Otaru (小樽) is one of the main tourist hotspots in Hokkaido, well known all over Japan for its lovely, quiet canal. While there are plenty of tour buses and touristy shops, the town has a really laid-back feel and is definitely worth a visit.

Budget travel

  • Pick up a free map from the station before you leave it, it’s all you need. Make sure you mark the highlights below!
  • Otaru is best done as a side trip from Sapporo, and can all be easily done in a day. Save some money with the Sapporo-Otaru Welcome Pass.

Things to do

Otaru Canal

Spectacular any time of the day, but particularly at night when it’s lit up, Otaru Canal is a relaxing place to take a stroll. A must-see in Otaru, there are some interesting shops along the canal, so be sure to visit both sides.

North Canal

Most tourists don’t go up here, but there are some interesting old canal buildings here, such as an old municipal hall and a few interesting cafes. Just walk north up Otaru Canal until the end.

Sakaimachi Street

The main shopping street in Otaru, with loads of shops for souvenirs and local food or drinks. Many of the shops have free samples, so go inside the interesting ones even if they look a bit pricey.

Nichigin Street

A former powerhouse of trade and commerce, this street is full of interesting architecture from the time when it was called the ‘Wall Street of the north’.

Former Temiya Railway (FREE)

These few sections of the track are all that remain of this railway.  It’s a cool place to check out and have a walk down on route to one of the other highlights.

Otaru Tower

Funny little collection of tightly packed bars and cafes surrounding an old tower. Try some of the special multi-coloured ice cream!

How to get there

From Sapporo station, take the train to Otaru station (32 mins, 640 yen).


Recommended hostels and cheap hotels

The Otarunai Backpackers Hostel Morinoki

More central hostel than Emina Backpackers, and with slightly lower prices. Nice atmosphere, and appears to be all nice and clean. Check prices at Booking.com

Emina Backpackers

Cheap dorm rooms, so great for those on a tight budget. A little bit of a walk from the action (or noise, depending on your opinion), but not too far. Check prices at Booking.com

More at Booking.com

Published by Matthew Baxter

Japan travel writer and onsen addict