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Otaru canal

Otaru became one of Japan’s most prominent port cities between the end of the 19th century and the middle of the 20th century. Many of the historical buildings and the trademark Otaru canal were built at the height of Otaru’s trade dominance when the city moved markets as far away as London. Today, the charm of Otaru’s unique townscape, which features a mix of Japanese and Western-style architecture, draws in many visitors from around the world. So, what to do in Otaru (Otaru what to do)? Let’s check out our suggested 7+ top Otaru things to do, must and best things to do in Otaru as follows!

Otaru street | best things to do in otaru
Otaru Denuki Koji, one of the old buildings involving the iconic Japanese style | best things to do in otaru

| best things to do in otaru
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Otaru canal | best things to do in otaru
A sushi stall | best things to do in otaru
Otaru beach | best things to do in otaru

The most special is probably the oldest town of Otaru, a street filled with addictive sushi dishes, getting lost here is like being lost in old Japan, where ancient shops have existed for a long time.

Overview of Otaru

| best things to do in otaru

Otaru is a small harbor city, about half an hour northwest of Sapporo (the capital city of Hokkaido) by train. Otaru is not only a busy port town, but also a famous old town, where are Japanese tourist attractions. To get to Otaru, you will get minor difficulties, that is to take a plane to New Chitose (Shin-Chitose) Sapporo Airport (accessibility is from Tokyo or Osaka), take a bus to central Sapporo (about 40 minutes), then take the train to the Otaru station (about 1 hour and 5 minutes).

Welcome to Sapporo.@Hokkaidoguide | best things to do in otaru
Chitose airport.@Hokkaidoguide | best things to do in otaru
At Sapporo station, you can find the JR Hakodate main line in Otaru, Niseko, Hakodate, and Asahikawa.@Hokkaidoguide | best things to do in otaru
Hotels along Otaru Canal
Grand Park Otaru Hotel | best things to do in otaru

Motels or hotels for overnight are priced from around 10,000 JPY (approx. U$73.90) per night. The ideal time to visit Otaru is a two-day and one-night tour, or a day tour if you are staying in Sapporo. You may find yourself losing track of time when surrounded by this beautiful and majestic popular sight.

Here are some of the best places to go and the best things to do during your visit to Otaru.

Otaru Canal (#best things to do in otaru)

| best things to do in otaru

Almost tourists must check in at this place when they come to Otaru, it is like in Paris, where you have to check in with the Eiffel Tower. The canal is very beautiful as same as Venice and there is also a tourist boat service on the canal. Because of many people, this place is always crowded, you have to choose the locations for nice photos with some effort. This location is also very easy to see due to being the center of Otaru, when the bus stops for a short walk, you will immediately recognize it. Summer is as beautiful as Venice, and winter is special in a different way because of the white snowfall and beautiful shimmering night lights.

| best things to do in otaru
| best things to do in otaru
Take a cruise to go to cafes or shops along Otaru Canal | best things to do in otaru

Otaru is the name based on the language of the Ainu people, a minority people in Hokkaido, which means “river running through the sandy beach”, a poetic name, and the city is as beautiful as a dream. From the houses stretching from the high slope to the canal throughout the city center, every corner of Otaru’s street has its beauty, both traditional Japanese and Western mixed, because this is one of the first cities to open trade with foreign countries of Japan.

Check-in beautifully quaint streets and views of the Otaru Canal | what to do in otaru
Otaru Canal includes snow and a river or creek | what to do in otaru

In winter, snow covers the roofs, and people put yellow lights on the streets, making the scene even more beautiful.

The Quaint Streets of Otaru — Lost in the Past of Japan

| what to do in otaru

The quaint street is a neighborhood with hundreds of delicious restaurants and fresh seafood. The Sushi street is about 1km long with dense restaurants, where you can freely have beautiful spot photos. The special thing about Otaru is that the “hillside street” leads to the sea, just follow the canal bank to reach the blue sea. It is a spectacular city with lots of interesting experiences. There are also many souvenir shops on this street for you to buy as tourist gifts.

Choose the way to the quaint streets of Otaru, that is Sakaimachi Street, where all the awesome glass outlets and goodies were to be found | what to do in otaru
On the Otaru quaint street.@Hokkaidoguide | what to do in otaru
| what to do in otaru
| what to do in otaru
| what to do in otaru

The other amazing thing is that the feeling of “an old Japan” is very different. The old Japan does not mean a completely traditional Japan with samurai, ninjas, traditional Ryokan, etc., but a Japan that has absorbed and learned, imported Western culture, and created harmony between two opposing cultures.

Enjoy a variety of famous sushi and sashimi flavors (#what to do in otaru)

| what to do in otaru

Walking the sushi road without eating sushi is too wasteful, especially in a coastal city like Otaru, you must try a set of sushi (about U$21.32/set) and a set of king crab claws (about U$25.58—U$42.64/set), all you need to prepare a lot of money to visit Otaru. The seafood is fresh.

