2023-11-16 | Recommendations

24 Hours in Otaru

Nestled along the coastline of Hokkaido, Otaru is a picturesque city that seamlessly blends history, culture, and natural beauty. With its charming canal, well-preserved historical architecture, and a delightful blend of modern attractions, Otaru offers a perfect destination for a memorable 24-hour adventure. In just 24 hours following this guide, you can explore the most popular sights in the city, which is rich in history, culture and tradition. Whether you’re savoring local flavors, exploring historic landmarks or sipping tea in a charming cafe, Otaru promises a day filled with enchantment and discovery. By staying at UNWIND HOTEL&BAR OTARU, you will have convenient access to all the locations in this guide.

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Stroll Along Otaru Canal

As the sun gently rises over Otaru, start your day with a stroll along the enchanting Otaru Canal. The historic canal, lined with old warehouses and stone-lined pathways, exudes a nostalgic charm that transports you to a bygone era. The calm waters mirror the surrounding architecture, creating postcard-worthy scenes at every turn. Take leisurely steps along the cobblestone path, inhaling the crisp sea air and appreciating the architectural beauty that blends European and Japanese influences. As you amble along, consider stopping at one of the cozy cafes that line the canal, allowing you to sip on a warm cup of freshly brewed coffee while soaking in the tranquil ambiance. Whether you choose to capture the moment through your lens or simply savor the serenity, a morning stroll along Otaru Canal provides a serene introduction to the town’s unique blend of history, culture and natural beauty.

Visit Kitaichi Glass

Along Otaru Canal is the Sangokan branch of Kitaichi Glass, one of the top manufacturers of glass products in Hokkaido. Delve into a world of creativity and craftsmanship as you step into the historical stone on wood frame building dating back to 1891. The building houses a Kitaichi Glass sales outlet and café with a grand hall lit with unique oil lamps. The biggest highlight of Kitaichi Hall is the lighting of the lamps just before the store opens. The entrance is opened at 8:45 a.m., 15 minutes before the opening of the store. It is a solemn ritual that ends when the final lamps in the chandelier are lit and the chandelier is slowly raised. You are free to film this one-of-a-kind scene unique to the cafe that is worth waking up early to see.

Visit Otaru Music Box Museum

Photo by SteFou!

As Japan’s largest music box store featuring 80,000 music boxes of 5,000 different kinds available in the main store, Otaru Music Box Museum is a sight not to be missed. The solid stone building was constructed in 1915 as the main office for a rice merchant and became a music box shop in 1989, drawing visitors from around the world since then. Visitors are transported into a nostalgic past as they explore the exhibits, each music box telling a unique story through its delicate tunes. The collection includes an array of music boxes, from traditional hand-crafted ones to modern designs, showcasing the evolution of this timeless art form. One of the highlights of the Otaru Music Box Museum is the hands-on experience offered to visitors. Guests can create their own music box, selecting the design and melody, resulting in a personalized and melodious souvenir to cherish. The museum also features a spacious shop where visitors can purchase intricately crafted music boxes, adding a touch of magical melody to their lives.

Visit Otaru Aquarium

Photo by MIKI Yoshihito

Take a short trip to the Otaru Aquarium, a marine wonderland that promises an immersive and educational experience. Situated along the picturesque Otaru coastline, the aquarium invites you to explore the diverse marine life of the Sea of Japan. As you step into the facility, be prepared to be captivated by vibrant displays featuring a kaleidoscope of marine species. From playful dolphins gracefully navigating the water to mysterious jellyfish floating in mesmerizing displays, each exhibit is a testament to the rich biodiversity of the region. The aquarium’s commitment to conservation and education is evident as you encounter interactive zones, offering insights into marine ecosystems and the importance of preserving underwater environments. One of the highlights is the captivating dolphin and sea lion performances, where these intelligent creatures showcase their agility and charm in engaging shows that leave visitors of all ages in awe. The penguin walk is also a popular attraction that draws visitors from around the world. The Otaru Aquarium seamlessly blends entertainment with a deeper understanding of marine life, making it an ideal destination for families, marine enthusiasts and anyone seeking a delightful escape into the aquatic realms.

Eat Lunch at Sakaimachi Street

Photo by bryan…

As midday approaches, indulge in a gastronomic journey at Sakaimachi Street, renowned for its seafood markets and local delicacies. This picturesque street, lined with preserved merchant houses and boutique shops, offers a unique dining atmosphere that captures the essence of Otaru’s cultural and gastronomic heritage. Freshly caught seafood, savory sushi and delectable sweets are around every corner on this historical street. Savoring a seafood-centric lunch, such as a bowl of Hokkaido’s renowned sushi or a seafood donburi, provides a delicious glimpse into the region’s culinary excellence. Whether seated in a traditional Japanese tearoom, a seafood haven or a quaint cafe, the experience of lunch on Sakaimachi Street is a culinary odyssey that harmonizes the delectable tastes of Hokkaido with the historic charm of Otaru’s architectural treasures. It’s a gastronomic expedition that leaves a lasting impression on both the palate and the soul.

