The famous Otaru Canal and historical buildings, such as stone warehouses, contribute to the nostalgic atmosphere of Otaru’s townscape. Otaru is home to a large number of Hokkaido’s remaining historical buildings, many of which have been restored and converted into cafes and shops. This cultural port city attracts tourists from throughout Japan and around the world.
- Planning Hints
- Trains and buses frequently run between Sapporo and Otaru, facilitating day trip sightseeing based from Sapporo.
- Don’t miss Otaru’s renowned Sakaimachi Street, which is lined with attractions including Otaru Canal, glass craft shops, music box shops, and more.
- Take your time to experience activities such as glass blowing or kimono wearing, or explore Otaru’s beautiful streets by rickshaw.
Many of Otaru’s major sightseeing attractions are concentrated in the area between Otaru Station and Otaru Canal. When visiting Otaru, much of your movement will be on foot. Enjoying Otaru’s lovely townscape as you stroll through the historic streets is part of the charm. Otaru has many slopes and stone-paved streets, so we recommend wearing shoes that are comfortable to walk in, such as sneakers.
Depending on how much time you will spend, the Canal District offers a variety of sightseeing options. Enjoy a cruise overlooking the scenic canals from the water, or take a rickshaw ride with a knowledgeable driver who will show you around local points of interest.
Buses are recommended to visit the outskirts of town. For example, you take the bus to Mount Tengu to observe one of Hokkaido’s three great night views, or visit the Asari Onsen Hot Spring District.
Otaru is home to a number of events which celebrate the beauty of the changing seasons, such as the ‘Otaru Yuki Akari no Michi’ (Snow Light Path Festival), where snow-covered scenery is illuminated by the soft glow of enchanting snow candles, or the ‘Otaru Ushio Matsuri’ (Tide Festival), a major summer event.
When planning your trip, be sure to check what sort of events will be held!
Otaru Yuki Akari no Michi
(Snow Light Path Festival)
Early to Mid February
Otaru Ushio Matsuri (Tide Festival)
Otaru Yuki Monogatari (Snow Story)
Mid November to Mid February
Known for its nostalgic atmosphere, this popular Otaru sightseeing area is lined with historic stone warehouses. The retro townscape of the canal district speaks of Otaru’s unique history. From sunset to evening, this area takes on a distinctly romantic appearance under the soft glow of gas lamps.
◎ Canal cruises are a popular way to observe the canals from the water. You can enjoy a cruise in about 40 minutes.
◎ Otaru offers plenty of activities, such as music box making, glass crafts, kimono wearing, and rickshaw rides.
◎ Sakaimachi Street, located in the Canal District, is lined with glass craft shops, music box stores, cafes, and more… perfect for taking a stroll.
Former Temiya Railway Site
Closed in 1985, the Temiya Railway Line was Hokkaido’s first railway. Part of the original railway is maintained and opened to the public for walking. This is a popular place to visit and take photos that look like they came off the set of an old-time movie!
◎ This is one of the main venues of the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival, which is held every February. Topped in pure white snow and illuminated by snow candles, the railway creates an enchanting scene.
Overlooking the streets of Otaru, the view from the observation deck at Mount Tengu is one of the three great night views of Hokkaido, together with Hakodate seen from Mount Hakodate and Sapporo seen from Mount Moiwa. From the mountaintop at an elevation of 532.4 m, vast panoramas sweep across Otaru’s townscape, Otaru Bay, and Ishikari Bay.
◎ There are five mountaintop observation decks, providing a variety of angles to enjoy views of Otaru’s townscape.
◎ Be sure to check out the interesting and original attractions at the mountaintop, such as the giant tengu which is said to grant wishes if you rub its nose, and the Chipmunk Park, where you might encounter chipmunks in the wild!
Try visiting the surrounding areas, based in Otaru!
Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery
Located about 25 minutes by JR train, or 30 minutes by car from Otaru.
In the township of Yoichi, the Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery is open for tours of the entire whisky making process, from distilling to aging. The facilities include direct coal flame distilling equipment, which is extremely rare even around the entire world.
◎ In the museum’s ‘Whisky-Kan’ building, you will find a variety of displays and a wealth of information about whisky. Try paid samples of exclusive whisky only found — you might find a new favorite!
Known for the strikingly beautiful ‘Shakotan blue’ color of the seas, the magnificent sheer cliff coastline of the Shakotan Peninsula is a breathtaking route to drive. Points of interest such as Cape Kamui and Shimamui Coast provide panoramic views of the ‘Shakotan blue’ seas, and are very popular sightseeing attractions in summer. June to August is the peak season for uni (sea urchin), a delicacy best enjoyed at its sweetest and freshest in restaurants at Cape Kamui and along the Shimamui Coast. Sweet and creamy, the fresh, in-season sea urchin is truly superb.
◎ Sea urchin can be enjoyed from June to August. Uni-don (sea urchin rice bowl) is an excellent way to sample this delicacy, and some restaurants are even directly operated by sea urchin fishers.
◎ On clear days with calm seas, the striking blue color of the seas is even more vivid.
◎ If you enjoy hot springs, we recommend the open-air bath at ‘Misaki no yu Shakotan’.While soaking in the mineral bath, the elevated location allows you to enjoy magnificent views overlooking the Sea of Japan, Cape Kamui, and Cape Shakotan.
Otaru is first and foremost known as one of Japan’s premier sushi destinations. The nearby seas provide Otaru with the freshest fish and seafood, and the city is home to over a hundred sushi restaurants.
As you stroll the streets, keep an eye out for sushi restaurants, and you may just find a new favorite.
Sushi making classes are also available by advance reservation. For a truly memorable holiday, try your hand at making your own sushi.
Sushiya-dori (Sushi Street)
About 8 minutes on foot from JR Otaru Station. This 200-meter street is packed with time-honored sushi restaurants. Accessible on foot from Otaru Canal, Sushi Street has become a popular tourist attraction in its own right.
Otaru Denuki Koji
Located at Otaru Canal’s Asakusa Bridge intersection, this arcade of street food stalls offers a chance to enjoy local ingredients. Known as a popular sightseeing attraction, Denuki Koji re-creates the nostalgic townscape of Otaru’s good old days, when the canal flourished with industry. The arcade includes twenty shops showcasing local ingredients at reasonable prices, such as fresh seafood shops directly operated by fisheries, tempura specialty shops, and of course, eateries serving Otaru’s iconic hanmi-age fried chicken. You’ll also enjoy speaking with the friendly business owners and meeting Otaru locals. The Symbol Tower offers panoramic views of the canal and sea.
Otaru Sankaku Ichiba (Triangle Market)
Otaru is renowned among Hokkaido’s foremost port towns, and its boisterous markets offer the very freshest seafood.
Located very close to JR Otaru, Otaru Sankaku Ichiba (Triangle Market) is Otaru’s most easily train-accessible market. Fifteen adjoining shops include fresh fish markets, restaurants, and more. This market is highly recommended for both shopping and dining.