Otaru Winter Adventure: A Day of Exploring Top Attractions and Savoring Local Cuisine

Otaru | Introduction

Otaru, this charming harbor town, was one of the most important ports in Hokkaido in its early days. Though small, Otaru is packed with a rich history and culture spanning over a hundred years. When you're here, you can spend half a day to a full day enjoying a leisurely stroll. Start with exploring Hokkaido's earliest railways, then take a walk to the scenic Otaru Canal, browse the fresh selections at the Sankaku Market, explore the interesting Ebisugai Shop Street, and don't miss out on the beautiful Glass Museum and the Music Box Hall. Also, remember to try Otaru's amazing sushi and local beer, which will definitely make you fall in love with the local cuisine!

Otaru | Transportation

Otaru and Sapporo are only about a thirty-minute train ride apart, making it very convenient. This makes Otaru an ideal day trip option during a trip to Hokkaido. If you plan to travel between multiple cities in Hokkaido, you might want to consider purchasing a JR Hokkaido Rail Pass, which can significantly save on transportation costs.

JR Hokkaido Rail Pass

Find a stay in Otaru

JR Otaru Station
JR Otaru Station

Otaru | Day Trip Itinerary

Our one-day tour of Otaru starts from the JR station and heads directly to the bustling Triangle Market to begin our day. After breakfast, we stroll along the picturesque Otaru Canal, admiring the beautiful riverside scenery on our way to Sakaimachi Street. This area is known as the "Wall Street of the North," with a historic atmosphere of finance. Later, we visit the Whistle Museum and the famous Music Box Hall, places filled with the ambiance of art and music. In the evening, we enjoy a delicious sushi dinner at Masazushi and finish our day back near the canal at Otaru Warehouse No.1, tasting the authentic Otaru beer.

Otaru | Attractions

Triangle Market

Triangle Market is a famous seafood market in Otaru, located right next to the JR station. You can get there by turning left immediately after exiting the station. Similar to other seafood markets in Hokkaido, it always attracts a large number of seafood-loving tourists. At Triangle Market, you can find a variety of live seafood stalls and restaurants, with those selling king crabs being particularly tempting. For tourists, the most convenient option is to enjoy fresh seafood right there in the market. Takeda Fresh Fish Shop and Taki Nami Store are especially popular, often with long lines of customers waiting.

Triangle Market | Taki Nami Shoten

We chose Takinami Shoten for a lavish brunch. Takinami Shoten is one of the most popular eateries in Otaru's Triangle Market, always attracting a large number of diners. When it comes to meal times, a long queue forms outside. Coming here is not only to taste the freshest seafood but also for the deliciousness recognized by the locals.

At Takinami Shoten, we ordered a four-color seafood bowl that was filled with generous portions of sea urchin, salmon roe, shrimp, and crab, each bite bursting with the taste of the sea. In addition to that, we also ordered scallops, whelk meat, and fresh fish. The seafood was incredibly fresh, leaving a memorable taste. Especially worth mentioning is that the soup at this canteen was made with crab miso, offering a rich and unique flavor that stood out in the meal.

Temiya Line

The Temiya Line was once Hokkaido's earliest railway and the third railway in Japan. Although this line ceased operations in 1985, many of the railways have been well preserved to this day and have been transformed into a city park. During the annual Snow Festival, both the Temiya Line and the Otaru Canal become one of the main venues for the event, attracting tourists and local residents to celebrate this grand festival together. This not only gives people the opportunity to appreciate the spectacular snow sculpture art but also allows them to experience the rich history and cultural heritage of Otaru.

Otaru, Otaru Day Trip 7
Teshiguya Line Railway

Otaru Canal

The Otaru Canal is one of the iconic attractions in Otaru City and has been an important adjunct for port transportation since its completion in 1923 until it was decommissioned in 1986. Today, this once-busy canal has been transformed into a beautiful promenade. Along one side of the canal, you can still see rows of former maritime warehouses, which bear witness to the historical changes in Otaru. The streets still retain the gas lamps from back in the day, adding a touch of nostalgia to the atmosphere.

During the day, the Otaru Canal is always filled with strolling tourists, but at night, as soon as the gas lamps are lit, the entire canal bank immediately becomes incredibly romantic, making it an ideal location for couples to take a leisurely walk. Such scenery is not only beautiful but also gives one the feeling of traveling through time and space.


Walking past the intersection next to Asakusabashi, you will arrive at Demboin-dori. This street was named Demboin-dori due to its historical background—the area used to be a bustling spot for unloading cargo from canal boats. Now, Demboin-dori has transformed into a gourmet street that hosts numerous eateries. With its preserved retro style, even if you do not dine here, merely strolling along this street is charming enough. The buildings on this street have retained their old-fashioned façade, with the second floors open for visitors to explore and exhibitions that introduce the history of this place.

Northern Wall Street | Old Otaru Branch

Otaru, this historic port city, attracted numerous banks due to the prosperity of international trade in its early days. These banks were densely located along a single street, earning the street the nickname "Wall Street of the North." Today, these European-style old buildings are no longer used as banks but have been transformed into art galleries, coffee shops, and other cultural and leisure venues.

This transformation has allowed the streets of Otaru to not only retain traces of history but also to gain a modern artistic atmosphere. Visiting Otaru, one can experience the commercial history of the city as well as enjoy a leisurely moment in these places filled with an artistic vibe.

