Otaru

Where history, snow and the coast meet.

One of Japan’s older port towns, Otaru is steeped in history with plenty of things to see and do. It is also famed for being the snowiest place in Hokkaido and has plenty of easily-accessed mountains less than half an hour away. Visiting Otaru Canal is a must, particularly in winter, when snow shrouds the buildings and pathways surrounding the ancient waterway. Explore the many shopping areas, including Sakaimachi Street offering traditional stores, museums and local specialties. The city also features beautiful natural onsens to rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit.

Whiteroom often visits Otaru as part of a number of our Guided Japan Tours, typically staying at the impressive Grand Park Otaru, overlooking the harbour with snow-covered boats and jetties.

 

The below listings are just a small selection of what is on offer in Otaru…

There are plenty of fun mountains around Otaru, boasting the highest average annual snowfall anywhere in Japan. The resorts are small, and typically don’t offer accommodation on-mountain, but as they are so close to Otaru, you’re best bet is to stay in Otaru and head to the mountains from there.
Join a Whiteroom Guided Tour to get the most out of your time in the powder, and let our guides show you the best spots of these awesome mountains.

OUR TOP PICKS

Kokusai
Hidden in the mountains between Sapporo and Kutchan, Kokusai is well off the beaten track and practically deserted. However, that is not because it lacks terrain in any way. Kokusai has some fantastic off-piste powder zones for all abilities.

Teine
This is a great little resort located 40 minutes from downtown Sapporo and about the same from Otaru. Little known by foreigners, Teine has some awesome terrain off its main high-speed quad. With views to the coast, you can get heavy systems coming straight off the sea and unloading their snow-laden clouds directly onto to Teine.

Kiroro
Located between Niseko and Otaru this little gem has some great terrain hidden just off and in between its piste areas. If you didn’t know where to drop off the run you’d completely miss the deep stuff. What’s more, it consistently gets the most snow of any resort in Hokkaido.

  • Adding an Otaru and/or Sapporo stopover to your Niseko ski holiday. Or you can visit Otaru from Niseko on a rest day.
  • Visit during the Snow Festival period if possible so you can combine the Sapporo Snow Festival and Otaru Snow Light Path Festival. Both are held each year in early February and is a magical time to be in either city.
  • For those of you into arts and crafts you’ll enjoy wandering the various shops and buying some local goods. You may even be able to watch some artisans blowing glass trinkets in their workshops.
  • Eat seafood! Being by the coast this is an excellent opportunity to try some of the freshest and best seafood – think crab and lots of different types of sushi and sashimi. Ask your hotel for their best local recommendation.
  • For those of you keen to visit Kiroro, Kokusai and/or Teine from Otaru we advise hiring a car as this is the easiest way to travel in the area. If you’re into backcountry skiing we advise you book a private guided package and our guides will meet you in Otaru and guide you around the area, package this with some time in Niseko or Central Hokkaido and get to see the best on offer in Hokkaido!

 

Attractions:

  • Otaru Canal – Snaking its way along the coast of the city, this provides beautiful sightseeing in any season.
  • Sakaimachidori Street – Famous for its eclectic range of traditional shops and stores, including LeTAO sweet shop, music box museum and glass workshop.
  • Asarigawa Onsen Village – An unbeatable stop to rejuvenate after a big few days skiing. The natural hot springs are surrounded by well-manicured gardens.
  • Rinya Morning Market – showcasing the very best seafood, fresh from the Sea of Japan and other fantastic fresh produce.
  • Tanaka Sake brewery – Gain a new appreciation for the humble rice wine of Japan with a private tour and tasting at Tanaka.
  • Nikka Distillery – In the neighbouring town of Yoichi, experience the flavours of Japanese Whisky at its best.

Otaru is about 90kms north west of Hokkaido’s New Chitose Airport. Best ways to travel to/from are below:

  • Private transfer 1 1/2~2hrs.
  • Train (via Sapporo) 1 1/4hrs (see www.hyperdia.com for timetables).
  • Hire car 1 1/2hrs – great option for those who want to visit multiple resorts in Southern Hokkaido.