2024-01-12 | Recommendations

Top 5 Things to Do in Otaru

In this guide, you will learn about the Top 5 Things to Do in Otaru, providing a roadmap for an immersive exploration of this coastal gem. From unique museums featuring Western and Japanese art to a popular aquarium, this list encompasses the essence of Otaru’s charm and the must-try sights to see and things to do for every visitor. Whether you’re drawn to the nostalgia of historic architecture, the allure of local cuisine or the tranquility of coastal landscapes, Otaru’s offerings promise a diverse array of activities to suit every traveler’s preference. Each of these locations will leave a lasting memory of the beauty and cultural richness of Otaru.

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Otaru Art Base

Otaru Art Base stands as a testament to the city’s commitment to fostering a vibrant cultural scene, featuring a wide collection of Western and Japanese paintings and antiques. Situated in the heart of Otaru, this contemporary art space serves as a platform for both local and international artists to showcase their talents across various mediums. They regularly host exhibitions, workshops and events, creating an interactive and engaging atmosphere for art enthusiasts and visitors alike. The gallery space features an eclectic mix of traditional and avant-garde artworks, reflecting the diverse influences that shape Otaru’s artistic landscape. Beyond the gallery walls, Otaru Art Base actively collaborates with the local community, fostering a symbiotic relationship between artists and residents. They strive to make art accessible to everyone, creating a shared space where creativity flourishes and enriches the art scene in Otaru.

Nitori Museum

Nitori Museum, formerly known as the Hokkaido Takushoku Bank Otaru Branch, was the workplace of writer Takiji Kobayashi during his banking career. The foyer features a vaulted ceiling ascending to the second floor, upheld by six striking ancient columns while the fourth floor showcases Japanese paintings by renowned artists Taikan Yokoyama and Gyokudo Kawai. The third floor features Western art by Japanese artist Ryusei Kishida and international artists. Wooden sculptures by Koun Takamura and his disciple are on the second floor, and the basement floor houses an Art Nouveau Art Déco Glass gallery. The museum presents pieces at the intersection of literature, finance and artistic expression.

Stained Glass Museum

In addition to the main Nitori Museum of Art, there is also the Stained Glass Museum. The collection comprises stained glass pieces originating from England during the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries. Originally from church windows, these exquisite artworks have withstood the test of time and represent a look back at the bygone eras of British history. Despite the demolition of numerous churches in recent years, these beautiful artifacts found an unexpected haven in Japan. Some of the stained glass panels bear inscriptions and images that narrate a historical journey, spanning the prosperous reign of Queen Victoria, the Edwardian Period and extending into the post-First World War era.

Otaru Aquarium

Photo by MIKI Yoshihito

Otaru Aquarium is a popular spot for families with children, tourists and overseas visitors alike. Located next to Otaru’s Shukutsu Port, the expansive view of the ocean from the outdoor area is stunning. Home to an impressive array of marine species, the aquarium offers an immersive experience, allowing visitors to witness the beauty and diversity of the ocean’s inhabitants. From playful dolphins and majestic sea lions to mesmerizing jellyfish displays, each exhibit is carefully curated to provide both entertainment and education. The sea breeze is cold from winter to around May, so dress warmly.

Unga Plus

Unga Plus is a general store that offers a wide variety of products from Otaru and the suburbs, including sweets, sake and snacks. Sometimes art exhibits by Hokkaido artists are held here, making it an exciting place to visit. If you’re on the hunt for a distinctive souvenir, perhaps even a treat for yourself, you will discover items here that boast a unique charm not found anywhere else. Part of the joy of travel lies in finding artifacts with their own stories. The dedication of the store staff to their products is palpable, making it easy to engage in conversation with them before making your selection.

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