Otaru is a port city that is facing Ishikari Bay, located in Shiribeshi, Hokkaido, Japan. The city is one of the most popular tourist destinations around Hokkaido and is in only 25 minutes of driving from Sapporo. Some attractions such as beautiful canal lined by old warehouses, the lit-up path at night, Herring mansion and Whisky distillery in the neighbouring city can be found in the 243.13 km square area.
Otaru Canal was built within nine years and completed in 1923. The canal is 1.14 km long and 40 meters wide. The canal was crowded with a small vessel which transported goods from the bigger vessel to the warehouse along the canal, but since the modern dock facilities were built, the canal hasn’t been used anymore. In the 1980s, a citizen transformed the canal into a tourist destination by building the walking paths along the side of the canal, then installed 63 gas lights following the waking paths, and transformed the warehouses into a museum, shops and restaurants.
Otaru Snow Light Path Festival (小樽雪あかりの路 – Otaru Yuki Akari no Michi) is an annual festival held in February in Otaru. During the festival, Otaru becomes a light city of small snow statues lit up from the inside. There are two main areas of the festival: Unga Kaijo and Temiyasen Kaijo which get lit up from 17:00 to 21:00 every night.
Nikka Whisky is a whisky maker and the main distillery in Yoichi, the neighboring city of Otaru. The distillery was built in 1934. Yoichi Distillery offers tours to visitors to see how Nikka Whisky is created. You can also taste three brands of Nikka Whisky products for free there.
There are two tour types:
- Guided distillery tour
– The tour will be guided by a Japanese-speaker
– Hours: 9:00 – 16:30 (9:00 – 12:00, and 13:00 – 15:30). The tours are conducted every 30 minutes.
– Facilities on the tour are open until 17:00.
– Fee: free
- Self-guided distillery tour
– Visitors may explore freely with the guide map
– Hours: 9:00 – 17:00
– Fee: free
Herring Mansions (鰊御殿) were built during the heyday of herring fishing by wealthy fishermen to process the fish in it, and as a residence for themselves and their employees. There is a large herring mansion standing on a hill about five kilometers from the central of Otaru which currently is opened to public. A luxurious villa, Former Aoyama Villa (旧青山別邸) was built about a kilometre away from the herring mansion.
- Herring Mansion:
– Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (until 16:00 from mid-October to late November)
– Closed : Late November to early April
– Fee: 300 yen
- Former Aoyama Villa:
– Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (until 16:00 from January to March)
– Closed:1st – 7th of January
– Fee: 1080 yen
Since Otaru Canal wasn’t used anymore, the warehouses around were converted into various shops, cafes, museums and restaurants. Sakaimachi Street is a merchant street in the central Otaru.