October 12-15, 2018
Otaru is a lovely city. It has plenty of European style old houses from the beginning of the 20th century, which is not so common in Japan. It is probably due to their attitude to old architecture prevention, that is, or at least used to be, different from ours. Therefore, it was no surprise there were are so many tourists. But like elsewhere in Hokkaido, only Japanese ones.
Exploring the city
We started our ”tour” at Märchen square and then walked via Sakaimachi street to Otaru canal. The street was full of small and big shops selling mainly sweets. Japanese love little cookies, chocolates and any kind of sweet stuff packed in small plastic bags and then in small or big paper boxes. They also consider this to be some kind of luxury goods so count with around 1,000 JPY for a small box. However, it is fair to say that everything we tried was damn good. How do we know that when it was so expensive and we travel on a budget? The answer is simple, in every second shop you can get samples, so you don’t need to buy anything. We were thinking about some disguise trick to visit reach shop multiple times, but it would be tough to do for two tall white guys. 🙂 Once being there you should definitely try at least Kitakaro’s cream puffs (180 JPY). We loved them. At the end of the street, you will find the Otaru canal. It is rather small, but still quite picture perfect at nice weather.
The next day it was time for Otarusumiyoshi Shrine where we were lucky could observe a local feast. For Sake distillery with a short exhibition (free), old Otaru train track transformed into a park and also for Bank of Japan Museum (free) where you can even hold and weight 100,000,000 JPY. For lunch, we stopped at the fish market next to the train station. People say it is too touristy, which is true, but it did not change the fact that you can see and taste enormous Japanese snow (and other) crabs. We picked delicious sablefish set (1,100 JPY) and three toppings rice bowl – covered with a crab, sea urchin and scallops (2,300 JPY). Not cheap, but where else would you get it?
Time for a drink
Once you are in Otaru, it would be a shame to miss Yoichi distillery, home of famous Nikka whiskey. Since our visit to Scotland a few years back we become quite fans of whisky, especially single malts 🙂 Not just that you can visit almost the whole historical delivery area where whiskey is still in production. Not just that there is rich and complex exposition. Not just that everything is for free. But you can even taste three almost regular size samples of their products for free! There is a huge room with tables and a beautiful view where you should sit for 30 minutes as they advise, to not to get drunk. You can take ice cubes and water for your whiskey. Actually, you can taste four of their products. Apple juice is also for free there. Samples are Single Malt Yoichi, Super Nikka and Apple wine which is also very good.
Read more: Relaxing days in Sapporo
We had a good time there, especially me, because Mira was a driver and I had to drink all his samples 🙂 That said, if you want to enjoy the visit the most, take a train from Otaru or at least don’t be a driver. We went by the car just because we planned to continue on a short two days trip.