11 Days 9 Nights Hokkaido Self Drive Trip – Otaru (Part 3)

After a tiring day of non-stop snowboarding & skiing in Niseko, we left our hotel in the evening heading to our next destination which is Otaru. You can read our previous Hakodate (Part 1) and Lake Toya & Niseko (Part 2).

Otaru is a small port city northwest of Sapporo on Ishikari Bay. famous for its beautifully preserved canal & filled with plenty old warehouses that have been converted to well decorated commercial shops. It is said Otaru has more than 100 sushi shops making it one of the best place to indulge sushi at a reasonable price in Hokkaido.

hokkaidoDistance from Niseko to Otaru

The journey from Niseko to Otaru took us approx 2 hours. Although driving in the evening, we still find it a comfortable drive albeilt we were driving slower than the speed limit. We arrived Otaru at night and checked in to our Airbnb accommodation. (Extra RM60 discount when you sign up Airbnb HERE).

Otaru is very compact and you can reach most attractions by walk. Hence driving is not really needed here unless you plan to visit outskirt such as Nikka Distillery.

OtaruOtaru Canal

Otaru Canal

The Otaru Canal (小樽運河) was an important link for smaller boats to load goods & transport them to the warehouse from large vessels in the first half of the 20th century. However, when modern docking facilities were introduced, the canal became obsolete & now has become the main attraction of Otaru.

OtaruWe kinda block the attraction >.<




When visiting Otaru, remember to come with an empty stomach as you will be eating throughout the day here. Like Penang, one day is insufficient to try all their famous delicacies, attraction wise you can complete within a day.

We started our food journey with a visit to Waraku Kaiten Sushi located just opposite the Otaru Canal. Frequented mainly by locals & ad hoc tourists like us, Waraku offers a wide range of sushi at a reasonable price.

Flying all the way to Japan, we intended to gobble up as many Chutoro & Otoro as we can. Both are rarely available in Malaysia, very expensive & poorer in quality. Chutoro & Otoro is the belly part of Tuna which literally melts in your mouth. If you love salmon, Chutoro & Otoro offers more satisfaction.

Just a quick note, Chutoro is medium fatty belly while Otoro is the fattiest belly. Depending on each outlet sometimes Chutoro tastes better than Otoro or vice versa.

Waraku OtaruWaraku Kaiten Sushi Otaru

OtaruMelt in your mouth Otoro

Waraku OtaruLipsmacking Anago

Waraku OtaruChutoro, Fried Ika, Abalone sushi & Chicken Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken)

Another main attraction to visit in Otaru is Sakaimachi Street where all the famous shops such as Music Box Museum, Le Tao Cafe, Kitakaro 北菓楼, Rokkatei 六花亭 (overrated) are located.

There are also plenty of fresh seafood vendors offering fresh seafood such as King Crab & scallops. Once purchased, they will grill it immediately for your consumption.

Otaru Sakaimachi Street


LeTao, a fairly new pastry shop opened in 1998 is renowned for their very addictive Double Fromage cheesecake. Originate in Otaru, their flagship store is along Sakaimachi street.

There is no LeTao cafe in Sapporo or Chitose, only takeaway store. Hence Otaru is the place you can dine in LeTao cafe.

LeTaoLeTao Double Fromage Cheesecake

The Double Fromage Cheesecake consists of 2 layers. The upper layer is light & milky unbaked cheesecake while the bottom is made of soft yet rich cheesecake.

Kitakaro OtaruAnother 2 famous souvenir shop Rokkatei 六花亭 (which we find overrated) & Kitakaro 北菓楼 famous for its cream puff.

OtaruOtaru Canal in the evening

OtaruOtaru Canal at night

After Otaru, the last & final stop of our Hokkaido trip will be Sapporo. With 4 nights in Sapporo, we are ensured we can relax & in no rush to cover its attractions.

Hokkaido Blog

We have started to blog our Hokkaido Self Drive Trip, feel free to read the blog for our full travel experiences in Hokkaido.

Hokkaido Car Rental

We did a self-drive trip in Hokkaido which we were glad we did especially during winter and visiting small cities. Driving made our trip much more comfortable and convenient. We rented our Car Rental online from ToCoo!

If you are planning to drive a few days, rent from companies that offer Hokkaido Highway Pass which allows unlimited expressway with fix fare on certain highways. Do note not all car rental companies offer this.

Read: How to Rent a Car in Hokkaido

Note: An international driving license is needed to rent a car in Japan.

ToCooClick the picture to book

About Tommy Ooi 612 Articles
Luxury Hotel Reviewer & Destination Blogger. Passionate for travel, exploring new culture & indulging divine food, Tommy has traveled to 42 countries & 140+ destinations.


