One of Hokkaido’s leading port cities, Otaru is a romantic city full of history and elegant townscapes, located next to Sapporo. Otaru is known in particular for its old buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such as stone-built warehouses, the old housing facility for herring fishermen, temples, churches, and banks. The historic cityscape here is the trademark of Otaru, and a large number of its architecture is regarded as a cultural asset. Otaru is also known for its seafood restaurants and various confectioneries, allowing visitors to savour these delicious eats during or after their stroll through the city. Most of the sightseeing spots are located in the central area of the city, so they are within walking distance of each other. Spots that are further away can be reached by bus.
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Otaru Canal, a fun tourist spot right near most of the warehouse shops and portside restaurants, is considered a special power spot for couples. In the first half of the 20th century, large vessels were unloaded by smaller ships, which then transported the goods to warehouses along the canal. The canal makes for a pleasant stroll during the day when artists present their works to passing tourists, and during the evenings when old fashioned gas lamps are lit and provide a romantic atmosphere. The canal also serves as the main site of the town's Snow Light Path Festival.
Activities: Photo stop Fee: None Time required: 15 minutes-30 minutes
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Sakaimachi Dori Shopping Street
Sakaimachi Street is an attractive, preserved merchant street in central Otaru, parallel to the Otaru Canal. This one-way street stretches about 900 meters from North Wall Street to the Marchen Crossroads where you will find the Bank of Japan Otaru Branch. Both sides of the street are lined with old merchant shops and Western-style buildings which have been converted into restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, boutiques and museums. Many of the popular tourist shops are located in Sakaimachi Street.(Image via Japan Hoppers)
Activities: Photo stop, Shopping, Walking Fee: None Time required: Minimum 1 hour
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Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery
Located in Yoichi, Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery is a top Japanese whisky distillery owned by Nikka Whisky Distilling. First opened in 1934, it is the older of the two distilleries owned by Nikka Whisky, the other being the company’s Miyagikyo distillery near Sendai. The company was founded by Taketsuru Masataka, known as the father of Japanese whisky, who studied whisky making techniques for several years in Scotland before bringing the trade to Japan. Visitors are welcome to view the different steps taken to produce whisky from English guides. The tour ends at a tasting room where visitors can sample various Nikka whiskies. There is also a restaurant and a gift shop. Activities: Tasting, Factory visit Fee: None Time required: Minimum 1 hour
Music Box Museum
With approximately 25,000 music boxes of 3,400 different kinds, Otaru’s Music Box Museum is Japan’s largest music box store. The music boxes collection cover a phenomenal variety of music from all over the world. You can even hear the sound from outside the building. The steam clock before the building entrance is the largest steam clock in the world measuring 5.5 meters in height, 1 meter in width, and 1.5 tonnes in weight. Powered by the steam generated in the boiler, the five steam whistles at the top of the steam clock produce a melody comprised of five musical scales every 15 minutes.
Activities: Photo stop, Shopping Fee: None Time required: 30-45 minutes
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Kitaichi Glass is a long-established Otaru-based company that produces kerosene lamps and glass float used for fishing nets. There are 18 stores in the city, each with its style. Otaru benefits greatly from the reputation of its glassware, attracting many tourists to its glass shops. In addition to selling Otaru glassware, many shops allow customers to make their own cups, bowls or vases for typically 2000 to 3000 yen. One popular item is a cup that changes colour according to the temperature of the drink put in it.
Activities: Photo stop, Shopping Fee: None Time required: 30 minutes
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Sapporo 45 mins drive away from Otaru is Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital and Japan’s fifth largest city. The charms of this city include amazing local delicacies, picturesque scenery and the annual Sapporo Snow Festival held in February.