Things to do in Otaru

Otaru is a city of sea, history, and exotic atmosphere. The nostalgic streets lined with stone and brick warehouses along the canal attract many visitors, as it is conveniently located, just a 25 minute train ride from Sapporo.

Otaru is famous for its glass craft and there are many great galleries, museums, and shops with great arts and crafts.

The town offers historical buildings that remind us of the prosperity of the pioneer days. Otaru’s gourmet food ranges from seafood to sweets, and the superb views and hot springs.

Whether you are visiting Otaru for the first time or are a repeat visitor, we will provide you with a wealth of information that will satisfy you!

Otaru Canal

Otaru Canal
Otaru Canal

Viewing and strolling alongside the Otaru Canal is one of the most popular things to do in Otaru. Stone warehouses, gas lamps, and cobblestone streets. You will feel as if you have stepped back in time.

One of the charms of the Otaru Canal is that the atmosphere changes depending on the time of day you visit. Sunset is the most photogenic time!

Otaru Canal at night
Otaru Canal at night

The gas lamps and the setting sun lighting up the warehouses are breathtakingly beautiful. And when the sun sets, the area is instantly enveloped in a romantic atmosphere.

As you can see, just strolling along the  Otaru Canal is enjoyable enough, but if you want to enjoy the canal, even more, you can also join a guided cruise.

Stained Glass Museum

 

The 140 pieces of stained glass that used to adorn the windows of English churches can be seen here. The large stained glass windows lining the walls are overwhelmingly powerful and beautiful.

Visitors can see up close the precious items, which were created using traditional techniques. The buildings are also worth seeing, including the “Former Takahashi Warehouse,” made of Otaru soft stone, and the “Former Arata Shokai,” a wooden structure with symmetrical facades.

Kitaichi Glass Building

Otaru Glass Craft
Otaru Glass Craft

Kitaichi Glass Sangokan is one of the best things to do in Otaru and a must-visit location if you are interested in the art of glassware. The building used to be a warehouse for herring fishing, the root of Otaru’s development and was renovated as a glass shop and cafe in 1983.

The colorful glassware lined up in the building will put you in a romantic mood just by looking at them.

The “Kitaichi Hall,” lit by 167 oil lamps, is very magical. There is also a café where you can enjoy drinks and light meals while being illuminated by the gentle light.

Otaru Music Box Museum

Otaru Music Box Museum and Steam Clock
Otaru Music Box Museum and Steam Clock

Otaru Music Box Museum is located at the intersection of Sakai-machi Street and Mercure Street, and is one of the most popular tourist spots in Otaru.

The large atrium is filled with music boxes of various designs and tones. Pick out your favorite one and bring it as a souvenir.

Otaru Music Box Museum © Orgel Doh Co. Ltd
Otaru Music Box Museum © Orgel Doh Co. Ltd

Building No. 2, located near the main building, exhibits a variety of antique music boxes of historical value. The highlight is the “Aeolian Pipe Organ,” which is more than 100 years old, and you can enjoy its rich sound during the demonstration.

Otaru Music Box Museum © Orgel Doh Co. Ltd
Otaru Music Box Museum © Orgel Doh Co. Ltd

In the vicinity, there are also fun-related spots such as a workshop where you can try your hand at making a music box, and a store specializing in stuffed toys and character goods. Be sure to stop by and spend a relaxing time.

Take The Ropeway To Tenguyama For Amazing Views

View of Otaru From Mount Tengu
View of Otaru From Mount Tengu

Captivate yourself with the spectacular view from Tenguyama, a symbol of Otaru and one of the three best nightscapes in Hokkaido!

You can take a ropeway to the top of the mountain. When you see the Tengu with a long nose), give it’s honker a quick rub as legend has it that touching the long nose will ward off evil and make your wishes come true.

Tengu Otaru
Rub the Tengu’s nose for good luck

At the top of the ropeway, there is  Tengu Cafe, a restaurant with an amazing view. In winter, the area is used by many skiers as a ski resort.

Mt. Tengu Ropeway Operates at 12-minute intervals
Access: 16 minutes by bus from Otaru Station to Tenguyama Ropeway.

Sakaimachi Street

Sakaimachi Street Otaru Hokkaido
Sakaimachi Street Otaru Hokkaido

The street from Asakusa Bridge on the Otaru Canal to the south and from the end of Wall Street in the north to the Mercure Intersection 700 meters to the east is called Sakaimachi Main Street.

Just look for the steam clock at one corner of the five-way intersection at Sakaimachi Crossing

At night, the area is lit up and looks like a European street corner.

Sakaimachi Street Otaru Hokkaido
Sakaimachi Street Otaru Hokkaido

On Sakaimachi Main Street, you will find Otaru Dezei-mae Plaza and Taisho Glass Museum where common arts and crafts from the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa periods are exhibited.

There are also cafes with a retro atmosphere such as Otaru Candle Workshop and Wattaru-Kan, making it a spot that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

Access: 5-minute walk from JR Minami-Otaru Station

Bank of Japan Former Otaru Branch Financial Museum

Bank of Japan Former Otaru Branch Financial Museum
Bank of Japan Former Otaru Branch Financial Museum

The Bank of Japan’s Former Otaru Branch Financial Archives, which has a distinctive presence on what was once euphemistically called the Wall Street of the North, was designed by Kingo Tatsuno, who also designed the red-brick Tokyo Station.

