Otaru day trip guide!
Otaru, being only 38 km away or about 40 minutes away by JR trains, is a great city for a day trip!
How to get to Otaru from Sapporo?
To get to Otaru, purchase the JR train tickets from Sapporo station. You can get these tickets from the ticket machines outside the gantry of Sapporo JR station. Do note that there are two types of ticket machines: one for reserved tickets, and the other for non-reserved tickets.
Basically, the difference between these two tickets is that for non-reserved tickets (640 yen), it is free seating. The reserved ticket grants you a more comfortable seat (U-seat) in the reserved train carriage for an additional 520 yen on top of the non-reserved ticket (640 + 520 = 1160 yen). If travelling during non-peak hours, you'll usually be able to get seats so there is no need to pay extra for the reserved seats.
How to get around Otaru?
The main attractions in Otaru are within walking distance (unless you would like to visit the Otaru Aquarium) but for those who are unable to walk long distances, there is also a hop on hop off bus (750 yen) that you can take. You can take this bus at the bus interchange right outside the train station.
The main attractions in Otaru include the Otarusankaku Market, the Otaru Canal and the Otaru Sakaimachi shopping street. You can possibly complete Otaru in half a day or slightly more than that and head back to Sapporo to complete your shopping! Some travellers may also choose to stay over for a night (Do consider Otaru Furukawa Hotel that overlooks the Otaru Canal. They also have an onsen for their guests)
Otaru Sankaku Market
After arriving in Otaru station, turn left and head up a flight of stairs to reach Otaru Sankaku Market. This is a small seafood market (or rather an alley) which you can purchase fresh produce, or try fresh seafood dons for affordable prices.
We tried Eneko 滝波食堂's seafood bowl as they allow you to choose your own bowl: be it ikura, crabs, prawns, uni, scallops, etc. For three toppings, it costs 2,000 yen, and for four toppings 2,500 yen. We went there before lunch time and it was already packed. Many of their locals indulge in a fresh bowl of seafood goodness with a complimentary bowl of crab miso soup.
For those who aren't fans of raw food, they also have grilled fish that you may wish to try!
We also tried a few side dishes like their salmon sashimi and grilled oysters (which you can pass). We very much prefer the luxurious seafood dons.
3 Chome-10-16 Inaho, Otaru-shi, Hokkaidō 047-0032, Japan
Telephone: +81 134-23-2446
Operating Hours: 8am - 5pm
Located nearer to the end of the alley
Japan, 〒047-0032 Hokkaidō, Otaru-shi, Inaho, 3 Chome−10−16, 三角市場内
Telephone: +81 134-23-1426
Operating Hours: 8am - 5pm
Sakaimachi Shopping Street
After Sankaku Market, head back to the front of the Otaru Station. Here, you'll be able to see right straight to the Otaru Canal at the end of Chuo Dori. If you haven't got enough of Don Quijote in Sapporo, you'll be able to find one in the building directly opposite the Bus Interchange.
Otherwise, walk all the way down Chuo Dori to get to Sakaimachi Shopping Street. On the way there, feel free to turn in to these covered shopping streets. There weren't that much to see there, but some of these shopfronts were good photo spots!
Continue walking down Chuo Dori till one street before the Otaru Canal and turn right.
You'll be able to see a bus interchange. Continue walking a little bit more before you 'cross' a canal and see a red building.
This red building marks the start of the Sakaimachi Street. The Sakaimachi Street is a preserved street in Otaru in which many of the buildings were retained ever since Otaru's trading and shipping days. Now, many of the stores have sell interesting jewellery, accessories, and glassware. There are also a portion of the street that has many seafood restaurants. Closer to the end of Sakaimachi street, you'll also be able to find many Le Tao stores, cafes, and restaurants.
It is quite a long walking street, but it is definitely an enjoyable walk, especially with the snow covering the ground. There's also two sides so you could walk down one, and return on the other side. The restaurants are found somewhere midpoint so it is good as a rest stop!
Close to the end of the street, you'll find Le Tao main store. It has a tower on the building. Not many people may know this, but you can actually head (or sneak) up to the tower.
The Le Tao tower is the tallest building and you'll be able to get a good view of Sakaimachi Street and the port! So do head into the store, walk towards the lift and press the highest floor!
On your way down, drop by the cafe on the 2nd floor as well! Since Le Tao originated in Otaru, you've got to try their famous double fromage cheese cake, with a creme brûlée, and a drink. This comes as a set for about 1,200 yen.
Outside the store, you'll also this inscribed stoned monument that Kawagoe (Le Tao's founder) built to remind its employees of the need to work hard despite one's adversities. The inscription is a poem written by Takahiro Tajima, a photographer on a wheelchair, who takes photographs from 50cm above the ground. Kawagoe was so inspired by his work that he made this poem into the company's philosophy.
7-16 Sakaimachi, Otaru-shi, Hokkaidō 047-0027, Japan
Telephone: +81 120-468-825
Operating Hours: 9 am - 6 pm
Outside the store, you'll see Marchen Square which is a meeting point for many tourists who join package and bus tours. Take a photo or two here to show that you've completed Sakaimachi street!
Do also visit the Museum Box Museum as seen in the back of Marchen Square. There are no charges to enter and you'll find yourself immerse in the beautiful melody of music boxes in this building made of wood.
Check out the Otaru Steam Clock outside the museum that will sound every 15 minutes! It is one of the last few steam clocks in the world!!
Take a leisurely stroll back to the start of Sakaimachi Street and turn right before the little canal that you crossed earlier! This will bring you to the start of Otaru Canal.
Wander along the now defunct warehouses along the Canal that has great restaurants and duty free shopping! Walk all the way back to Canal Cruise Centre at the Chuo Bridge and book a cruise on the Otaru Canal!
Do note that the cruise is dependent on the weather conditions as there will be one part that brings you out of the canal into the sea! The 40 minute cruise gives you information about the history of the canal and its surrounding buildings. Although everything is in Japanese, they will give you free headphones that you can plug in under your seat to hear the English / Chinese / Korean translations. The day cruise costs 1,500 yen, while the night cruise costs 1,800 yen.