Getting to Otaru is exceptionally easy. Located on the JR Hakodate train line, you can reach Otaru in 30 minutes on the faster service trains. There are around 5 trains headed to Otaru from Sapporo station per hour, with tickets costing 620 yen each way. Otaru is exceptionally easy to traverse and travel around on foot; most of the must-sees are just minutes from the station. Check out train times here.
Otaru is exceptionally scenic with its brick buildings, and gas lamp lined canal. During the summer months, you will find all sorts of performers and artisans setting up shop along the canal. In the colder months, you can enjoy strolling along the canal and marveling at the icicle walls dripping from the brick warehouse buildings across the way.
Beyond food and the canal, Otaru is famous for hand blown glass and music boxes. Not far from the station is the Otaru Music Box Museum.
Showcasing not only an impressive collection of musical boxes, antiques, and stuffed toys, the museum also offers you the ability to create your own music box for a fee. Please be aware that the glue that you use to make your boxes takes a bit to set. If you are keen on making your own music box, it is suggested that you start the day off with this activity so your handicraft will be ready to take home by the time you are ready to leave the city. The museum is open from 9.00-19.00. In the courtyard of the museum, you can also see a steam work clock that was a gift from Vancouver to Otaru. Check out the museum’s English website here.
As you stroll along down the streets of Otaru you will also spy several glass blowing workshops. Otaru is proud of the variety, colour, and craftsmanship of their work. If this is something that you’d like to try your hand out, please check out the official listing of shops, their locations, hours, and prices here. Please note that many, if not most of these workshops require that you make a reservation ahead of time to take part in the studio. Please make sure that you check ahead of time.
Being a port town, Otaru is famous for fresh seafood. There are countless sushi and seafood restaurants. Otaru is also home to Otaru Beer, a real German brewhouse, run by brewmeister Johannes Braun. If you are interested in beer or German faire, this is a must-stop-shop. Check out their official website here or an article on their founder here.
But what about crab? Perhaps even moreso than Sapporo, Otaru is famous for crab and all-you-can-eat crab restaurants. There are quite a few to choose from but two restaurants with excellent reviews can be checked out here and here.
Oh, there is one more little thing that I may have forgotten to mention… from February 7th through the
16th, Otaru holds the Snow Light Path Festival (Otaru Yuki Akari no Michi). Otaru’s canal and streets are illuminated with countless snow and ice lanterns while buoyed lanterns float down the canal itself, creating a romantic air that really can’t be matched. While you are taking in the traditional buildings, food, and sites of Otaru- your path will be lit by the soft flickering lights of countless lanterns lining the streets. The official event website is found here.Links Inside Look at the 2014 Hokkaido Trip Part 1– The Snow Festival Part 2– Sapporo Part 3– Dressing for the Cold Part 4– Asahikawa