Little City By The Sea, Otaru

Photo: Kevin Poh on Flickr

Little City By The Sea, Otaru

Gita Pramesari

If you go to Sapporo, never skip this beautiful port city. The little city by the sea, Otaru, is separated by about 30 minutes from Sapporo station on a train. This city is well known among tourists for its canal.

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On my trip from Sapporo to Otaru via train, an amazing view of the sea mesmerized my eyes. I couldn't stop myself from staring out of the window and shouting in exuberance, even though everyone in the train smiled or stared at me. The beautiful view couldn't be contained inside me and I expressed it by shouting out loud. Maybe I was overreacting, but such a landscape is not visible on a daily basis especially if one is living in a big and crowded city of Tokyo where high-rise buildings form the skyline.

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The waves that hit the cliff face, seagulls flying over the sea surface, and some houses over the hill next to the sea; seemed like a fairy tale to me.  I couldn't wait to find out what was waiting for me at the last stop, the Otaru station.

Otaru Station on a regular summer day.

Otaru Station on a regular summer day.

Otaru is situated in the western part of Hokkaido, facing Ishikari Bay. It is said that the city has developed and prospered as "the sea entrance of Hokkaido" over the last 100 years and it has gained the nickname "Wall Street of the North".

The name ‘Otaru’ itself originates from the Ainu, Hokkaido’s original tribe, language which means, "river running through the sandy beach". The city itself represents exactly what the name describes. We can see the river then next after that we can see the sea. Not just the sea, you will also see the hills and mountains surrounding the city which makes the city scenery more beautiful.

Summer view

Summer view
Photo: Kazuya Yokoyama on Flickr
Winter View

Winter View

There is a bus to goes around the city starting from the bus stop near the station. If one prefers to watch the views from the confines of the bus, you have that option, but I chose to explore Otaru on foot. Also, the canal itself is just a straight walk from the station! Enjoy the walk.

Otaru Canal

Otaru Canal
Photo: Webb Chung on Flickr

Along side, you can see some old buildings standing here and there. Also there is a shopping arcade not far from the station. You can see many souvenir shops and restaurants all lined up inside the building.

Buildings along the sidewalk, Otaru nightscape.

Buildings along the sidewalk, Otaru nightscape.
Photo: Chih-Wei Hong on Flickr
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Daytime, winter view.

Pick up maps at the Otaru station and you can find some must visit places and museums along the sides of the canal. Do not miss out on Otaru’s snacks, because this city is famous for it sweets and snack, too. I tried the delicious and rich flavoured ice cream made from Hokkaido’s famous milk. The shop also sold ‘panju’, different from manju, the size of ‘panju’ is smaller and has variant filling which was mouth-watering. I not only tried them but also bought some as omeyage.

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Photo: Maruyo on Flickr

If you happen to reach a road intersection and don’t know where to go, you can stop at the ‘International Guidance and Information Office’, that is located right at the corner of the intersection. You can also buy some souvenirs here. One of Otaru’s best item is the glass lantern. You can find glass lantern souvenirs everywhere in Otaru.

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If you have enough time, stay a little bit longer at the canal, wait for the dusk and enjoy the splendid night scape or spend your time cruising trough the canal on a boat. You can see the old buildings lined up along the river. Then when the sun sets, you can regale in the romantic atmosphere surround you, with the lights along the river and brighten up the city.