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Otaru Rickshaw

Rickshaw rides in Otaru.

Originally named Otarunai (“River of Sands”) from the native Ainu language, it was renamed Otaru when development of Hokkaido started in ernest. Located approximately 30 km west of Sapporo on the northern tip of Hokkaido’s Shiribeshi district on the Sea of Japan side, it is a harbor and port facility city. During the development of Hokkaido, Otaru experienced a boom as one of the only port facilities in this region and also as a herring fishing area. During this boom period many of the places to visit were constructed. Now Otaru has approximately 146,297 people and was designated as a city on August 1st 1922. Otaru is also known for it’s large variety of fresh, high quality seafood. As such the many Sushi bars (especially on Sushiya street near JR Otaru Station) and local restaurants have become popular for their generous and delicious servings. Other products produced in Otaru include wine, noodles and beer as well as the many fine glass works shops.

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Located on the Sea of Japan side of Hokkaido, Otaru covers some 243.13 km2 and stretches around a small section of Ishikari Bay. Otaru is a very hilly city and is surrounded on the three sides by mountains, while the fourth side faces out toward Ishikari Bay.
Otaru Cherry Flowers

Cherry Blossoms in Otaru.

 The main train station is located almost in the center of the town and provides easy access to the attractive canal district. This canal runs for a part way through Otaru city and is lined with Western-style buildings from the late Meiji period. There are also gas powered lamps that are lit at night giving a very romantic feel to this area. Within the canal district there are some museums, many of the famous Otaru glass factories, restaurants and shopping markets. In front of and west of the main train station, Otaru offers a covered mall area and various shopping department stores. Also a huge new shopping complex has been constructed at Otaru Chikko Station. This complex houses a cinema, the Hilton Hotel and a large variety of stores. In font of the complex there is also a marina harboring some of Otaru’s fishing fleet.
Otaru Harbour at Sunset

Otaru Harbour at Sunset

Otaru is usually reached via Sapporo City. The JR Airport Express runs from New Chitose Airport via Sapporo to Otaru. The Journey is approximately 70 min. from Chitose or about 40 min. from Sapporo on an express train. There are also buses departing from Sapporo Station. It takes about one hour by express bus. A one-way journey from Sapporo costs ¥620 and ¥1 740 direct from New Chitose Airterminal.