  1. Thanks for sharing Tommy. Have not visited Japan. Planning to do so but do not know when. May need advice from you.

  2. Hi,
    What is the best time for winter vacation there (what month) ? Any tips to get cheap fight ticket? Tq

    • Hi I think Feb & March should be nice month.. March is cheaper but Feb has the Sapporo Ice Festival.. Book ur flight early & follow our facebook page for more promo

  3. Hi,

    1) May I know Nissan note is big enough for 4 person with luggage ?
    2) It is easy to find gas station along the road ?
    3) It is problem to find parking lot in Otaru ?

    • Hi Carmen, 1. Yes enough for 4 pax with 2 28″ big luggage. 2. Yes like malaysia highway 3. Yes if u overnight in Otaru better stay near Otaru Canal & park your car at hotel or apartment as it is mostly a walking street, many pay car park as well (just more expensive)

  4. Hi….
    We planning to go Hokkaido this coming October…
    In my itinerary also have incl Lake Toya….
    may i know….
    The attractions & Thing to do in Lake Toya ?

    p/s : we are not self drive trip

    Thank you very much =)

    • Hi Jamie, Lake toya is an attraction itself, you can take a ferry to a small island in the middle of Lake Toya & onsen. Without car is hard to manouver around Lake Toya, so better stay near the lake

  5. Hi,
    How do you return your rented car early in the morning? I will be taking 0855 airasia flight, I believe most of the office still close when I reach airport.

    • Hi Kathy, our flight time is the same as yours, most office should be open around 5 or 6am.. I drop all passenger & luggage at airport so they can check in first b4 return the car which is 5 mins drive away

  6. Hi, do you recommend on Toyota Rent a Car?Because i will be staying at misono, sapporo and the areas provided by TooCoo at sapporo are all too far away〈since i will not using train and will only search by areas.If u do recommend on toyota rent a car, can i get the car on the spot when i do reservation? Thanks for your help.

  7. Hi Tommy, we have 4 of us will be travelling to most of the places you covered in Hokkaido in this coming february. We would like to rent the same car nissan note thus would appreciate some advice from you. is it sufficient to fit in 4 luggages and perhaps some spare space for 1 or 2 cabin bag. Also,you have recommended to get highway unlimited access plan…we tried searching but couldn’t find it. Grateful if you could help on this! Lastly, how much total you ve spent on the fuel ya? Many thanks!

    • Hi Ellen, our trip uses 2 full tanks plus. Nope only 2 large luggage can fit in. So we share 2 pax 1 luggage. Only selected car rental offer the Hokkaido Expressway Plan

  8. Hi, read your blog.It’s informative.I would like to check which month exactly were you in Hokkaido? How was the driving experience during the winter season? I am concern of the of slippery road.

  9. Hi Tommy, thanks for sharing. We are planning to visit Hokkaido and Tokyo in March 2017. If we only have 5 days in Hokkaido, which places and attractions do you recommend most? I’ll be travelling with 1 4yo kid. Many thanks in advance.

  10. Hi,

    Wonderful post! May I know what were your travel dates?
    We intend to visit the same areas you have visited from 15 dec-24 dec this year. Can we expect the same amount of snow? We love snow!

    Thank you!

  11. Hi Tommy,

    I stumbled across your 3-part blog posts while researching on where to visit in Hokkaido in second half of this December. We have about 3, maybe 4 days in Hokkaido (not including travelling to Hokkaido or leaving Hokkaido). Too many places look so good: Hakodate, Niseko, Lake Toya, Noribetsu – would you mind recommending which cities we should definitely visit or prioritize?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Amy, is a pity you have so little days there.. Depends if you plan to come back to explore more. If yes maybe can go Hakodate, Lake Toya & Sapporo and next round Noboribetsu, Otaru, Niseko, Asahiyama & Sapporo

  12. Hi Tommy,

    My family of 4 is planninng to self drive to Hokkaido in end Dec 2016. May I know is it safe to self drive? What kind of car we should rent and what to look out? We have booked the air-tickets to arrive and depart at New Chitose Airport. How to plan our itinerary for ten days? For your kind advise, please.

    Thank you.


    • Hi Jennifer you can follow our itinerary, yes it very recommended to self drive. Just drive 50% slower than usual in malaysia or singapore. And be very careful of black ice.

      • Hi Tommy, thanks for the great blog. May I know roughly when will your Sapporo blog be available. We are a group of 8 friends planning to visit Hokkaido in August. We have 8 suitcases and likely 8 hand carry luggage to manage. I am wondering if the streets in the towns going to be challenging to manoeuvre and park if we rent a mini bus/van. We have not decided if we will self-drive or hire a driver for the trip.

