Otaru (小樽) is a port city in Hokkaido, Japan. The city is near Sapporo and it is a tourist destination for its food, its historical buildings and its shops.
Otaru is a major station on the JR Hakodate Line from Sapporo, with very frequent train runs. At a cost of ¥620, there are at least five trains per hour; the fastest service, the Airport Rapid, reaches Otaru in 30 minutes. The complete journey on the Airport Rapid from New Chitose Airport to Otaru takes 70 minutes.
Otaru is 25 minutes away from Sapporo by car.
Otaru is one of Hokkaido's key ferry ports, and the closest to Sapporo. Shin-Nihonkai Ferry (06-6348-1120) operates a daily service between Otaru and Niigata (18 hours, ¥6,200+) and between Otaru and Maizuru near Kyoto (20 hours, ¥9,600+). Both services are overnight, and private cabins are available for a higher fare (the base fare buys sleeping space on the floor).
Many of its historical buildings, restaurants and shops are within easy walking distance so walking is a very easy (and cheap) means of getting around. A suggested walking itinerary begins from the Otaru Music Box Museum at one end of Sakaimachihondori Street, follow the street until it crosses a small canal, walk up the street until the Museum of the Money, and then follow the canal down and then keep following the canal when it turns left and widens up.
- Otaru Canal (小樽運河), 色内１丁目, ☎ +81 0134 32-4111. The canal was completed in 1923. The canal has been developed as a walkway. It is lit at night by gas lamps and walkway lights. Located 10 minutes walk from Otaru Station. Free. (43.198004,141.003047) edit
- Otaru Music Box Museum (小樽オルゴール堂), 1-2-3 Irifune, ☎ +81 0134 22-1108 ([email protected], fax: +81 0134 21-2531), . 9AM-7PM. A museum that contains exhibits about the development of music boxes, a collection of several notable music boxes, as well as an extensive store that carries many different types. For an additional fee, customers can build their own music boxes. The museum is also part of a larger complex of buildings in the surrounding area, which include a stuffed animal collection as well as an antiques museum. (43.190085,141.007454) edit
- Steam Clock. Outside of the music box museum, the steam clock was a gift from Vancouver to Otaru. Powered entirely by steam, the clock plays a chime every 15 minutes, and features the main steam whistle on the hour. edit
Blow your own glass. Several glass workshops in shops along Sakaimachihondori Street let you blow your own glass. Try, for example, K's Blowing.
Take a cruise There are 40 minute canal cruises that run regularly from the West end of the canal. There are also pleasant short cruises from the harbor that are have the added attraction of the Japanese custom of bird feeding (while squealing excitedly) Great for kids.
Music boxes. You`ll find these in Hakodate and Sapporo as well, but shops dedicated to music boxes are especially prevalent here. The two museums selling music boxes are well worth a look, particularly for the hand-cranked variety which emit tunes using a piece of cardboard with holes punched in it.
Antiques. If you walk from central station straight towards the canal district, you'll see a karaoke centre called Thriller Karaoke with a bat gargoyle above the sign. Turn right until you see an eatery called Kongetsudo on the left hand side. Across the road are two antique dealers, one male and one female, on the second storey of a small building that sell mainly kimono. This place is worth a visit as you can pick authentic kimonos quite cheap here. Just remember that you may have to haggle up to 50% off the price of a kimono with the male dealer if you are a foreigner.
- Kitaichi Glass (北一硝子), 堺町７−２６, ☎ +81 0134 33-1993, . 9AM-6PM. Otaru hand-made crystal is one of the most famous in Japan. (43.192226,141.007394) edit
Otaru is the best town in Hokkaido for sushi, and it ranks high on the national scale too. Sushi here is expensive but worth trying.
- Kitaichi Hall, (Next to the Kitaichi glass shop). Located in an old warehouse, this restaurant resembles a grand hall fully decorated in wood and offers local meals at a reasonable price. edit
Like most of Hokkaido, the footpaths of Otaru tend to accumulate a lot of ice in the winter. Try to wear shoes with corrugated soles that will grip the ice. Alternatively you can buy metal-studded wraparound bands to put on your shoes from roadside shops for about ¥1700.
- Otaru Beer (小樽ビール), 港町５−４ (By the Otaru Canal), ☎ +81 0134 21-2323, . Decorated with medieval props, this beer hall sells their own beer. It has a Bavarian theme (Including polka music and barmaids in costume) and sells the usual Japanese beer-hall fare. edit
- Otarunai Backpackers' Hostel MorinoKi (おたるないバックパッカーズホステル 杜の樹), Aioi 4-15 (10 min on foot from JR Minami-Otaru Station), ☎ +81 134 23-2175, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 10AM. Top notch hostel, with a laid back owner and interesting decoration — but you're gonna have to be OK with dogs to stay here. ¥2800. (43.191201,141.003757) edit
- Hotel Nord Otaru (ホテルノルド小樽), 1-4-16 Ironai Otaru-city Hokkaido Japan (7 min walk from JR Otaru Station), ☎ +81 134 24-0500, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. Hotel Nord Otaru located in front of Otaru canal.7min walk from JR Otaru station.It has Japanese and Western style restaurant and bar lounge. Hotel Nord Otaru equipped with a high-speed wi-fi ¥7560～. (43.191201,141.003757) edit
- Hotel Dormy Inn Premium Otaru, 稲穂3丁目9-1 (Right across the road from Otaru Station.), ☎ +81 0134 21-5489 ([email protected]), . checkout: 11AM. You get a free bowl of ramen at night in the downstairs buffet room from the guy with the glasses, who is an all-round customer service legend. The breakfast buffet is fantastic. There is a LAN cable sort of hidden next to the phone in the rooms that you can use to get free internet. Free WiFi is available throughout the hotel. Lovely, clean and extremely well-serviced rooms. ¥6000 for a twin. (43.198296,140.994887) edit
- Otaru Emina Backpackers, 緑２丁目１５−１７ (bus stop in front of Otaru Station, platform 3, bus #9, get off at Shinsenbashi ( about 10 minutes) or a 20 minute walk from the station), ☎ 08045024500, . checkin: 14:00-20:00; checkout: 11:00. A cozy hostel that opened April 2011, run by a great couple who can speak English. Very friendly, laid-back atmosphere. Separate male and female room, but it's not strict. 18900¥ for a week. 3000¥/day. edit