Otaru, Hokkaido

Otaru is yet another popular getaway from Sapporo. located 30 minutes away from Sapporo, this little harbour city makes a decent day’s trip.

there are frequent trains from Sapporo to Otaru. a cheaper option would be to take the bus. my mum and i decided to take the train.

the train journey to Otaru is spectacular though. the tracks run very close to the sea so you can see the waves lapping up against the shore within a short distance away from the train. it kinda reminded me of the scene in Spirited Away, where there was a train that seemed as though it was running on water.

okay, perhaps this scene is way too pretty for real life

after getting off Otaru station. we headed to Sankoku market, a local seafood market located up a flight of steps. you can easily see it at the 10 o’clock position from the station exit.

there, you can see many live king crabs swimming around. there are also many restaurants serving donburi – rice bowls topped with raw seafood.

the donburi here are considered rather cheap and they were very generous with the toppings. my mum and i had ours at a rather popular restaurant which had posters of different donburi and their prices stuck onto every inch of wall at the entrance. there was a long queue beside the restaurant. a lot of the people in the queue were locals.

my mum and i really enjoyed our meal. we even ordered a grilled mackarel upon recommendation by the friendly waitress and it was yummy.

my donburi, no uni but the crab was delicious!
grilled mackarel

we noticed that many of the local patrons ordered uni (sea urchin) rice bowls. as i said, they were very generous with the toppings and the bowls looked beautiful and vibrant with the striking yellow and orange uni standing out from the bowls. we could hear many of them saying “oishi!” as they dug heartily into their uni donburi. my mum had some uni in her bowl too. as for me, i never liked uni.

one donburi costs about 2000-3000 yen depending on which toppings you choose. the ones jam packed with uni cost about 3000-4500 yen.

our tummies satisfied, we walked to the famous Otaru canal.


the canal was much smaller than i had imagined it to be. but it was pretty, though i figure it might be even prettier in winter, with snow blanketing either sides of the canal.

after our little stroll along the canal, we headed to Sakaimachi street. it’s a pretty touristy street. plenty of shops selling souvenirs, particularly glassware and music boxes as Otaru is famous for both glass-making and music boxes.

we had fun visiting every shop and admiring their pieces. i was so tempted to buy the glass wind chimes but i had no idea where to hang them in my tiny little place. the music box shops were particularly delightful. there were plenty of delightful music boxes in all shapes and sizes.

we also visited the Rokkatei, Kitakaro and LeTao confectioneries. in the Rokkatei confectionery, you can try their famous cream puff with a free cup of hot coffee in a resting area upstairs. the cream puff costs 90yen. Kitakaro is known for their baumkuchen, though my mum and i found it a tad bit too sweet, to be honest. all 3 of these confectioneries were very generous with the free samples so we did have a fun time tasting different pastries. however, they were also super crowded with tourists. we ended up not buying anything to avoid having to join the long queue at the cashier.

we found the shop that’s famous for the 7-layered soft serve, but we felt 7 layers was kinda overdoing it, so we had 5 layers instead. i don’t get what the fuss is about really. sure, it’s a pretty sight – probably very instagrammable – and you do get to taste different flavours with each layer, but they don’t really gel well together. i’d rather have my fully wholesome melon serve, any day.

*photo of the 7-layer soft serve from jpninfo.com

my favourite part of the trip was when we stumbled upon this small little music box shop a stone’s throw away from the large and grand music box shop. the little shop had a sign which said “DIY music box”. curious, i dragged my mum into the shop with me and we saw little kids and couples crafting their own music boxes at a few of the work tables.

there were plenty of music boxes with different music to choose from. after picking the music box of your choice, you pick out the decorative items to decorate them with and boy, were there many to choose from. animal figurines made of glass, little trees and flowers, sparkly beads as sand etc.

my mum and i had a really simple design. we were the only foreigners in there and we noticed that everybody else were rather extravagant with their decorations. the kids were extremely creative and artsy. even the couples were gluing a ridiculous amount of stuff onto their boxes. we decided we were pretty satisfied with our humble design and submitted it to the cashier. they helped us leave it aside to dry for the next 30 minutes and we headed out to explore more of the little souvenir shops nearby.

ta-da! not exactly a masterpiece but still a precious memory

by the time we were ready to leave with our precious little souvenir, it was already evening. we got back to Sapporo late but still feeling energetic, we decided to walk 25 minutes to the Sapporo Beer Garden. although the beer museum was already closing when we got there, we did manage to eat their famous all-you-can-eat jingisukan (Genghis Khan) together with some of that Sapporo beer. Jingisukan is basically barbecued lamb meat. and they were goooood. we were super hungry by the time we got there so we savored every bite of juicy goodness.

Sapporo Beer Museum at night
it’s all-you-can-drink too!


feeling stuffed, we walked around a bit at the Ario shopping mall close by (plenty of nice and reasonably priced clothes) and then headed back to our hotel at JR Inn Sapporo. i would highly recommend staying at JR Inn Sapporo for anybody looking to book a hotel there. it is only about a few minutes walk away from Sapporo station. the rooms looked new and were well-equipped, albeit on the small side. a unique feature of this hotel is that you get to pick your own pillow from a rather large variety.

my mum and i were pretty happy with our selection as we slept soundly through the night after a long day of exploring.


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