  13. Hi Tommy,

    Great blog! very informative, do you have any other restaurant recommendations for Otaru? We were thinking of heading over in Jan.

  14. Hi Tommy , what’s the airbnb hotel you stay in Otaru? You mind share it?
    We a family of 5 will be travelling from 21/12 to 27/12 next month. Plan to stay 1 night in Otaru airbnb and 1 night in Sapporo airbnb

  15. Hi tommy,
    Great blog on Japan!! I would be travelling to Hokkaido in February and the trains to most parts of eastern Hokkaido is now under repair. Would like to get your opinion if I could self drive to Tomamu, Lake Akan and Kushiro? I’d paid for the accommodations. There are sites saying it’s suicida, but what’s your opinion like? Self driving would be something much preferable for my trip, actually (3 children).


    • Hi Jaime, self drive is definitely a good choice especially in winter. However please drive 50% slower as there is also danger of skidding. If you are vigilant, then driving is much more comfortable

  16. Hi Tommy , is Part 4 about Sapporo of your blog out yet ?
    btw, great blog on your trips , very detailed and informative !

  17. Hi tommy, your blog is very comprehensive and it really helps me in planning my own itinerary. Thank you 🙂 I have a question hoping that you can offer me your piece of advise. I will be going to Hokkaido from 1st April to 10th April 2017 and I intending to self drive through out my trip. I was planning to go Niseko on the 2nd day as my flight will only reach New Chitose at 5pm so I don’t want to drive to Niseko immediately as it will be kind of late by the time I reach Niseko. Is there any place where would you recommend me to go and stay for my 1st night which is on the way to Niseko and yet not too far away from New Chitose Airport? Your recommendation will be much appreciated. 🙂

  18. Visiting Sapporo this February for the ice festival. Please post the next parts of the trip! 🙂 Thank you, Tommy. Your blog is super cool.

  19. Hello Tommy,

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    Do you know how much have you paid for the toll fee in total? I understand that some car rental company do offer highway express pass, however I’m not quite sure how expensive is the toll fee in Hokkaido.

    They charged about RM300 for 5 days highway pass. Is it better to pay cash or by highway pass?

    Thanks for your advice in advance!!

  20. Hi Tommy, may i know how much is the fare for car rental for 9 days include insurance, HEP fees & misc fee?

  21. Hi Tommy

    Thank you for sharing your well-documented itinerary! We are thinking of self-driving Hokkaido this December, and if I may be so shameless, would you have word or excel version which you can share?

    Thanks in advance!

  22. Hi Tommy,

    Your blog is very informative and helps a lot in my trip planning. I will be travelling with airasia from KL as well and the flight time is similar to your. Would like to check, as the return flight to KL is at 9.20am, and most of the car rental open 7/8am. Is the time sufficient to return the car at airport? Or you have returned the car earlier in Sapporo?

    • Hi Ong, this is what we did, I dropped off my siblings and luggage at airport. So they went to queue for check in while I return it and took shuttle back to airport. Yeah made it in time as most car rental opens from 5am onwards

  23. Hi Toomy,

    I am planning a family trip to Hokkaido in End Nov for 6 person, for 9D8N.
    Not very keen on self driving otherwise it may get too tired for my dad.

    Do you think we can still travel around without a car? Apart from staying in Sapporo and Otaru, where will still be possible to travel without a car?
    Do we need to change hotel according to locations?


    • Hi it is more convenient to travel with car but u can try without. Sapporo and Otaru doesnt need car. Niseko as well. The rest will be slight troublesome

  24. Hi Tommy, thank you for the extensive information about traveling in Hokkaido. I’m planning 8 days 7 nights trip to Hokkaido in mid of Jan. Is it alright to travel in this month and self drive around. Would you be able to share with me what are the places that i must cover during my 8 days trip in Hokkaido. thank you

  25. Hi Tommy,

    Thanks for the sharing about travelling in Hokkaido. I am going to Hokkaido with my family, altogether 5 of adult and 1 infant next year June (5th to 13th). Here is my plan, do you think it’s doable? Any comments?

    6th:Hokkaido Shin Chitose airport)》 Noboribetsu Jigokudani 》 Hakodate
    8th:Hakodate 》 Lake Toya
    9th:Lake Toya 》 Furano
    10th:Furano 》 Asahiyama Zoo 》 Biei
    11th:Furano 》 Sapporo
    12th:Sapporo 》 Otaru
    13th:Sapporo 》 Hokkaido Shin Chitose airport 》Kuala Lumpur

    We would like to rent a 6-seater car with child seat from 5th to 11th June. Does Toocoo have child seat for rent as well? I try to search through TooCoo website, but it shows no result.

    Thank you.

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