Located on Bank Street, the old Otaru branch of the Bank of Japan has now been transformed into a Financial Museum, open to the public for free visits. The architect behind this building was the renowned Kingo Tatsuno of his time, who is also the designer of Tokyo Station. The investment in design and construction of the old Bank of Japan building was second only to the Tokyo and Osaka branches of the Bank of Japan, indicating its significance and refinement. Visitors are welcome to take a moment to tour around; they not only get to appreciate this historically significant building but can also learn a great deal about financial knowledge. It is a cultural experience not to be missed when traveling to Otaru.

Within the financial museum, the main exhibits encompass the financial history of Otaru and even Japan as a whole. Every exhibit here is meticulously designed with the aim of providing in-depth insights into the production of banknotes and the operation of the financial system. These exhibits are not only educational but also highly interesting, offering visitors a comprehensive understanding of financial knowledge.

Particularly eye-catching is that inside the museum, there's a real vault preserved, showcasing huge piles of Japanese yen bills. This is not only visually stunning but also profoundly conveys the physical volume of money. What's more interesting is that the museum has specially set up a transparent plastic box filled with one hundred million yen in cash, allowing visitors to physically hold it and experience the feeling of possessing a hundred million yen.

Sakaimachi-Dori Shopping District | Taisho Glass Pavilion | Kitaichi Glass Pavilion

Sakaimachi-Dori is a very popular shopping street in Otaru, where you can find famous Western-style pastry shops, a variety of snacks, and glass craft stores. Walking along this street, you can enjoy the temptation of various delicacies, from freshly-baked desserts to authentic street food, each store has its unique flavor.

Otaru's handicrafts are particularly renowned for their glasswork, which has developed for over a century. Initially, these crafts were mainly used to make oil lamps, but gradually evolved into the production of various types of glass cups and ornaments. For tourists visiting Otaru, appreciating the local glass craft has become an essential part of their itinerary.

Among the many glassware shops, Taisho Glass Pavilion and Kitaichi Glass Pavilion are particularly well-known. Kitaichi Glass Pavilion is the largest, with 20 branches, each featuring different thematic exhibitions. Its works are known for their delicacy and lavishness. During this visit, the main store focused on Western lamps and handmade glass, while the most famous No. 3 store was divided into four areas, displaying very beautiful oil lamps and various crafts. These shops are not just places for shopping; their scale and the richness of the exhibits are comparable to museums, making them a place where craft enthusiasts can easily spend a leisurely afternoon.

Otaru's music boxes are equally famous. The Otaru Music Box Museum is Japan's largest music box specialty store, featuring three branches. The main building houses a collection of over 3,400 different music boxes, providing a feast for the eyes. Meanwhile, the second branch focuses on showcasing various precious, large antique music boxes, making this place not only a shopper's paradise but also a treasure trove of culture and art.

Otaru Music Box Hall
Otaru Music Box Hall

If you want to experience a quieter Otaru, taking a stroll along Sakaimachi-Dori at night offers a unique charm. After 6 PM, although most shops are closed, the antique buildings on the street, illuminated by the faint street lights, create a distinctly serene and beautiful atmosphere.

Otaru, Otaru Day Trip 15

Otaru | Cuisine


Coming to Otaru, tasting the local sushi is an experience not to be missed. Thanks to the daily delivery of a large amount of fresh seafood to Otaru Port, this place is known as the "treasure trove of fish," making Otaru's sushi renowned throughout all of Japan. If you are familiar with the Japanese manga "Shota no Sushi," you will definitely remember the name Otaru. Many of the local long-established sushi restaurants are very famous, and making a reservation in advance is almost a necessity.

This time we chose to dine at Masazushi, a restaurant believed to be the prototype for Masazushi in the manga "Shota no Sushi". The atmosphere inside the restaurant is distinctly Japanese, with even the chefs' appearances resembling characters from the manga, adding a lot of fun. Sitting at the counter, we ordered a set meal that included sashimi, grilled fish, and 12 pieces of nigiri sushi. Although the chef did not speak English, he interacted with guests using humorous and exaggerated body language, making the whole dining experience both enjoyable and memorable. His sushi-making skills were exquisite, especially the tuna nigiri and sea urchin nigiri, each piece was delightfully memorable.

Otaru Warehouse No.1

Walking along the Otaru Canal is romantic, but enjoying a beer by the canal is even more so. Otaru Beer is very famous in Japan. It follows the traditional German brewing method and uses only malt, hops, yeast and Otaru's local water, with no other ingredients added.Otaru Warehouse No.1 Located in an old converted warehouse, this is not only a brewery but also a beer bar.

Otaru Warehouse No.1
Otaru Warehouse No.1

If you visit before 5:40pm, you can take a free brewery tour and learn about the beer making process. Although we came at night and couldn't join the tour, it was a different experience to sit down by the canal next to the brewing facilities and have a beer with our meal. The Otaru Canal is particularly romantic at night, adding to the pleasant atmosphere of the meal.

Otaru Beer is brewed using traditional German methods, using only malt, hops, yeast, and local water from Otaru without any other additives. There are three types of beer: Pilsner, Donker, and Weiss. This time, we chose Pilsner and Donker. Pilsner is refreshing and smooth, making it a very popular type of German beer. Donker, similar to dark beer, has a rich taste with a deep malt flavor. For the meal, we ordered baked potatoes, accompanied by German sausages and pretzels, which are all common foods found in German beer houses, making one feel as if they've been transported back to Germany.

At Otaru Warehouse No. 1, you can enjoy fresh draft beer on-site, as well as purchase canned beer to go. The beer tastes outstanding, and we even bought a half-dozen cans of various flavors to take with us. These Otaru beers became our pleasant companions during the evenings of the following few days of our holiday. However, it's important to note that transportation may affect the activity of the yeast in the beer, and it needs to be kept below 24 degrees Celsius, so it's best to finish these beers during your trip.

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