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Best sushi cuisine in Otaru
| what to do in otaru

If you go into the alleys, you will find delicious, long-standing sushi shops that are worth a try. In addition, a tip is that you should search on google maps to preview reviews, you will also find a lot of interesting local places to experience it.

Check out some traditional glassware stores (#otaru japan things to do)

| what to do in otaru

Otaru is one of the main glass-producing parts of Japan and it was particularly famous for its oil lamps and glass balls that would have been used in the fishing industry. The glass industry now, however, also produces a range of decorative items and there are glass workshops dotted around the town which make great places to buy gifts and souvenirs.

You can find a variety of glassware at Sangokan such as dinnerware (plates, bowls, cups, etc), vases, accessories, decorations, stained glass [email protected] | otaru japan things to do
The set of glasses with printed trees is inspired by the four seasons, including autumn of orange and winter of [email protected] | otaru japan things to do
Glassware in Otaru, [email protected] | otaru japan things to do
| otaru japan things to do
Kitaichi Glass [email protected] | otaru japan things to do

Stores from large to small, each with their style of glass making handed down from generation to generation if you love handicrafts or have a hobby of collecting glassware. It’s a bit expensive, but if you buy it as a gift for a loved one at home or collect it, it’s well worth it.

Try the ice cream (#otaru things to do)

| otaru japan things to do

Otaru, and wider Hokkaido for that matter, is known for its delicious ice cream. It is famous for its rainbow 7-layer ice cream with all flavors, including melon, matcha, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, lavender, and milk for only 600 JPY (about U$5.12), the unique flavors which many visitors may have never tried before. The shop is famous for this ice cream called Venetian Cafeteria. Although the shop is not too gorgeous, the ice cream is super delicious. In addition, on the street, there are many delicious green tea and melon ice cream shops.

The combination of ripe, sweet melon and rich, soft-serve ice cream is exquisite | otaru japan things to do
You also choose matcha soft cream with milk, but not very sweet with a strong matcha flavor | otaru japan things to do
| otaru japan things to do

When Hokkaido is mentioned, its big or small towns have their unique ice cream, so the experience of enjoying ice cream is a must-have on your itinerary to explore this land.

Stroll along the Otaru Beaches (#best things to do in otaru)

You should spend one day gazing at the beach scenery. On sunny days, Otaru beaches are very blue and beautiful. There are five famous beaches such as Otaru Dream Beach, Shioya, Ranshima, Zenibako, and Otamoi. You just need to go around the Otaru Canal area to discover all the famous tourist attractions through a small-sized Otaru. However, it is very interesting to wander Otaru for a longer time.

Escaping the city for some seaside fun, people can explore Ranshima Beach, a quiet beach vibe for leisure and recreation
Otaru Dream Beach, the most popular beach in the area, and easily accessible from Sapporo by car on local roads in about 30 minutes

Another reason that your necessity of a stroll to Otaru beaches is to feel from a seaport brings. Like Hakodate or Yokohama, the seaport in Otaru opens up a very special perspective on an island country likely Japan. The more you go to the beaches, the more relieved you will feel, the sky is blue, and the cool sea breeze blows with the white seagulls flying in the sky, it is a simple natural scene but very peaceful. Moreover, from the seaport, we can find the spirit of ancient Japan, a country that has traded and integrated European culture into the traditional values of the nation.

Visit the Otaru Music Box Museum

The museum and storage space are spread across several buildings around the Ironai-Dori area, which in all contains over 25,000 music boxes. Each of the buildings can be appreciated in its own right for its elegant western-influenced Meiji-era architecture, unique histories, and the different wares they offer.


When you come to this museum, you will find a deep feeling of childhood vibration when standing in front of thousands of such lovely boxes. The museum has seen crowds of tourists from various countries worldwide, becoming an internationally well-known sightseeing attraction. The museum with beautiful ancient architecture contains thousands of beautifully sounding music boxes, visiting here is like getting lost in that fairy world. The light from the glass and the music box along with the sound of the soothing melodies are the factors that make visitors come here right away.

Address: 4-1, Sumiyoshicho, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido, 047-0015 Japan

A rickshaw puller on Otaru Street

Otaru also attracts tourists with rickshaws whose strong drivers get attention to young girls. Otaru City is now one of Japan’s top three tourist destinations, along with Sapporo and Hakodate, among the most popular tourist destinations in Hokkaido. Otaru has a Japanese and foreign-styled place, not as traditional as Kyoto, not as modern as Tokyo, but with the harmony of everything from the nature of the landscape and humans. Hopefully, this post will be effective for your journey in Otaru to welcome you back in your upcoming plans.

Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, to and from Sapporo & Hokkaido you can refer to

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Sapporo Fushimi Inari Shrine in winter

Are you looking for more Hokkaido travel guide and top things to do in Hokkaido: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Read more: Hokkaido travel blog — The fullest guide for a budget trip to Hokkaido, Japan.