I had three days to spend in Hokkaido, and upon plotting my itinerary, I saw that two days in Sapporo was enough. I then decided to do a day trip to Otaru, which is less than an hour away from Sapporo by train. Although it was raining the morning I went, I didn’t let the rain stop me from seeing (and eating) what the quaint town has to offer.
GETTING TO OTARU
Getting to Otaru was easy—from Sapporo Station, I simply hopped onto a train bound for Otaru. Several trains ply the Sapporo-Otaru (and back) route every hour, with the rapid trains taking 30 minutes and the local trains taking 45 minutes.
Visitors to Otaru love Sakaimachi Street for its restaurants, shops, cafes, and museums that are housed in preserved buildings. People most especially flock to its shops that sell delicacies—all of which I didn’t hesitate to try.
My first stop there was LeTAO, which is housed in a beautifully ornate tower at one end of the street. I tried slices of its world-famous cheesecakes, which although expensive, are some of the best ones I’ve ever had.
My next stop, just right across LeTAO, was the Music Box Museum, and to say it’s quirky would be an understatement. Inside, as the name suggests, are thousands of music boxes from small ones that can be bought as souvenirs to large ones that serve as display pieces.
Another must-try in Otaru is the soft-serve ice cream made from Hokkaido’s famous fresh milk. One store sells a humungous cone with 8 flavors of soft-serve. Reeling from all the sweets I’ve already had, I settled for a smaller cone, and it was to die for.
I continued walking along the street, admiring the its many picture-worthy buildings. By then, the rain had already stopped, so it was a pleasant stroll.
Serving as Otaru’s centerpiece is Otaru Canal, which used to be part of city’s busy port during the earlier 20th century. Honestly, there’s not much to it, but the old warehouses that line it make the canal a picturesque spot. Nearby to it are more heritage buildings, including the tourist information center, which has a replica of the famous Hachiko the dog.
A bit far of a walk from Otaru Canal is the Railway Museum, which forms part of the Otaru City Museum. Located along the first railway tracks that used to connect Otaru Port to the rest of Hokkaido, the open-air museum fascinatingly features actual trains from different times. Dioramas and exhibits on how trains are a vital part of Otaru’s development are housed in a building.
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