Bank of Japan Otaru Museum
Bank of Japan Otaru Museum

The museum was built as a bank in 1912 and is now used as a museum to introduce the history of the Bank of Japan and its financial operations, including a corner where visitors can experience the weight of 100 million yen and learn about anti-counterfeiting technology.

Otaru Triangle Market

Otaru Triangle Market
Otaru Triangle Market

The Otaru Triangle Market is a local market that has been in operation since 1948. As you exit the Otaru Station building it’s about one minute walk to the left.  Sixteen stores are lined up across the aisle on a narrow, 200-meter-long, 2-meter-wide slope.

At the six restaurants, you can enjoy bowls of rice topped with fresh seafood, daily set menus using seasonal ingredients, etc. You can also have products you bought at the market cooked on the spot to make your own original rice bowl.

Otaru Seafood at The Triangle Market
Otaru Seafood at The Triangle Market

Further on, you will find Otaru Central Market. The market has been supporting the lives of Otaru residents for more than 60 years and currently has nearly 30 stores in three buildings.

Otaru Canal Cruise

Otaru River cruise
Otaru River cruise

This is a popular 40-minute boat ride around Otaru Port and the canal network and gives you a view of this wonderful city from a different angle.

Cruise tour to view the retro streets of Otaru from the canal. The boat also sails to Otaru Port while listening to a guide about the town’s history and places of interest.

You can choose between a day cruise or a night cruise.

Tenjoji Temple

Tenjoji Temple is designated as a historical building and is a famous cherry blossom viewing spot where you can see the beautiful scenery of about 30 Someiyoshino cherry trees turning pink in the temple grounds in early May.

The main hall, modeled after Zenkoji Temple in Nagano Prefecture, is a must-see. It was built in the style of Zenkoji Temple in Nagano Prefecture, with an irimoya gabled roof and mokoshi under the eaves.

Tenjoji Temple is famous for its cherry blossoms, but autumn leaves are also recommended. The contrast between the calm appearance of the main hall and the surrounding autumn leaves is exquisite.

Access: 1 minute walk from Kita Gas-mae bus stop or 3 minute walk from Irifune 2-chome bus stop by Chuo Bus; 15 minute walk from JR Minami-Otaru Station.

Otaru City Museum

The Otaru City Museum is a museum where visitors can learn about the history of Otaru and its transportation history. There are two museums, the Main Building and the Canal Building, each about a 20-minute walk away from the other.

The main building mainly displays exhibits related to Hokkaido’s railroads, and visitors can see steam locomotives, passenger coaches, and other valuable railroad vehicles.

During certain periods, such as major holidays and summer vacations, the “Iron Horse,” a steam locomotive built in 1909, is actually in operation, and visitors can experience a ride on it.

Tanaka Sake Brewery Kamegokura

Sake In Otaru © Tanaka Sake Brewing
Sake In Otaru © Tanaka Sake Brewing

Enjoy sake brewing and tasting using Hokkaido rice at Otaru Tanaka Sake Brewery in the wonderful old  Okazaki Warehouse building.

Tanaka Sake Brewery brews local sake all year round using 100% Hokkaido rice. The brewery uses melted snow water from Mt. Tengu, the symbol of Otaru. You can visit the brewery anytime for free.

Sake In Otaru © Tanaka Sake Brewing
Sake tasting In Otaru © Tanaka Sake Brewing

You can sample a number of sake, including Kamegokura’s limited edition Junmai Ginjo-Ginjo Genshu Kamegokura. If you have a sweet tooth, there are some sweater tipples on the menu such as amazake or sake manju.

This is a great place to find your favorite sake or amazake and take it home as a souvenir (or just guzzle it down back at the hotel like we ended up doing)

The Retro Charm Of Otaru Station

Otaru Station
Otaru Station

Otaru Station, the gateway to Otaru, is another tourist attraction, built in 1934 and the oldest steel-framed reinforced concrete station building in Hokkaido.

We loved the retro character Otaru on the station name sign.

Otaru Station
Otaru Station

Inside the station, countless lamps are installed at the ticket gates and on the platforms, creating a fantastic scenery unique to Otaru Station. It has a retro atmosphere in the daytime, but the atmosphere will be even better at night.

Otaru Station
Otaru Station

Otaru Station is about an hour’s train ride from Sapporo, so it is easy to get there even if you are using Sapporo as your sightseeing base.
The innovative and fantastic station building is a must-see!

Otaru Aquarium

Otaru Aquarium
The penguin walk at the Otaru Aquarium

The “Marine Animal Park,” a pool in the sea, is a popular place to see sea lions and seals in their natural habitat, as well as a number of exhibits that can only be seen here, such as the world’s rarest harbor porpoise and numerous seals from the waters around Otaru.

Access: 25 minutes by bus from Otaru Station on the JR Hakodate Line

Ise Sushi

Ise Sushi was established in 1967 in Inaho, Otaru City. Although the restaurant is a Michelin-starred restaurant in the “Michelin Guide Hokkaido,” you can enjoy the high quality of their sushi without any pretension.

The sake selected by the proprietress, who is a sake connoisseur was delicious.

The natural seafood, mainly from Otaru and all over Japan, is fresh and delicious. The owner’s skill and spirit shine through in the seasoning, which wins the hearts of not only Japanese but also foreign tourists.