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Otaru city

OtaruMap of Otaru city Otaru is an old harbor city facing the Ishikari Bay, and is located about 30 km west of Sapporo city.

About 400 years ago, Japanese people found a good fishing ground of herring around this city.
Then, a port was built here, and a coastal route of the Sea of Japan between Otaru and western Japan started.
The ship carried everyday goods and fishing equipments from western Japan, and brought back seafoods like herring, salmon and konbu from here.
So Otaru developed and became a hot town.

But since the beginning of the 20th century, herring catches decreased dramatically due to overfishing, and at last after the 1950s no herring has been caught.
Since that, Otaru has become a city without spirit.

But it has many old buildings which was built in the lively age (from the 1880s to the 1920s), therefore a lot of tourists are attracted.
Now Otaru is one of the popular cities for sightseeing in Hokkaido.

The main area spreads between the port and JR Otaru station.
To tour around these spots, "Otaru Stroller's Bus" (route bus) is operated.
And most spots are within 2 km, so many tourists walk around the city.
You can use rickshaw for sightseeing and velotaxi (taxi of bicycle).

Sushi is the popular Japanese dish, and Otaru is known for sushi.
In the city, there are tens of sushi restaurants, and some say "When you visit Otaru, you should eat sushi there".

Main spots in Otaru city

  • Otaru Canal /1/ : The most popular sightseeing spot of Otaru.
    It has about 1.3 km long, and there are old warehouses made of stone or blick along the canal.
    It was built in 1923 for discharging of cargo from ship.
    But it had fallen out of use with the fading of marine transportation, then it filled with sludge and reeked of bad odor.
    In the 1960s, the city decided to fill in the canal, but it conflicted with a conservation group.
    At last in 1983, with competing with one another, the city started filling in the canal with an idea of leaving half of the width of 40 meters.
    It completed in 1986, then a new road and a promenade were created on it.
    A part of original canal remains farther to the north. It is called "Kita-unga" (North Canal).
    In the center of the canal aream there is a tourist information center "Unga Plaza" (Canal Plaza) which is in the old buiding used as a warehouse.
  • Former Otaru Branch of Nihon-Yusen /2/ : The old building of former Otaru Branch of Nihon Yusen company.
    "Nihon Yusen" is one of big shipping companies, and this building were used as an office and warehouse until 1954.
    After that it was transfered to Otaru city, then it was designated as a nationally important cultural property in 1969.
    It was renovated in 1984, so we can see the original rooms.
  • Otaru Museum /3/ : The museum introducing the transportation of Hokkaido.
    It is originally on the place that there was the Temiya station, which was built as the first one in Hokkaido in 1880.
    Therefore, many railroad vehicles used in Hokkaido and the other things about railroad are exhibited.
  • Ungakan (Otaru Museum Annex) /4/ : The museum introducing the history and industry of Otaru.
    The buildings was originally a warehouse built in 1893.
  • Otaru Municipal Meseum of Literature and Art /5/ : Two museums for literature and art on the same site.
    Museum of Literature exhibits literature-related articles for Otaru.
    Takiji Kobayashi and Sei Ito were the novelists from Otaru and were active in the early 20th century, and this museum shows their works, original manuscripts, letters or photos.
    Museum of Art introduces the history of Otaru art circles.
    There are many art works in the museum.
  • Former Otaru Branch of Bank of Japan /6/ : The museum of "Bank of Japan" which is the central bank of Japan.
    In the early 20th century, Otaru city was developing as the center of commerce in Hokkaido.
    Then most banks were opened in Otaru, so Otaru was called "Wall Street in Hokkaido".
    Therefore Bank of Japan also opened a branch office here, and this western-style building was built in 1912.
    The office had been used until 2002, but the business function had been moved to Sapporo branch at that time.
    And since 2003, this building is opened to public as a museum of finance for introduction of Bank of Japan.
  • Sushi Street /7/ : The street where about 20 sushi restaurants gather.
    It is called "Sushiya-dori" in Japanese, and is located about 0.5 km southeast of Otaru station.
  • Kitaichi Glass Company /8/ : A company of glass artcraft in Otaru.
    The company was founded in 1901, and had produced oil lamps and buoys first.
    Since 1980s, it has produced glass artcrafts, and the products has been popular among the tourists.
    Several shops of the company are in Otaru city.
    The shop in the old warehouse built in 1891 is one of the popular spots.
  • Music Box Museum /9/ : The museum of antique music box in the building of old blick warehouse.
    It is on the second floor of the shop of Orgel-doh Corporation, and you can visit at no charge.
    The concert by music boxes are held six times a day.
    The first floor is the the world's largest shop of music boxes.
  • Otaru City Nishin Goten /10/ : Nishin Goten means "mansion by herring", and is located about 5km north of central Otaru city.
    It is the mansion and workplace for fishing which was built by fishermen made fortune in herring fishing.
    Several Nishin Goten were built along the coast of the Sea of Japan from the late 19th century to the early 20th century.
    They are luxury wooden architectures, which displayed wealth of the owner.
    This mansion was built by then wealthy fisherman Fukumatsu Tanaka in 1897, and it is the largest building in existence.
    In the building, many articles for fishing, livingware and photos at that time are displayed.
  • Kihinkan (Former Aoyama Villa) /11/ : One of several Nishin Goten.
    This was built as a villa by Aoyama family who was one of then wealthy fishermen.
    They had strong beauty sense, so they created a villa included many Japanese arts. Therefore it took six and a half years to complete in 1923.
    You can see beautiful Japanese art in the villa, and enjoy the Japanese garden.
    It is currently used as a Japanese restaurant called Kihinkan, then if you want to look the villa around, a reservation for the guided tour is necessary. (The charge is 1,000 yen.)
  • Otamoi Coast /12/ : The coasts with cliffs and many strange rocks located about 6 km northwest of the center of Otaru city.
    It is about 9 km long, and the scenic area is a part of Niseko-Shakotan Quasi-National Park.
    Generally we can visit here by sightseeing ship from the Otaru port.
  • Mount Tengu /13/ : Mountain 532 meters high located about 4 km southwest of central Otaru city.
    It is called "Tenguyama" in Japanese.
    From the foot of mountain, we can go up to the top with ropeway.
    There are a few observatories on the top, and the night view of the Otaru city from here is one of the three major ones in Hokkaido.
    In winter a sky area is opened on the northern slope of the mountain just under the ropeway.
    It is a citizen's leisure facility and is used for teaching elementary and junior high school students in Otaru skiing.
    Otaru Tenguyama Ropeway official site
Scenic or Nature / Park or Garden / Resort / City, Town or Village / Quarter or Street /
Temple or Shrine / Museum or Laboratory / Market or Commercial facility / Factory /
Other Building or Construction / Historic place / Remains / World Heritage Site

How to get to here

By railroad

About 32 to 42 minutes by rapid train on JR Hakodate Line from Sapporo Station.

By car

If getting on Sasson Expressway, about 30 minutes.
If using only National Route 5, about 1 hour.




Otaru Canal Otaru Canal
Photo by DO PHOTO
Festival "Otaru Snow Light Path" in February
Photo by DO PHOTO
Former Otaru Branch of Nihon-Yusen
Photo by Rettou-houmotsukan
Otaru Museum Hokkaido's first steam locomotive (1884)
Ungakan Otaru Municipal Meseum of Literature and Art
Former Otaru Branch of Bank of Japan
Photo by DO PHOTO
Sushi Street
Kitaichi Glass Orgel-doh
Nishin Goten Kihinkan
Photo by DO PHOTO
Otamoi Coast A view of Otaru city from Mt.Tengu

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