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Otaru Rickshaw

Rickshaw rides in Otaru.

Originally named Otarunai ("River of Sands") from the native Ainu language, it was renamed Otaru when development of Hokkaido started in ernest. Located approximately 30 km west of Sapporo on the northern tip of Hokkaido's Shiribeshi district on the Sea of Japan side, it is a harbor and port facility city. During the development of Hokkaido, Otaru experienced a boom as one of the only port facilities in this region and also as a herring fishing area. During this boom period many of the places to visit were constructed.

Now Otaru has approximately 146,297 people and was designated as a city on August 1st 1922. Otaru is also known for it’s large variety of fresh, high quality seafood. As such the many Sushi bars (especially on Sushiya street near JR Otaru Station) and local restaurants have become popular for their generous and delicious servings. Other products produced in Otaru include wine, noodles and beer as well as the many fine glass works shops.






Otaru Cherry Flowers

Cherry Blossoms in Otaru.

 Located on the Sea of Japan side of Hokkaido, Otaru covers some 243.13 km2 and stretches around a small section of Ishikari Bay. Otaru is a very hilly city and is surrounded on the three sides by mountains, while the fourth side faces out toward Ishikari Bay. The main train station is located almost in the center of the town and provides easy access to the attractive canal district. This canal runs for a part way through Otaru city and is lined with Western-style buildings from the late Meiji period. There are also gas powered lamps that are lit at night giving a very romantic feel to this area. Within the canal district there are some museums, many of the famous Otaru glass factories, restaurants and shopping markets.

Otaru Harbour at Sunset

Otaru Harbour at Sunset

In front of and west of the main train station, Otaru offers a covered mall area and various shopping department stores. Also a huge new shopping complex has been constructed at Otaru Chikko Station. This complex houses a cinema, the Hilton Hotel and a large variety of stores. In font of the complex there is also a marina harboring some of Otaru’s fishing fleet.

Otaru is usually reached via Sapporo City. The JR Airport Express runs from New Chitose Airport via Sapporo to Otaru. The Journey is approximately 70 min. from Chitose or about 40 min. from Sapporo on an express train. There are also buses departing from Sapporo Station. It takes about one hour by express bus. A one-way journey from Sapporo costs ¥620 and ¥1 740 direct from New Chitose Airterminal.
Otaru boomed in the late Meiji Era years as a commercial hub and the only major port on the Japan Sea side of Hokkaido. It is also next to the capital of Sapporo and thus saw a rapid increase in development as Sapporo developed. The Canal area is the main area of attraction in Otaru and can easily be reached from the main train station by a 5 - 10 min. walk.


Otaru Places To Visit

  • Otaru Romankan
    Otaru Romankan is a fantastic place to visit. It is a souvenir and glass store and is a popular building for tourists and locals alike. The building itself is a point of interest and has its own history. Originally, the building was a bank that was constructed far back in the Meiji period in 1908.
  • Sakaimachi Street
    Otaru is a beautiful harbor town. It is one of those places that has managed to preserve a lot of its history. You can find many old buildings where you can take a stroll back in time here. Sakaimachi street is a hugely popular tourist spot for those who are visiting Otaru.
  • Tengu Hall
      Tengu which translates to ‘Heavenly Dog’ is a legendary creature found in Japanese folklore. They are considered a supernatural being or god. Originally they were though to take the form of a bird of prey with human …
  • Mt. Tengu
      At an altitude of 532 meters, Mt. Tengu is a symbolic mountain of Otaru. It offers beautiful views overlooking Otaru, and the Sea of Japan. The night view from the observatory is particular stunning. Mt. Tengu has a lot to see and do besides …
  • Otaru Aquarium
    Otaru is a harbor town 1 hour west of Sapporo by train. Otaru is famous for its seafood, glassblowing, and its canal. Its also home to the largest aquarium in Hokkaido. Some aspects and parts of this aquarium are outdated but there are also some …

Ishihara Yujiro Memorial Hall

In commemoration of one of Japans most popular actors and an Otaru citizen, the Ishihara Yujiro Memorial Mall was opened in July 1991. Mr Yujiro Ishihara was a movie star (and singing star) in the fifties and sixties and made more than 30 films. The hall has many of his personal possessions on display and also has screenings of his films and TV shows. He died at the early age of 52 due to liver cancer. His 13th memorial service in 1999 attracted over 170 000 people. Top

AdmissionAdults ¥1500
Children 6 yo. – 12 yo. ¥300
Opening HoursDaily 9 am – 8 pm April to October
Daily 9 am – 6 pm November to March
Contact(0134) 34-1188
Getting ThereFrom JR Otaru Station take the Otaru Marine bus and get off at Otaru Port Marina Stop (approx. 15 min.). It’s about walk 1 minute from the bus stop.

