Snowed under in Hokkaido
A seafood lover’s paradise near Sapporo, steeped in historic charm
A VISIT to Otaru is a trip back in time to nineteenth-century Japan. Beautifully maintained European heritage buildings constructed during this era still line its picturesque canal district, and on the inside, yield many unique and tasty discoveries.
A fishing port close to Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital, Otaru is now not just popular for its traditional exports of great seafood, sake and skiing: the city is also known for its beautiful local glassware and craft beer.
Just a ten-minute walk from JR Otaru Station down Chūō-dōri, the main street of Otaru, the city’s canal district is the location of its winter centrepiece, the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival. Held over nine days in February, the festival features an enchanting regatta of hundreds of candles on the water, lighting up the snow-blanketed streets with a warm orange glow.
The heavy snowfall of Otaru and its nearby mountains earned it the honour of being selected as the venue of Japan’s first ever national skiing event, the All-Japan Ski Championships, in 1923. Today, Otaru Tenguyama Ski Resort, Asarigawa Onsen Winter Resort and Snow Cruise Onze are all enjoyed by skiers and snowboarders for their magnificent views and night-time scenery.
Asarigawa Onsen Winter Resort is just a ten-minute walk from local hot spring accommodation, while Otaru Tenguyama Ski Resort features the interesting cultural site of Tenguyama Shrine – in addition to one of Hokkaido’s top-three night views. Snow Cruise Onze is open until 11 pm for night skiing, also with a fabulous view of the city lights.
Otaru is quite easy to get to from major transport hubs on Hokkaido: it’s just 50 minutes by car or 30 minutes by train from Sapporo, and 90 minutes from Niseko by car, or 120 minutes by train – a great day trip or longstayer on a snow holiday.
A TOWN OF TASTY DELIGHTS
The city of Otaru was ranked top 3 in the nationwide ranking of towns and cities with the best food. This is largely thanks to the abundance of fresh produce that is available in Otaru. Being a port city, fresh sushi and seafood rice bowls are the most popular dishes available, but there are plenty of other tasty delights unique to the city available too. Try the ‘Shiribeshi Cotriard’ – a tasty french soup made with flavoursome seafood stock or the generously portined Otaru Ankake (thick sauce) Fried Soba to mix it up. Of course, you’ll easily find local foods and the staple Japanese favourites like Japanese BBQ, Yakitori chicken and sweets to keep your meal time delicious and exciting.
LOCALLY BREWED BEER, SAKE AND WINE
Added to the great selection of food available in Otaru, the city also has not only a local Saké brewery, the Tanaka Shuzō, but you can also sample the local flavours at the Otaru Beer brewery and the Hokkaido Wine winery. Hop on over to the neighbouring town of Yoichi if you’re into whisky to visit the Whisky distillery. Otaru is rich in nature and fresh clean air which produces the underground water of Tengu Mountain. This allows the breweries to create high quality alcohol. Be sure to sample as many local flavours as possible.
SIDE BY SIDE WITH NATURE
Otaru is a small city surrounded by nature. You can reach the ocean easily by car from city centre and the beaches are fantastic in summer. Mountains look down to the city and the oceans from three directions. This means that skier and snowboarders can enjoy ocean views during winter. The mountains are also great for hiking during the warmer months as well.
OTARU TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRES
To get the best local information, along with free maps and brochures on the highlights of Otaru, head over to one of the city’s three tourist information centres. They are located at JR Otaru Station, Canal Plaza and Asakusa Bridge, and are open 9:00-18:00 daily.
Grand Park Otaru
Grand Park Otaru is the only international luxury hotel in Otaru, offering magnificent view of Ishikari Bay from spacious guest rooms and restaurants.
The 18-storey hotel is adjacent to Wing Bay Otaru, one of Hokkaido’s largest shopping malls, which is connected to the JR Otaru Chikko station. The capital city of Sapporo is an easy 35 kilometres away and the New Chitose Airport can be reached by rapid train within 70 minutes.
Otaru, surrounded by the ocean and mountains, blessed with riches of soil and sea, offering superb dining with fresh ingredients, which has been recognized as one of highlights not to be missed. Guests can also expect the presentation made by the foods using seafood harvested in the sea around, to create more colourful stay.
This Otaru hotel is also in close proximity to top-notch ski resorts.
Make Grand Park Otaru your choice hotel when you travel to Hokkaido.