One of Hokkaido’s Most Popular Spots! An In-depth Guide to Sightseeing in Otaru
Otaru, which is Hokkaido's leading tourist destination, is a unique city with a retro feel where you'll find Western-style houses as well as traditional Japanese-style structures. This time, we introduce recommended spots to visit in Otaru.
1. Otaru Canal
This is a 1,140m canal that was built by reclaiming land off the coast in 1923. It is an area with great atmosphere with historic structures including stone warehouses. There are 63 gas lights on the footpath along the canal that are lit up in the evening, creating a romantic scenery. There are stylish shops with retro designs in renovated warehouses nearby.
2. Tanaka Sake Brewing Main Branch
This is a long-established sake brewery with a history of more than 100 years. The store is in a two-story wooden building that was built in 1927. The shop has a display of their old signage and ledgers, and retains a feel of the good old days. One of its appeals is the wide variety of sake available, including its signature Takaragawa (2,000 JPY/720ml (incl. tax)). There are always more than 10 different sake available for tasting, so you can take your time and find a local sake that suits your taste.
3. Asarigawa Onsen-kyo
This is an onsen hot spring area between the mountains in the southwestern part of the city that is referred to as the okuzashiki (inner parlor) of Otaru. The area has numerous onsen ryokan inns as well as a variety of sports facilities, so you can enjoy tennis and golf in the summer and skiing in the winter. The onsen is sodium calcium chloride spring water and is known to help with sore muscles, nerve pain and fatigue. Some of the ryokan accept day visitors, so you can stop by to refresh yourself after sightseeing or sports.
4. Main Building of the Otaru Music Box Museum
This is a store specializing in music boxes, with a steam clock in front of the building. It was built in 1912, giving it a nostalgic atmosphere. It has the biggest collection of music boxes in Japan, with a selection of more than 3,400. It's a great place to shop for gifts and souvenirs. At their sister store of Music Box and Handicrafts Studio You-kobo, which is a five-minute walk away, you can experience making your very own music box.
5. Sakaimachidori Shopping Street
This is a shopping street right in front of the main building of the Otaru Music Box Museum. The approximately 900m-long street has a total of 70 shops, such as glass shops and studios, sweets shops and restaurants serving regional specialties, so it is perfect if you're looking for gifts or souvenirs. The street is also distinguished by retro buildings, including the stately main branch of Taisho Glass. It is an area with a historic feel that is fun just to walk around in.
6. Kitaichi Glass
Kitaichi Glass is Otaru's leading glass brand. There are multiple shops in Otaru, among which the No.3 store is recommended. It is in a renovated warehouse built in 1891, with wood frames and a stone facade. The colorful glassware sold here are perfect as gifts to take home. Once you've finished shopping, be sure to stop by the Kitaichi Hall tearoom within the premises. It is a mystical space lit by 167 oil lamps.
7. Otaru Aquarium
This is an aquarium with approximately 5,000 creatures of 250 different types. There is a variety of unique exhibits such as the Honobono Pool, where harbor porpoise and fish coexist, and the Sawatte Ezone petting area, where you can touch starfish and sea urchins. The Marine Mammal Park, where seals and stellar sea lions live, is a must see. It is part of the ocean that has been sectioned off, so you can see the animals in an environment that is very close to their natural habitat.
Admission Fee: 1,000 JPY/adult, 400 JPY/child (elementary and junior high school age), 200 JPY/pre-school age (3 and older) (all prices incl. tax)
If you are thinking about going to Otaru, be sure to refer to this article when making your plans.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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