Mount Tengu Ropeway

For the best view of Otaru and the surrounding area of Ishikari Bay and one of the top three best views in Hokkaido head to Mt Tengu Ropeway. The Tengu is a creature with a huge nose. It is said to be lucky if you can pat the Tengu’s nose. The ropeway also gives access to ski areas in the winter. At the top of the ropeway there is a restaurant and souvenir shop. Top

AdmissionRound Trip – Summer Period
Adult ¥1 000
Children ¥500
Round Trip – Winter Period
Adult ¥740
Children ¥370
Opening HoursDaily 9 am to 5 pm, December to March
Daily 9:30 am – 9 pm, April to October
Daily 9:30am – 5 pm, October to November
Contact(0134) 33 – 7381
Getting ThereFrom JR Otaru station, take the Chuo bus for the Tenguyama Ropeway.

Music Boxes

Otaru is also well known for it’s music boxes and the Otaru Music Box Museum is well worth a look. The museum, shop and workshop consists of five different buildings all located within a 2 minute walk of each other. The main two museum buildings are the “Otaru Music Box Museum : Main Building” and the “No2. Otaru Music Box Museum : Antique Museum.” The main building displays hundreds of different kinds of music boxes, both large and small. Here with the guidance of staff, you can also build your own music box in about 20 min. (music box must dry for further 30 - 40 min. before you can take it home.) As the name suggests the second museum is full of antique music boxes from the 19th century onwards. There are also rare examples for sale. The last three stores contain a different variety of goods and crafts for purchase. One building is dedicated to animal toys, another to glassware and the final one to music boxes made in the shape of modern characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and Hello Kitty etc. Top

AdmissionMusic Box Making Fee ¥1 800
Opening HoursAll Stores 9 am to 6 pm (7 pm in the summer period)
ContactMain Building
Ph : 0134 – 22 – 1108
No2. Building : Antique Museum
0134 – 34 – 3915
Getting ThereFrom Sapporo Station take the Airport Express bound for Otaru and get off at Minami-Otaru Station. From here walk in the direction of the harbor approx 5 min.
Main Building
4 – 1 Sumiyoshi-cho
Otaru City
No2. Building : Antique Museum
6 – 13 Sakaimachi
Otaru City

Nishin Goten (Herring Mansion)

Otaru’s herring industry boomed until the late 1950s. The wealth created by these fishermen played a major role in the development of Otaru and its surrounding area. The wealthy fisherman built large residences for living and fish processing. One of these residences and herring processing plants is now a Hokkaido Tangible Cultural Asset. It was the first residential building to achieve such status. The building which was moved from its original place to Otaru, took seven years to build and was completed in 1897. The building has been turned into a museum displaying various tools and artifacts from the period. Top

AdmissionAdults ¥200
Opening HoursDaily 9 am to 5 pm early April – Late November
Contact0134 – 22 – 1038
Getting There From Otaru station board a bus for the aquarium. About a 20 min. bus trip.
Cost ¥200 (Please have correct change)

Otaru Glassware

Otaru Glassware is also well known throughout Japan and has had a long history. The glassworks originally made lanterns and other products for the first settlers in the region however, as the town expanded and the herring industry sprang to life the focus was changed to making glass buoys. When the herring industry suffered its major decline in the late 1950s the glassworks began producing ornamental pieces for direct sale to consumers and tourists. Today Otaru's glass industry is thriving and many beautiful pieces are on display for pleasure and sale. Some major glass works are the Kitaichi Glass works, the Otaru Unga Kogeikan, "The Glass Ship" Warehouse and the Kitaichi Venetian Art Museum. It is possible to “make your own” glass item in some of the glass works such as ‘The Glass Studio’ and the ‘Otaru Unga Kogeikan’. If you wish to make your own item it is best to make a reservation, especially in summer if you have many people in your group. Top

AdmissionMost glassworks are free entry.
To make your own glass item prices vary from about ¥500 to ¥2000.
Opening HoursMost shops are open 9 : 30 am to 6 pm (a little later in summer)
ContactKitaichi Glassworks
0134 – 33 – 1993
The Glass Studio
0134 – 33 – 9390
Otaru Unga Kogei-kan
0134 – 29 – 1111
Getting ThereMost Glassworks are located near the canal area along Ironai dori. From Otaru Station walk toward the bay. About 10 min.

Steam Clock

Constructed in 1994, the steam clock in Otaru is the world’s largest and stands 5.5 meters tall, 1 meter wide and weighs 1.5 tons. It is a replica of a clock built by a Canadian horologist Mr. Raymond Sanders in Gastown Canada. The clock uses a steam whistle to toll the hour and plays a tune every 15 minutes. The clock is located in front of the Main hall of the Otaru Music Hall Museum. Top

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