In the early half of the 20th century the city of Otaru flourished as a port facing the Ishikari Bay; in modern times the city is defined by its enduring buildings and canal. The best place to experience the atmosphere of Otaru is at the aforementioned Otaru Canal, which is just a short 10 minute walk from JR Otaru Station. As you walk down the canal you’ll glimpse numerous red-brick buildings all lined up, and at night the canal is lit up for you to enjoy. If you’re interested in some shopping, you can walk another 10 minutes from the canal to reach a shopping street called Sakai-machi Street which has glasswork shops and dining establishments nestled inside the historic buildings.
When you visit Otaru, you absolutely must try the freshly made sushi. The city of Otaru boasts over 100 sushi restaurants, with the highlight being the Otaru Sushi Street. Otaru has prospered as a fishing port since olden times, which means that marine products are easily and cheaply obtained here, a benefit that attracted workers from all over the industry and eventually birthed Otaru’s rich sushi culture. The Otaru Sushi Street is just a short walk from the Otaru Canal, which means you can easily visit both locations.
Otaru’s winter is quite long, the cold season continuing from November all the way to March. In summer on certain days the temperature will exceed 30 degrees Celsius, however it’s fairly cold in the early morning and evening so it is recommended you bring a jacket with you.
The tourist attractions are mostly in walking distance of Otaru Station, but people short on time might want to use a taxi. From Hokkaido’s major airport New Chitose Airport it’s a 1 hour and 10 minute ride on a JR train to reach Otaru. You can also take a bus from Sapporo, which is about an hour long ride.