6 Unforgettable Things to Do in Otaru, Japan (in 2019)


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While not quite as exciting and vibrant as iconic Japanese cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, Otaru, a small city in the country’s far north Hokkaido Island, is still a very charming place to visit and sightsee. At first glance, Otaru doesn’t appear to be anything more than a dot on the map, but you would be quite surprised to learn about the tourism-related activities and events that take place throughout the year. Below is our list of awesome things to do in Otaru this year!

Try Squid Ice Cream


Ice cream made of squid ink and is black in color may seem strange to somebody not accustomed to the local cuisine, but it is actually very popular with tourists and locals alike. If you happen to be in town and want to sample this famous Japanese ika-sumi ice cream, the best place to do so is at Kita-no Aisukurimu-ya-san. This ice cream parlor is located inside a warehouse that was built in the 1890s.

Walk Along the Otaru Canal


This canal is undoubtedly one of Otaru’s most famous sights, one that truly defines the city’s character. It isn’t Venice, but pleasant to walk along all the same. This canal was built in 1923. When you stroll through the walkway along the banks, you can’t help but feel that you’ve gone back in time to another era. This feeling is due in large part to the ancient oil lamps that illuminate your journey.

Visit Otaru Museum


While Otaru has ancient roots as a small agricultural village, it wasn’t until the latter part of the 19th Century when it blossomed into a city. This rich heritage is captured in the Otaru Museum. Inside, you’ll find dioramas of medieval and modern life including the customs of the area. The museum was built around the same time as the canal and is only two blocks away.

Check out Nichigin-dori


Nichigin-dori means ‘Wall Street of the North’ in English. And yes, in times past, this area of Otaru was a bustling center of finance and business. Many of the buildings have been preserved from centuries ago. If you walk around here today, you’ll find many shops and businesses, though not much in the way of a financial district. In any event, Nichigin-dori is a great place to explore the history of Otaru.

Take a tour at the Herring Mansion


The herring fishery has always been one of the largest industries in Hokkaido. For centuries, many of the inhabitants of Otaru have made their livelihood from agriculture and herring fishing. This heritage is immortalized in the Herring Mansion. Many fishermen of times past became quite wealthy from this industry. Inside the Herring Mansion, you can see galleries and fishing antiques of equipment that is no longer used.

Don’t Miss The Steam Clock


Ask any tourist and they will tell you that one of the most popular attractions in Otaru is the steam clock. It is one of the features of the city that is held in great esteem by local residents. This massive steam-powered clock arrived in this small port city as a gift from the Japanese–Canadian community of Vancouver in the early 20th Century. It chimes every 15 minutes and shouldn’t be missed.

Planning your trip to Japan? See also:

The Full Guide to Tokyo, City That Never Sleeps

Osaka Trip on a Budget: Free (or Cheap) Things to Do

All About Okinawa Beaches

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