Walk the historic city and experience the nostalgic atmosphere of Otaru
Otaru Area Guide
Otaru is one of Hokkaido's premier port towns located just 40 minutes by train from Sapporo. Famous for its wonderful atmosphere when lit up at night, the Otaru Canal is part of this historic city, full of iconic spots that let you feel its history.
There are many historic buildings that are well-preserved and tell the story of Hokkaido’s founding and development, such as its classic brick warehouses, which are now used to film movies and TV dramas.
A variety of seafood and coastal beach areas are unique to the oceanside city. Many sweets shops were also founded in Otaru. You can enjoy views of Hokkaido’s most famous night view spots, such as the majestic Tengu Mountain, and even see wildlife, like seals. There are also many local events and wonderful day trips in the area. You can visit the aquarium, the whisky distillery, or walk the traditional city center. In addition, there are many other activities, such as hiking, skiing, and visiting Asarigawa Onsen.
A Otaru Station
B Otaru Aquarium
C Otaru Mt. Tenguyama
D Mt. Kenashi
E Asarigawa Onsen
F Bank of Japan Otaru Museum
G Otaru Canal
Otaru Station was opened in 1903 and is the gateway to the sights in and around Otaru. The station building was built in 1934 and is well known, having appeared as a shooting location for TV and movies. The nostalgic winter landscape of stretching white snow seen from the station home is one of its highlights. Lamps are used to light up the station platforms adding to the uniqueness of this station. The number 4 platform is named "Yujiro home", and a panel of Yujiro Ishihara, a popular singer and actor, is installed. In the station there are tourist information counters to help visitors in different languages, shops such as "Station Mart Tarche" and other souvenir shops, and eating and drinking establishments where Otaru and Shogi area's products and specialties are offered. Next to the station is the bus terminal, shopping streets, hotels, commercial facilities, and more places to explore. It is only 8 minutes on foot to the Otaru Canal, so it is recommended to depart for the leisurely stroll around the city starting from Otaru Station.
The Otaru Aquarium is an aquarium with a history of 60 years since it was opened as a venue for the seas at the 1958 Hokkaido Expo. It stands on a small hill overlooking Ishikari Bay and displays 5,000 living creatures of 250 species. The creatures on display are mainly from the northern seas and rivers around Hokkaido. At the museums’s Dolphin Stadium, there is a popular dolphin and sea lion show. The marine pool is a natural environment in harmony with its surroundings and is home to seals and sea lions that you can feed. One of the most popular events is the walking of the penguins through snow in the winter months.
Otaru Mt. Tenguyama
Otaru's Mt. Tengu boasts a height of 532.4 m and is a spot with spectacular night scenery called one of "Hokkaido's Top Three Night Views". On the top of the mountain there is a mountaintop observation post, which received a star in the "Michelin Green Guide · Japan”. The "Tengu nose", is known as a power spot which is said to grant a wish when you stroke its nose. Mt. Tengu is packed with sights and many things to do, not only views of the sea and mountains. The total length from the foot of the mountain to the summit is 735 m. You can ascend and descend on a 4 minute ropeway ride. You can get wide views of the ocean and on clear days you can see the Shakotan Peninsula in the distance. In winter, it is popular as a ski resort that overlooks the harbor. There is a new course with a maximum slope of 40 degrees that challenges winter sports people who visit. You can even enjoy the slopes of the main course when it is lit up in the evening. Private accommodations, a ski school, and ski rentals are also available.
Mt. Kenashi is a popular viewing spot in the Otaru area next to Mt. Tengu. There is a 470m high observatory on the mountain side of Mt. Kenashi, which has an altitude of 548.2 m. It is between the town of Kutchan and Akaigawa village. From the observatory, you can see the surrounding mountain ranges, Ishikari Bay, and the city of Otaru. With these magnificent views and wonderful natural surroundings, this place has started to become a popular power spot for many visitors. In winter, the road is closed due to heavy snowfall, but it is known as a "hidden" highlight of the area for its wonderful views, yet small amount of visitors.
Asarigawa Onsen is a hot spring resort that has been popular since 1954. It is said that deer gathered to bathe in the hot springs and the area became known as “The Place of Dancing Deer”. It has long been popular with local people since ancient times. Currently, it is known as a resort where you can enjoy golf in the summer season and skiing in the winter with 8 inns and hotels ready to welcome you. The hot spring water has sodium and calcium chloride qualities, which is effective for muscle pain and nerve trouble. This is a great place to rest and recover your sore muscles after a summer day hiking or a winter day skiing on the slopes. In the spa town, an artificial lake and a lake-side park have a play area where picnics and tennis can be enjoyed. This is a popular place to enjoy the outdoors and many people come here to camp, hike, and enjoy nature. There are also bungalows and camping gear for rent in the area.
Bank of Japan Otaru Museum
Northern Wall Street is the name of the financial district of Otaru which was prosperous enough to move the financial markets of London during the Taisho Period (early 1900s). The former Otaru Branch of the Japan Bank, one of the historical buildings representing Otaru, has been turned into a museum dedicated to the financial history of Otaru and the Bank of Japan. It conveys the establishment and its prosperity to the modern era with informative exhibits. In the museum there are interesting exhibits and an experience of feeling the weight of 100 million yen. There is also an exhibition zone that describes the challenges of price stability, a counter that was once used as a bank teller window, and more. Besides the museum, historical buildings such as the Otaru Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the former Hokkaido Bank head office are close by and also worth seeing. Guided tours are also available.
Otaru port was once the commercial center of Hokkaido and flourished as a gateway to the cultivation of Hokkaido. The Otaru Canal is an artificial canal made by reshaping the coast to accommodate shipping. The area has remained relatively unchanged since it thrived long ago. It is characterized by its curving shoreline and the stone warehouses along the canal. These historical buildings are now used as restaurants and shops. In the late afternoon, the lighting by the gas lamps creates a wonderful atmosphere and great opportunities to take pictures of the buildings and canal. It is one of the most popular places for photos in Hokkaido. In winter there is the "Otaru Snow Light Path", where the warm light of candles are set up along the canal side walking path. You can also see other lighting designs such as floating ball candles using old fishing gear and handmade snow candle wraps along the canal.