Try Pastries

Photo by MIKI Yoshihito

Indulge your senses in the artistic and culinary delights of Otaru by immersing yourself in the enchanting world of LeTAO Chocolate and Pastry shop. LeTAO is a culinary haven celebrated for its exquisite sweets, making it a must-visit destination for those with a penchant for decadence. As you step into the welcoming ambiance of LeTAO, the enticing aroma of freshly crafted chocolates, pastries and cakes envelops you in a symphony of sweet fragrances. The artistry of their confectionery is on full display, with each treat meticulously crafted to appeal not only to the taste buds but also to the eyes, showcasing a perfect blend of aesthetics and flavor. Peruse the delightful array of offerings, from intricately designed chocolates that double as edible masterpieces to delicate pastries that promise a symphony of textures and tastes. LeTAO’s commitment to quality is exemplified by its use of Hokkaido’s renowned dairy products, infusing each creation with the rich and creamy essence that defines the region’s culinary excellence. As you select your delectable treasures, consider pairing them with a cup of locally sourced coffee, enhancing the experience with a perfect balance of sweetness and warmth. The cozy seating areas within the shop provide an inviting space to savor your chosen delights, allowing you to fully appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into each creation.

Go on a Distillery Tour

Photo by MIKI Yoshihito

As the sun sets over Otaru, a visit to the celebrated Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery promises an enchanting and immersive experience in the world of whisky craftsmanship. This iconic distillery is a haven for whisky enthusiasts and those eager to explore the rich history and flavors associated with Japan’s renowned spirits. Led by knowledgeable guides, a guided tour offers a fascinating insight into the meticulous process of whisky production, from the selection of premium ingredients to the artful distillation techniques that define Nikka’s exceptional spirits. As you weave through the distillery’s rustic surroundings, you’ll witness the skilled artisans at work, tending to the copper pot stills and wooden casks that contribute to the distinct character of Nikka whiskies. The ambience exudes a sense of authenticity and reverence for the craft, providing a unique glimpse into the legacy of this esteemed distillery. At the end of the tour indulge in a tasting session that allows you to savor the nuanced flavors and complexities of Nikka’s premium whiskies. Whether you’re a seasoned whisky connoisseur or a curious novice, the Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery provides a sensory experience that goes beyond tasting—it’s a celebration of craftsmanship, heritage, and the art of fine whisky making.

Admire Glittering Lanterns Along Otaru Canal

Photo by Mith Huang

As the night unfolds, walk back to Otaru Canal to experience the magical transformation of the historic canal. The iconic gas lamps lining the canal create a dreamlike ambiance, casting a warm glow on the water. Take an enchanting stroll along the illuminated canal, soaking in the serenity of the night. If you time your visit properly, you can see the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival held every February. The combination of the snowy landscape, cute snow statues and soft glowing lamps creates a magical serene environment straight out of a fairytale.

Eat Dinner at THE BALL Otaru

The Ball Otaru combines the best of modern French cuisine with the freshest local Hokkaido ingredients in a gourmet space where you can enjoy the atmosphere of an elegant classic hotel that you will want to visit again and again. You can enjoy a Christmas-exclusive dinner course if you book your stay for December 23, 24 or 25, 2023. This year’s special Christmas dinner course features Hokkaido scallops, foie gras-based appetizers, Tokachi-produced grilled fillet steak and a main dish of seasonal Hokkaido fish poêlé. The course also includes a hotel-special Christmas dessert and post-dinner coffee. The restaurant is adorned with beautiful stained glass windows crafted approximately 90 years ago in an Art Nouveau style and its floating lights create a whimsical atmosphere. Click here for more information about the Christmas-dinner special in 2023.

Grab a Drink at BAR IGNIS

Wrap up your day with a nightcap at UNWIND HOTEL&BAR OTARU. From 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. (L.O. 10 p.m.), you can enjoy the best of Yoichi wines and whiskies, making it a unique opportunity to savor the rich flavors of this renowned region. Whether you are a connoisseur or someone looking to explore new tastes, the bartenders are dedicated to crafting the perfect drink to suit your preferences. Engage in conversation with fellow travelers staying at the hotel and locals popping in for a drink, sharing stories over a glass of Hokkaido wine or Yoichi whiskey. Don’t miss the nightly complimentary wine service available to all guests staying at UNWIND HOTEL&BAR OTARU.

Click the button below to book your stay at UNWIND HOTEL&BAR OTARU.