Hokkaido Tourist Attractions: How to enjoy The Otaru Canal

hokkaido

INTRODUCTION

The Otaru Canal is a historical tourist attraction in Hokkaido, Japan, that attracts visitors with its beautiful scenery and romantic atmosphere. constructed in the early 20th century, the canal once played an important role as Otaru’s logistics center. Today, the contrast between the stone warehouses and the canal creates a beautiful sight that attracts many tourists day and night.

Especially at dusk and at night, the canal is lit by gas lamps, making a stroll along the canal even more romantic. Cafes, restaurants, and souvenir stores are lined up along the canal and visitors can enjoy a relaxing time. A cruise on the Otaru Canal is also a special experience, offering a view of the historic buildings from the water.

The Otaru Canal is also a place where you can enjoy the beauty of the four seasons. Cherry blossoms in spring, greenery in summer, autumn leaves in fall, and snowy landscapes in winter, you will discover something different in every season. Furthermore, Otaru is famous for its glass crafts and sweets, and you should definitely enjoy these specialties when you visit the canal.

This article details the highlights and ways to enjoy the Otaru Canal. When planning your trip to Hokkaido, be sure to visit the Otaru Canal and experience its history and beauty.

History and Culture of Tourist Attraction

Known for its beautiful scenery and rich history, the Otaru Canal is a tourist attraction located in Hokkaido, Japan. constructed in the early 20th century, the canal played an important role as a logistics hub for Otaru City.

Historical Background

The Otaru Canal was completed in 1923. At the time, Otaru was a major trading port in Hokkaido, and the canal served as a logistics center connecting warehouses and the sea. Stone warehouses were built on both sides of the canal to efficiently load and unload goods. The construction of the canal became an important infrastructure that supported the development of Otaru as a port city.

However, as logistics shifted to trucks and railroads, the role of the canal gradually diminished, and in the 1970s, land reclamation of the canal was considered, but a citizens’ movement reevaluated its beauty and historical value and decided to preserve the canal. As a result, the canal was developed as a tourist resource, and the beautiful scenery is preserved as it is today.

Cultural Characteristics

The Otaru Canal strongly reflects the culture and traditions of the region. Historic stone warehouses line the canal, and many of these buildings are still used today as restaurants, stores, and museums. This allows visitors to experience Otaru’s history and modern culture at the same time.

Otaru is also famous for its glass crafts. There are many glass studios and galleries along the canal where visitors can view and purchase beautiful glassware. These workshops also offer glass-blowing workshops, which is a popular activity for tourists.

Otaru is also known as a city of music. Street musicians often perform around the canal, their music echoing off the quiet surface of the canal. Especially at night, the collaboration of music and the canal illuminated by gas lamps creates a romantic atmosphere.

Seasonal Attractions

The Otaru Canal has a different look throughout the four seasons. In spring, cherry blossoms are in full bloom and the canal is dyed pink. In summer, you can enjoy a cool stroll along the canal with lush greenery. In autumn, the canal is decorated with autumn leaves, creating a vivid scene. In winter, snow covers the canal and the warm glow of the gas lamps along the canal creates a fantastic scene.

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Places to Visit

Otaru Canal attracts many people as a sightseeing spot that combines beautiful scenery and historical buildings. Here are some of the main attractions of the Otaru Canal.

Strolling along the canal

The Otaru Canal is approximately 1.1 km long and offers a romantic view of stone warehouses and gas lamps. Especially from evening to night, the atmosphere along the canal becomes even more magical with the gas lamps. Enjoy a leisurely stroll and appreciate the historical background of the canal and the beauty of the buildings.

Otaru Canal Cruise

Otaru Canal Cruise is a popular activity for tourists to enjoy the beauty of the canal from the water. On a guided cruise, you can listen to detailed explanations about the historical buildings along the canal and the streets of Otaru. Daytime cruises offer a panoramic view of the canal under the bright sunlight, while nighttime cruises offer a romantic atmosphere with the canal lit up with lights.

Stone warehouses

Along the canal are rows of historic stone warehouses that were once used as logistics centers. These warehouses are now used as restaurants, cafes, stores, and museums, allowing visitors to enjoy Otaru’s history and modern culture at the same time. Restaurants serving dishes made with local ingredients and trendy cafes are especially popular among tourists.

Otaru City Museum (Former Otaru Branch of NYK Line)

The Otaru City Museum is a place where visitors can learn about the history and culture of Otaru. Located along the canal, the museum is housed in the building of the former Otaru branch of the NYK Line and offers visitors an opportunity to learn about the history of Otaru’s development along with its beautiful architecture. Inside the museum, visitors can learn more about Otaru’s former role as a port town and its history as a logistics center.

Kitaichi Glass

Kitaichi Glass is one of Otaru’s leading glass artisans and has several stores along the canal. It displays and sells beautiful glass products, which are popular as souvenirs. The shop also offers hands-on glass art making workshops, where visitors can create their own unique glass artwork. If you visit the canal, be sure to stop by.

