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Updated by Joanna James on Jul 30, 2021
Headline for 05 Amazing Things to Do in Otaru – Adventures with Plenty to Discover
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05 Amazing Things to Do in Otaru – Adventures with Plenty to Discover

Located on Japan's second-largest island, Hokkaido, the port city of Otaru has much to offer no matter what time of the year you visit. For a truly enriching experience, here are five things to do that will make for memorable cultural and sightseeing adventures.

1

Take a Stroll Along the Otaru Canal

Once the epicentre of the region's thriving herring industry, the Otaru Canal provides an enchanting location to take a stroll beside the water. Many of the warehouses and old buildings alongside the canal have been converted into cafes, pubs, live music venues and museums which add to the area's charm. Apart from a visit during the day, also look to head here at night when oil lamps provide the area with a romantic glow; if you want to give your feet a rest, there are boat cruises on the canal too.

2

Explore Sakaimachi Street

A great place to soak up some local culture, Sakaimachi Street can be easily reached from hotels such as Grand Park Otaru that are also close to the previously mentioned canal. This former merchant street takes one back to the time when the city was home to many shipping and trading companies; the impressive Western-style buildings are still standing, today used as restaurants, museums and boutiques. There are key attractions to visit here too including the Music Box Museum, Museum of Venetian Art and the Bank of Japan Museum along with fascinating glass workshops.

3

Visit the Otaru Museum

To gain insights into the city's history and heritage, visit the Otaru Museum at two locations including one near the famous canal in Otaru; hotel properties beside the marina are within easy reach of this museum that's within a restored warehouse dating to the late 19th century. Here, you will find captivating exhibits and dioramas that tell the story of the city's herring industry as well as the original Ainu inhabitants of Hokkaido. The second museum site is further away and highlights the history of the railroad including steam locomotives and features old trains too.

4

Take a Trip to the Herring Mansion

Otaru's early development was linked to the herring fishing industry, though most of the fish were used to be processed into fertiliser! During this time, striking herring mansions or 'nishin goten' were constructed by those prospering from this trade and one such building can be visited. Located around 5 km from the city centre, this preserved 19th-century herring mansion offers an enthralling look into the fishing livelihood at that time. Within easy reach of this site is the Aoyama Villa built during the herring fishing industry boom that's worth a visit too.

5

Spend Time at the Otaru Aquarium

Those travelling with kids should visit the Otaru Aquarium where you can witness all manner of marine life. Amongst the key attractions here is the Penguin Walk in winter where you can see cute gentoo penguins stroll across the snow. Other winter highlights include seeing spotted seals in an outdoor pool and Steller sea lions in the sea nearby. During summer, you can view earless seals and Steller sea lions in a pool as well as feed harbour and spotted seals. The site also features a fun dolphin show and has a special area where you can handle starfish, sea urchins and more.

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