Discover the Beauty of Historic Otaru Hokkaido

Once the port town for Hokkaido, Otaru has since become a popular tourist destination thanks in part to the historic buildings and the large preserved canal. Only a half hour from the island’s capital city, Sapporo, Otaru makes for a great day trip destination. In this article we’ll look at the port city and what’s makes Otaru such a wonderful spot to visit.

An Overview of Otaru

As an overview of Otaru Japan, the city isn’t that large. You’ll be able to traverse it comfortably by foot, especially considering most of the Otaru tourist attractions are located within walking distance of each other. Though there are buses that can take you around if you so wish.

Tourist Attractions in Otaru

What really stands out as tourist attractions in Otaru Japan are the spots deeply connected with the history of the area. The Temiya Cave, discovered in 1866, dates back to 400 A.D. and contains murals from the indigenous Ainu people from that time period. For the low cost of 100 yen, you can walk through the cave and see the drawings for yourself.

The main tourist attraction of Otaru is the Otaru Canal. Best visited in winter, the canal was lovingly restored after it fell to disuse. While it’s not in use as shipping canal anymore, you can still cruise down it and see the city from a new angle.

During the restoration, the city put in gas lamps on the promenade and created walking tracks beside the canal. These walking tracks are used for the Otaru Snow Light Road in February every year, lighting up the city through the snow. It’s truly a magical experience to behold.

Otaru Japan’s Port History

Recognized as a town in 1865, Otaru Japan was initially used as one of the major port towns in Hokkaido. The first rail line on the island connected Otaru and Sapporo in 1880, which opened up the town to be the main trading center of the region. Due to a imperial decree in 1899, Otaru’s port was opened up for international trading with the United States and the United Kingdom, making it the business center of the island.

Remnants of Otaru’s past can still be seen in the city to this day. The Otaru Canal is lined with old warehouses where goods were stored for trade and large mansions that once belonged to rich fishermen can be visited and explored.

The Otaru Aquarium Complex

The Otaru Aquarium is filled to the brim with all kinds of aquatic animals to see. Their main attraction is the dolphin show, which runs 3 to 5 times a day, depending on the season. In the winter time, you can walk with the penguins from their enclosure to the sea and back again, it’s super cute.

On site is also an amusement park full of fun rides for the whole family. It’s only 1,400 yen to enter for adults and 530 for Elementary through Middle School students, and 210 for children over the age of 3. You can spend a whole day here enjoying the complex!

Spot information

  • Spot name: Otaru Aquarium
  • Street address: 3-303 Shukutsu, Otaru, Hokkaido 047-0047
  • Access: 25 minutes by the Number 11 Bus from Otaru Station to the Aquarium

Stay in a Comfortable Otaru Hotel

Seeing the Otaru Canal at night is the best way to experience it, so booking an Otaru Hotel to rest at saves you the trouble of traveling far during the night. Hotels and places to stay in the city can range from quite affordable, to the, not so affordable. Here’s one we recommend.

The Smile Hotel Otaru is the best bang for your buck you’ll get in Otaru. With rooms starting from as little as 3,400 yen, you can turn your day trip to Otaru to a sleepover. While the rooms aren’t the flashiest, they do have a tatami mat, Japanese-style room to hunker down for the night in. Located close to Otaru Station and the Otaru canal, this is the perfect spot to set up base in the port city.

Spot information

  • Spot name: Smile Hotel Otaru
  • Street address: 3-5-14 Inaho, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido 047-0032
  • Access: A 3-minute walk from JR Otaru Station


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