Seasonal Scenery

The Otaru Canal is a spot where you can enjoy beautiful scenery in each of the four seasons. In spring, cherry blossoms are in full bloom and the canal is dyed pink. In summer, lush greenery makes for a cool stroll. In the fall, the canal is decorated with autumn leaves, creating a vivid scene. In winter, snow covers the canal and the warm glow of the gas lamps along the canal creates a fantastic scene.

Access

Access to Otaru Canal is very convenient and can be easily visited from major cities in Hokkaido. Here we will show you how to access Otaru Canal by various means of transportation.

Access from New Chitose Airport

Train

From New Chitose Airport, take the JR Rapid Airport train to Sapporo Station (approx. 40 minutes).
At Sapporo Station, transfer to the JR Hakodate Line for a 30-minute ride to Otaru Station.

Bus


There is a direct bus service from New Chitose Airport to Otaru Station, which takes about 90 minutes.

Access from Sapporo

By train

From JR Sapporo Station, take the JR Hakodate Main Line to Otaru Station (approx. 30 min.). There are many trains and it is very convenient.

Bus

Buses bound for Otaru run from Sapporo Station, and it takes about 60 minutes to Otaru Station.

By Car

It takes about 1 hour from Sapporo to Otaru by car. It is convenient to use the Hokkaido Expressway.

Access from Otaru Station to Otaru Canal

On foot

It takes about 10 minutes on foot from Otaru Station to Otaru Canal. Exit the station and walk straight toward the canal to get there.

Bus

A circular bus runs from Otaru Station to the sightseeing spots. It is convenient to get off the bus at the stops around Otaru Canal.

Access by Car

Parking Lot

There are several pay parking lots around Otaru Canal. It is advisable to arrive early or consider using public transportation, especially during the tourist season and weekends when it can get crowded.

Maps and Navigation

Using a map application on your smartphone (such as Google Maps or Apple Maps), you can easily check the best route. For the exact location of Otaru Canal, please search for “Port Town, Otaru City, Hokkaido”.

Tourist Information Center

There is a Tourist Information Center at Otaru Station that provides maps, pamphlets, and tourist information. English-speaking staff are available, so foreign tourists can use the information center with ease. They also provide information on sightseeing spots, recommended restaurants, and events around the Otaru Canal, so it is a good idea to stop by before your visit.

Hours of Operation, Admission Fees

The Otaru Canal itself is open 24 hours a day and admission is free. You can enjoy strolling along the canal at any time. However, the surrounding tourist facilities and cruises have their own opening hours and fees, so information on major facilities is summarized below.

Otaru Canal Cruise

Business Hours

Summer (April – October): 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Winter (November – March): 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
*Night cruises are also available to enjoy the view of the canal lit up with lights.

Fees

Adults: 1,500 yen (daytime cruise), 1,800 yen (nighttime cruise)
Children (4-12 years old): 500 yen
Cruises can be booked in advance, and early reservations are recommended, especially during the tourist season.

Otaru City Museum (Former Otaru Branch of NYK Line)

Hours of operation

Summer (April – October): 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Winter (November – March): 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
*Closed: Tuesdays (or the following day if Tuesday is a national holiday), Year-end and New Year holidays

Admission Fee

General admission: 300 yen
High school and university students: 150 yen
Junior high school students and younger: free

Kitaichi Glass

Kitaichi Glass has several stores, each with slightly different hours of operation.

Hours of operation

Store: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
*Opening hours may change during the year-end and New Year holidays and special events.
Admission Fee

Admission is free. However, a separate fee is required for the glass craft experience (varies depending on the experience).

Nearby Cafes and Restaurants

Cafes and restaurants are scattered along the Otaru Canal. Below are examples of typical restaurant hours.

Canal Inn Otaru Furukawa

Restaurant: 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. (lunch), 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. (dinner)
Cafe: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Kitakaro Otaru Main Building

Business hours: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Seasonal Events

Various seasonal events are held around the Otaru Canal. The following is a sample of typical events.

Otaru Snow Light Path: A winter event held in February every year, where candles are lit along the canal, creating a magical scene.
Otaru Tide Festival: This summer festival features a fireworks display and parade.

Gourmet

Around Otaru Canal, there are many restaurants and eateries where you can enjoy delicious dishes and sweets made with fresh ingredients unique to Hokkaido. Here are some of the best gourmet spots to visit.

Kita no Ryouba

Address: 1-1-1 Shikinai, Otaru City, Otaru Canal Terminal

Kita no Ryouba Restaurant, where you can enjoy fresh seafood, is located along Otaru Canal. The kaisen-don (seafood bowl) is especially popular, and you can enjoy a sumptuous dish filled with fresh sea urchin, salmon roe, scallops, and other delicacies.

Recommended Menu

Kaisen Donburi
Ikura Donburi
Sea Urchin Bowl

Otaru Narutoya

Address: 3-8 Sakai-cho, Otaru CityOtaru Naruto-ya is famous for its zangi (fried chicken), a Hokkaido specialty.

The crispy batter and juicy chicken meat make it an excellent and hearty dish. It is located in a place where it is easy to stop by during a break from sightseeing.

