From Niseko to Otaru
This morning, we bade farewell to Wataru-san and his wife, and thanked them for the wonderful hospitality at Niseko Negula. We’re going to Otaru for the day, a famous historical city and popular vacation spot in Hokkaido. Driving down was not as peaceful as before, because we were slightly later and there was more traffic. Nevertheless we arrived in Otaru safely. It was the first time we needed to actually pay for parking. Singaporeans being Singaporeans, we had to hunt for the cheapest parking lot because it was the first time. But there were simply too many to choose from and we gave up. It costed ¥1,800 for 3 hours, what the heck? We parked somewhat in the middle of Otaru Canal and Sakaimachi Street, so everything is within walking distance. Can’t complain.
The Fabled Otaru Canal
Everybody comes to Otaru for one place. The signature, fabled, Otaru canal. Basically it is a row of stone-walled warehouses on one side of the canal bank and a cobbled stone pathway on the other. Do a Google search for Otaru, and you’ll see perfect scenic shots of what I mean.
Because of what we see on the internet, we had a very high expectation of this place. It seemed very beautiful in every season, and we were hoping to snap beautiful pictures too. However, we got a little disappointed, because in reality the canal didn’t look like what we have seen online. Due to the light snow at this time of the year, the buildings weren’t fully capped in snow yet.
It was disappointing as 90% of the entire place was filled with Chinese tourists. Not being bias, but if you’ve encountered them before, you’ll totally get what I mean. Every single one was crowding at the canal photo-taking like they were Taobao fashion models. And they seemed very OK with random strangers in their pictures. Whatever. It’s not worth the hype at all. We decided to just take pictures of the place and skip the stroll along the canal area.
Otaru Canal Sakaimachi Street
Right next to Otaru Canal, is the Sakaimachi Dori Shopping Street. It used to be a merchant street in the olden days. Now, preserved and converted into a tourist district lined with restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. Most of these souvenir shops sold unique and handmade Japanese crafts and snacks. One of the famous trade in Otaru is glassware – many shops were selling glass related items, like glass bowls, pens, and wind chimes.
As usual, our aim is to find food and more food! The first thing that caught our attention was the Sawawa (茶和々) sweets shop. Back in Kyoto, we tried it for the first time. Likewise, we bought a cup of the famous warabi mochi cubes. It tasted equally delicious. Down the street we saw a stall selling freshly fried croquettes. There’s no resisting piping hot snacks in this cold weather. We bought one of those crab croquettes to share. Somewhat amazed by the speed in which we chomped it down.
We saw a bunch of people crowding at the nearby LeTAO shop. The name rings a bell though, not sure where it originated from. The smaller shop, DANI LeTAO, right beside it was selling some Danish pastries which looked rather interesting. We queued up at this cafe instead, and took-away one of those Fromage Danish. The top layer is covered with Hokkaido cream cheese, while the bottom layer is Italian mascarpone cheese. Oh man this is such a heavenly combo! Do drop by if you’re a fan of cheesecakes!
Kaisen Don-ya Otaru Poseidon, Sakaimachi Street
We straight up ate our way till lunch time. Not sure how we managed this amazing feat. We popped by into one of the restaurants called Kaisen Don-ya Otaru Poseidon. Just like all the other restaurants in Otaru, this cozy shop sells seafood bowls at a pretty reasonable price. We got ourselves a bowl each for about ¥1,400. And we got the counter seats so we could watch the chef perform his magic.
Otaru Canal and Sakaimachi Street are not just about eating though. Next up, we’re going to explore the Music Box Museums and the other random handicraft shops!
Information About Otaru Canal
Address: 5 Minatomachi, Otaru, Hokkaido 047-0007, Japan