Otaru Travel Guide

Discover the picturesque Otaru town in the Hokkaido region of Japan with this comprehensive travel guide. Find the best places to visit, food and drink scene, where to stay, and more.

Introduction to Otaru

Otaru is a picturesque town located in the Hokkaido region of Japan. It’s known for its historical significance, rich culture, charming canals, and beautiful scenery. The town was once a bustling port city that served as a hub for trade, and its heritage is reflected in the many historical buildings and museums. Tourists can enjoy various activities, such as hiking, skiing, and snowboarding, as well as exploring the town’s unique food and drink scene.

This comprehensive Otaru travel guide will help you plan your trip to this beautiful town by covering everything from places to visit, where to stay, and what to eat.

List of Places to Visit in Otaru

If you’re planning a trip to Otaru, there are plenty of places to see and things to do. From culturally important landmarks and natural attractions to hiking and biking routes, here are some of the must-visit places in Otaru.

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Otaru Music Box Museum: The museum showcases a variety of traditional Japanese and Western-style musical instruments and music boxes. It’s a great place to learn about the history of music boxes and their significance in Japanese culture.

  • Otaru City Museum: The museum displays items related to the city’s history, including old photographs, documents, and artifacts from the area’s early days.

  • Sakaimachi Street: The street is a well-preserved historical district lined with beautiful old stone buildings, cafes, and shops. It’s a great place to stroll through the historical buildings and shop for souvenirs.

  • Otaru Canal: The canal is a picturesque waterway lined with beautiful stone warehouses and old-fashioned gas lamps. Visitors can take a leisurely boat ride along the canal or enjoy a romantic walk by the water.

Natural Attractions of Otaru: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Mount Tengu: The mountain is a popular hiking spot that offers stunning panoramic views of the town below. It’s also a great spot for skiing and snowboarding in the winter months.

  • Shakotan Peninsula: The peninsula offers beautiful views of the coast and has several beautiful beaches for swimming and sunbathing.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Otaru

Otaru offers plenty of hiking and biking routes for outdoor enthusiasts. Some of the most popular routes include the Otaru Nature Walk, the Asarigawa Cycling Road, and the Santomari Nature Trail. These trails offer breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and forests, as well as opportunities to spot local wildlife.

Best Things to Do in Otaru: Activities and Tours

Apart from exploring the town’s many cultural and natural attractions, there are plenty of fun activities and tours to experience in Otaru. Some of the best things to do in Otaru include:

  • Sake brewery tour: Otaru is known for its delicious local sake, and visitors can take a tour of the town’s many sake breweries to learn about the brewing process and sample some of the local varieties.

  • Snowshoeing: During the winter months, visitors can enjoy snowshoeing through the beautiful snow-covered forests and mountains around Otaru.

Week-Long Itinerary for Otaru

If you’re planning a week-long stay in Otaru, here’s a suggested itinerary to help you make the most of your trip:

Day Activities
Day 1 Explore the Otaru Canal and historical warehouses of Sakaimachi Street
Day 2 Take a hike up Mount Tengu for breathtaking views of the town
Day 3 Take a day trip to the nearby Shakotan Peninsula to enjoy the beach
Day 4 Visit the Otaru Music Box Museum and Otaru City Museum
Day 5 Take a tour of the town’s many sake breweries and try some local sake
Day 6 Enjoy a snowshoeing adventure through the winter wonderland
Day 7 Relax and enjoy the local food and drink scene before departing

Food and Drink Scene of Otaru

Otaru has a fantastic food and drink scene, with plenty of local delicacies to try. Some of the must-try dishes include:

Must-Try Dishes

  • Kaisen don: A traditional Japanese seafood rice bowl that’s a specialty of the Hokkaido region.

  • Uni (sea urchin) dishes: Hokkaido is known for its delicious uni, which can be found in many dishes, including sushi and pasta.

Local Beverages

  • Sake: Otaru has an abundance of sake breweries that produce some of the best sake in Japan. Be sure to try some local varieties during your stay.

  • Beer: Hokkaido is known for its excellent beer, with several local breweries producing top-quality brews.

Where to Stay in Otaru: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Otaru offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences. Some of the best places to stay in Otaru include:

  • Grand Park Otaru: A luxurious hotel located in the heart of the town, offering beautiful views of the canal.

  • Otaru Guesthouse Harvest: A cozy and affordable guesthouse that’s perfect for backpackers and budget travelers.

  • Guesthouse Otaru Nupuri: This charming guesthouse is located in a peaceful residential area, offering a taste of local life.

What to Buy in Otaru: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Otaru is known for its beautiful glassworks and music boxes, which make great souvenirs to bring home. The town has many shops where visitors can purchase these locally-made products, as well as other unique Japanese handicrafts and snacks.

Local Culture and Customs of Otaru

Otaru has a rich cultural heritage that’s reflected in the town’s many historical landmarks, museums, and festivals. Visitors should be respectful of the local customs, such as taking off their shoes when entering a home or temple, and following proper etiquette when dining and greeting others.

Best Time to Visit Otaru

Otaru is a year-round destination, with something to offer visitors in every season. The best time to visit depends on what you’re looking for. During the winter months, visitors can enjoy skiing and snowboarding, as well as the town’s famous Snow Light Path Festival. Spring and fall offer milder weather, making it an ideal time for hiking and exploring the outdoors. The summer months are perfect for beach trips and water sports.

Do’s and Don’ts of Otaru


  • Try the local delicacies and drinks, including sake and seafood dishes.

  • Take off your shoes when entering a home or temple, as is customary in Japanese culture.


  • Wear shoes indoors, as this is considered disrespectful.

  • Disrespect the local culture or customs.

Safety and Health

Safety in Otaru

Otaru is a safe town, with a low crime rate, making it a great destination for solo travelers, families, and couples.

Health in Otaru

Hokkaido has excellent healthcare facilities, and visitors should have no problems finding medical care should they need it. It’s advisable to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies during your stay.

Getting to Otaru: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Otaru

The nearest airports to Otaru are New Chitose Airport and Asahikawa Airport. Both airports offer regular flights from major cities in Japan and several international destinations.

Bus Stations Near Otaru

Otaru has a well-connected bus network that makes it easy to travel around town and to nearby destinations.

Other Options

Visitors can also take a train from Sapporo or Hakodate, both of which offer regular services to Otaru.

How to Get Around in Otaru

Otaru is a compact town that’s easy to explore on foot or by bicycle. There are also buses and taxis available for those who prefer not to walk.

Where to Go Next from Otaru: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

Nearby destinations that are worth a visit include Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido, and the nearby ski resorts of Niseko and Rusutsu.


Otaru is a beautiful town that’s rich in culture, history, and natural attractions. Whether you’re a history buff, an outdoor adventurer, or a foodie, there’s something for everyone in Otaru. Use this comprehensive guide to plan your next trip to this charming town in Hokkaido, Japan.