Recommended Menu

Zangi Set Meal
Karaage Donburi
Naruto Set Meal

Kitaichi Hall

Address: 7-26 Sakai-cho, Otaru City

Kitaichi Hall is a cafe operated as part of Kitaichi Glass, where you can spend a relaxing time surrounded by beautiful glassware. The famous “Kitaichi Parfait” is especially exquisite with seasonal fruits and rich soft-serve ice cream.

Recommended Menu

Kitaichi Parfait
Cake Set
Coffee

Lutao Main Store

Address: 7-16 Sakai-cho, Otaru City

The main store of Rutao, one of Hokkaido’s representative confectionery stores, is located within walking distance from the Otaru Canal. The especially popular “Deubre Fromage” is a fluffy cheesecake loved by tourists and locals alike. There is also a café space where you can enjoy freshly made sweets.

Recommended Menu

Double Fromage
Cream Puff
Seasonal Cakes

Otaru Beer

Address: 5-4 Minato-cho, Otaru City

Otaru Beer is a pub where you can enjoy locally brewed craft beer. Located along the canal, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery with a beer in hand. A wide variety of beers are available, and you can enjoy them with local dishes.

Recommended Menu

Otaru Beer Set
Sausage Platter
Pizza

Local Specialties

Seafood

Otaru is famous for its fresh seafood. When you visit, be sure to enjoy dishes made with local seafood. Kaisendon and sushi are especially recommended.

Hokkaido Sweets

Otaru is also known as a town of sweets. You can enjoy sweets made with Hokkaido dairy products at confectionery stores such as Lutao and Kitaichi Glass.

Jingisukan

Jingisukan, a specialty of Hokkaido, can also be enjoyed in Otaru City. Try Jingisukan, which is grilled mutton seasoned with a special sauce.

Shopping

There are many attractive shopping spots around Otaru Canal where you can purchase specialties and souvenirs unique to Hokkaido. Here are some recommended stores and souvenirs to stop by when visiting Otaru Canal.

Kitaichi Glass

Address: 7-26 Sakai-cho, Otaru City

Kitaichi Glass is Otaru’s representative glassware store. There are several stores along the canal, offering beautiful glass crafts, accessories, and interior goods. It is a great place to buy souvenirs for yourself or as gifts. Visitors can also try their hand at making their own original glass artwork.

Recommended Products

Glass accessories
Handmade glass tableware
Original goods from Kitaichi Hall

Lutao Main Store

Address: 7-16 Sakai-cho, Otaru City

At the main store of Rutao, one of Otaru’s representative confectionery stores, you can purchase delicious sweets. Especially popular is the “Deubre Fromage,” a cheesecake with a smooth texture that is loved by both tourists and locals. Many gift sets are also available, perfect for souvenirs.

Recommended Products

Deubre Fromage
Chocolat Double
Seasonal sweets

Hokkaido Wine Brewery

Address: 3-2-5 Shikinai, Otaru-shi, Otaru

At Hokkaido Wine Brewery, you can purchase locally produced wines. Tastings are available so that you can choose the wine that best suits your taste. The wines made from Hokkaido grapes are especially popular as souvenirs.

Recommended products

Hokkaido Wine
Special wine jam
Wine glasses

Otaru Music Box Store

Address: 4-1 Sakai-cho, Otaru-shi, Otaru

Otaru Music Box Store is a specialty store that sells a variety of music boxes. Located in a retro building along the canal, you can enjoy shopping while listening to the wonderful sound of music boxes. The handmade and well-designed music boxes are souvenirs that will become special memories.

Recommended products

Handmade music box
Music boxes with a choice of music types
Music box parts set

Tanaka Sake Brewery Kamegokura

Address: 3-2-5 Shikinai, Otaru City

At Tanaka Sake Brewery Kamegokura, you can purchase sake made at a traditional local brewery. Tours are available, and visitors can enjoy tasting sake while learning about the sake production process. A particularly popular product is junmai sake made with rice grown in Hokkaido.

Recommended products

Junmai Sake
Local limited edition sake
Sweets and foods made with sake lees

Local specialties and souvenirs

Hokkaido Cheesecakes

Hokkaido is rich in dairy products, and there are many delicious cheesecakes available. Lutao cheesecakes are especially popular and make great souvenirs.

Shiroi Koibito

Shiroi Koibito, one of Hokkaido’s most popular sweets, is also available in Otaru. The combination of crunchy cookies and white chocolate is exquisite, and is a classic souvenir that anyone will be pleased to receive.

Summary

Otaru Canal is a historical tourist attraction located in Otaru City, Hokkaido, and its beautiful scenery and romantic atmosphere attracts visitors. Today, the contrast between the stone warehouses and the canal creates a beautiful sight that attracts many tourists day and night.
Especially at dusk and at night, gas lamps are lit, making a stroll along the canal even more romantic. A cruise on the Otaru Canal is also a special experience, offering a view of the historic buildings from the water. Furthermore, cafes, restaurants, and stores along the canal make for an enjoyable gourmet and shopping experience. The Otaru Canal is an attractive sightseeing spot with beautiful seasonal scenery and a variety of ways to enjoy the canal.