known ramen and yakiniku “Kaizokusen”
- 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 trendy 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 feels like days past when the canal was still in use. Many of these warehouses now hold fashionable restaurants, creating a calm atmosphere. Otaru’s ski slopes are illuminated from December to March, adding to the fantastic night view. Be sure to stop by the “secret” North Canal.
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 check the official websites when planning your trip for important information.
Otaru Maritime Cruise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.
3-303, Shukutsu, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido, 047-0047
Otaru Station （Hakodate Main Line）
25 minutes by bus
- Phone Number 0134-33-1400
- Address 3-303, Shukutsu, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido, 047-0047
4. Otaru Sushiya Dori: Where sushi restaurants line the street
Otaru has excellent fishing, and around 200m from the Otaru Canal is an area full of long-established restaurants called “Otaru Sushiya Dori” (Otaru Sushi Restaurant 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 Restaurant 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). Seasonal ingredients are carefully prepared in a secret sauce on the fireside grill. Poseidon also serves a limited number of “one-coin” rice bowls (500 yen, excluding tax), which make for an attractive budget meal.
- 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 and 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. Other vehicles that can be used will entertain railroad fans and casual visitors alike.
1-3-6, Temiya, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido, 047-0041
Otaru Station （Hakodate Main Line）
- Phone Number 0134-33-2523
- Address 1-3-6, Temiya, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido, 047-0041
7. Treat your tastebuds to the original flavor 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.
5-4, Minatomachi, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido, 047-0007
Otaru Station （Hakodate Main Line）
- Phone Number 0134-21-2323
- Address 5-4, Minatomachi, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido, 047-0007
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 “Kaizokusen”
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 massive bowl of mixed seafood, including whelks, shrimp, salmon, scallops, mussels, and seaweed. A friendly couple runs the shop, 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.”
4-1, Sumiyoshicho, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido, 047-0015
Minami-Otaru Station （Hakodate Main Line）
- Phone Number 0134-22-1108
- Address 4-1, Sumiyoshicho, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido, 047-0015
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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