Otaru is a charming little harbor city less than a half hour by train from Sapporo; in light of this, it has become a “bedroom community” or commuter town wherein people live here while working in the now more-crowded ( and more pricey) urban center of Sapporo. Preserved historical buildings throughout this city has given it a distinct nostalgic character.
It used to be a major fishing port and was opened as a port for trading with the USA and United Kingdom in 1899. The indiginous people of Japan (Ainu) used to inhabit this region and the city’s name from Ainu origin is thought to mean “river running through the sandy beach.”
The theme of oil lamps dot the Otaru Train Station. Glass shops specially in the Sakaimachi Dori [Sakaimachi Street] will give you a hands-on experience on making Otaru glass.
A short walk from the station is the Sankuku Central Market.
There are many choices of restaurants at this market serving fresh seafood.
One of the homegrown food brands from Otaru is LeTao, famous for their delicious cheesecakes and European style confections. It didn’t take long before we encountered a shop on the way!
Sakaimachi Dori [Street] is a lovely preserved district where former trading companies’ Western-style buildings have been converted into museums, boutiques, restaurants, cafes. Try the Hokkaido corn if you find it. The yellow one (without grilled browned tops) was my favorite. LeTao has at least two branches on Sakaimachi alone and they give out yummy samples, too. If you are interested in the hands-on glass-making experience, watch out for the glass shops along this path.
The Music Box Museum and shop at the end of the street will customize your own music box.
The vibe here is quite lively.
On the way to the canal is a street market which looks like it is designed for kids.
The crabs that you find at the Otaru Market are also available frozen at Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport Hokkaido specialty food shop.