Otaru — Day 3 of a 4-Day Trip in Japan’s Hokkaido Region
Day 3 consisted of a day-trip to a port city northwest of Sapporo called Otaru. The train ride to Otaru Station took about 50 minutes from Sapporo Station and the route passes the ocean. Otaru is a really cute town and deserves a visit!
From Otaru Station, the Otaru Canal was about a twenty minute walk. Otaru streets were icy and cold in November. We walked along the Sakaimachidori Shopping Street. The street is filled with small shops and restaurants with tons of souvenir options. Many of the stores offer free samples — we tried the Otaru Rue Ironai Fromage cookies. Each langue de chat cookie (a Hokkaido Staple) is individually packed and so good (we bought a box to take back with us)! This specific cookie consists of two thin butter cookies held together by a marscarpone cream cheese filling. Note: Fillings may vary.
We visited the Kitaichi Glass Shop, located in a wood framed building built in 1891. The Kitaichi Glass Shop has a wide selection of glassware and is worth a visit.
We stopped at a ramen restaurant for lunch and ordered 2 bowls of the miso ramen. Note: Otaru has pretty good seafood, so it might be worth going to a sushi restaurant for lunch. I did not catch the name of the restaurant, but there are a variety of options for ramen/sushi on this street. The miso ramen was simple, but comforting and gave us the energy to continue our adventure.
We were still a little hungry so we stopped at a zangi chicken karaage stall called Takeda No Zangi. Zangi is Hokkaido’s version of chicken karaage, but finished with sauce. There were 4 sauces to pick from — cheese mayonnaise, salt, bbq and vinegar soy. We shared an order of the vinegar soy and it was hot, crispy, and delicious!
After lunch, we walked along the Otaru Canal. Otaru Canal was once a central part of the port’s activities. Large vessels would unload to smaller ships which would then transport the wares to the warehouses along the Canal. However, after the modern docks were built, the canal was no longer needed. Today, the warehouses are home to museums, shops, and restaurants.
Despite the wintry atmosphere, we were craving soft serve ice cream. We visited Kita No Ice Cream Yasan. The shop is located in a historical looking building and is hidden between two main streets. It offers some interesting flavours — sea urchin and squid are two of them — but we went with the safe option of vanilla soft serve.
After enjoying the ice cream on the bench in front of Kita No Ice Cream Yasan, we headed to Otaru Beer for an afternoon drink. Otaru Beer is located in one of the warehouses along Otaru Canal. We picked a table right by the window and ordered a glass of the Himbeer and Waldmeister. The Himbeer had a red hue and a strong raspberry flavour while the Waldmeister had a yellow-hue and a herb-like flavour. Otaru Beer also offers free brewery tours. We did not join the tour, but it may be worth a visit.
Next stop was Marchen Square. This popular Otaru square marks the end of Sakaimachidori Shopping Street and is recognizable by the steam clock outside the Otaru Music Box Museum. Interesting fact — the steam clock was made by Raymond Sanders, the same man who made the Vancouver Gastown steam clock!
The entrance to the Otaru Music Box Museum is right beside the steam clock. The museum/store is grand. It offers a variety of music box designs and songs converted into a music box tune. The interior of the museum is beautifully crafted and has a classic atmosphere.
Otaru was an amazing day-trip, but it was time for us to head back to Sapporo. The train ride took about an hour and we went straight to Gotsubo Oyster Bar, which opens at 6pm. Gotsubo Oyster Bar is popular for its large and juicy oysters (raw, baked, deep fried, etc.) and other shellfish (clam, scallops, etc.) at a reasonable price. The chefs will also add in 1–2 extra oysters on top of your order. I had read online that the seats fill up fast and it is best to go there right as it opens. We were right to do so. The restaurant is hidden down an alley in Susukino and is small with cramped seating. The seating instantly filled up once they opened. While we were there, the breaker tripped and the power went out! The chefs fiddled with the electrical panel and the power came back briefly, but it tripped immediately! After flipping the breaker once more, the power switched on and stayed (at least while we were there).
We stayed longer than expected at Gotsubo and filled up on the oysters and side dishes. On the way back to the Airbnb, we stopped at Pearl Lion on Tanukikoji Shopping Street for bubble tea and a Daiso to buy snacks.
Complete Day 3 Itinerary
Travel times may vary and do not include walking distances to and from train stations. Check Google Maps for most accurate travel details.
8:00am: Head to Otaru (47 minute train from Sapporo Station to Otaru Station). Grab breakfast at the convenience store.
10:00am: Walk along Sakaimachidori Shopping Street (20 minute walk from Otaru Station). Visit the many stores. Head to the Kitaichi Glass Shop (2 minute walk).
12:00pm: Walk along the Otaru Canal (10 minute walk from Kitaichi Glass Shop). Grab lunch or visit the many food stalls along the way.
2:00pm: Enjoy some ice cream at Kita No Ice Cream Yasan (2 minute walk from Otaru Canal).
3:00pm: Visit Otaru Beer (4 minute walk). Join the brewery tour. Sit by the window and enjoy a glass of beer.
4:00pm: Walk towards Marchen Square (14 minute walk). Visit the Otaru Steam Clock and the Otaru Music Box Museum.
5:00pm: Head back to Sapporo for the evening (29 minute train from Minami-Otaru Station to Sapporo Station, transfer for a 3 minute train from Sapporo Station to Susukino Station). Go directly to Gotsubo Oyster Bar (opens at 6:00pm).
7:00pm: Get dessert in Susukino (Pearl Lion has both cold and hot options for bubble tea). Wander the Susukino.
16-Day Japan Itinerary
Click “Download” below for an excel version of my 16-Day Japan Itinerary. Feel free to use the excel file as a planning template for your own trip in Japan!