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Updated by Joanna James on Nov 22, 2019
Headline for 15 Best Things to Do in Otaru – Otaru like you’ve never seen it before
Joanna James Joanna James
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15 Best Things to Do in Otaru – Otaru like you’ve never seen it before

Otaru is among the most beautiful port towns in northern Japan. If you've got a few days to explore, here are our top highlights of Otaru.


The Museum of Boxes

First built in 1902, the music box museum is home to some 25,000 antique music boxes as well as CDs that have music box-esque versions of different songs.


Try the ice cream

Otaru offers some of the wackiest ice cream flavours found in Japan, among them – a Squid Ink Ice Cream, which is delicious and a local delicacy.


Visit the Herring Mansion

A large herring mansion that dates back to the late 19th century stands majestically on a hill just a short drive from central Otaru. Herring Mansions were a popular feature of the town, built and owned by successful fishermen.


Strolls along Otaru Canal

The historic Canal is now lined with cafes and shops in converted old warehouses. The best way of experiencing the canal is to base yourself at a hotel nearby. An Otaru Hotel Near Jr Station set right along the canal and offers great views day and night. There are several good ones available such as the Grand Park Otaru for example.


The Wall Street of Nichigin-dori

Nichigin-dori was once the financial centre of Hokkaidō. To date, it is referred to as the 'Wall Street of the North, for its western styled, 1920s era buildings.


Take a Cruise

A magical way to experience this town is by taking a cruise along the historic canal networks. Cruises run all day, but the best time to take one is either in the early morning or at sunset.


Visit the Canal Museum

Housed in a former warehouse next to the canal, the museum covers the town's past to present history, with references to Hokkaido's native Ainu people.


Try the Local Sake

Sake distilleries dating back to the early 1900s are still in operation, and it's one of the best ways to sample some of the town's local spirit.


Glass Trinkets

Otaru is a city of glassworks. It has several glass factories and museums, which is a great day time activity for the whole family.


Take a Walking Tour

Many old warehouses and former office buildings by shipping and trade companies give Otaru's city centre a special character and transport you back to a bygone era.


Visit a Hokkaido winery

Otaru has quite a few wineries, many of them bear European influence. The wineries themselves offer curated tours which include wine tastings.


Try Sushi!

The town is, after all, a fishing port and the many cafes that line the canals offer some of the freshest sushi you'll ever try.


The Railway Museum

Located outside the main tourist area, this open-air rail yard museum features many full-size trains from various periods.


Visit the local seafood market

Hokkaido's port city Otaru is located northwest of Sapporo on Ishikari Bay. Otaru served as a major trade and fishing port.


Visit the Otaru Hot springs

Northern Japan is renowned for its hot springs, and Otaru does not disappoint. A short drive outside the town will bring you to some magnificent hot springs.

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