Otaru Station, located less than an hour from Sapporo, is the perfect day-trip excursion from the big city. JR Hokkaido offers a number of local, semi-rapid and rapid train services throughout the day and evening to the port city.
Upon arrival at the station you have a couple of options. Conveniently and very intelligently, JR Hokkaido offers tourist information in multiple languages at the station and a bus terminal located ten meters from the main entrance. You can start your day on foot or to other areas of interest by bus. Otaru offers single fare services on the city’s Chuo Bus (¥210) or you can take single trips or purchase a one day pass for the tourist bus – The Otaru City Stroller (¥210 or ¥750 respectively). The Otaru City Stroller stops at most of the prime tourist locations around the area and offers a number of different courses, depending on what you would like to see.
If you prefer, by choice or by limited time constraints, there are a number of places to visit in-and-around the station itself. I started my day by walking 10 minutes down the hill to the Otaru’s famous canal. The area is a highly developed tourist area but in my opinion, is still worth walking around.
Past the canals is the Sakaimachi area where you shop for sweets, souvenirs and have lunch at one of the many restaurants offering fresh, local seafood. I was pleased to find a watch for ¥1000, and then wandered past stores selling bear rugs and kimonos before stopping to pet a “guard dog” of one of the local businesses.
The entire area takes about two hours to view if you are moving at a leisurely pace. One should also be sure to stop in and visit the many museums and stained glass stores in the area, filled with people purchasing trinkets and glassware.
Sweets are also something of a popular item and I couldn’t resist purchasing some salted caramels for my walk around the area. After my morning walk I headed north, eventually stopping for a sashimi lunch before boarding a bus to the Shukutsu Region.
Thankfully, when it was time to head home, the bus took me back to Otaru Station in less than 20 minutes. My day ended where it began and in under an hour I was back in Sapporo.