Hokkaido Winter Self Drive Travel – Otaru 小樽

We drove from Kushiro to Otaru. The journey took us about 5 hours with a stop in Obihiro for dinner.

Otaru (小樽) 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 enjoy sushi at a reasonable price in Hokkaido.

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. We left our car at the hotel and walked the whole day around Otaru.

Kushiro to Otaru

One of the highway rest stop

Otaru Attractions

1. Otaru Canal (小樽運河)

The Otaru Canal 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.

The warehouses along the canal are now converted into distinctive restaurants, cafes, brewery and souvenir shops

Otaru Times Garten – Well designed cafe with canal view

Otaru Beer Brewery

2. Sakaimachi Street

Sakaimachi Street is an attractive, preserved merchant street in central Otaru 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 restaurants and fresh seafood vendors offering seafood such as King Crab & scallops. Once purchased, they will grill it immediately for your consumption.

3. Kitaichi Glass

The makers of glass buoys shifted to producing refined glassware when the herring fishing industry declined in the 1950s. Otaru has then gained the reputation for its exquisite & refine glassware, attracting many tourists to its glass shops. There are several shops offer glass making session for visitors to make their own cups, bowls or vases for around 2,500 JPY.

Otaru Must Try Food

1. Wakadori Jidai Naruto Honten

While researching for must eat food in Otaru, we came across Naruto. Our initial perception was it is just a fried chicken, how good it can be? Boy, were we wrong! The well-marinated spring chicken is perfectly fried to golden with soybean oil. This resulted in the chicken with crisp skin and juicy & tender meat.

Address: 3 Chome-16-16-13 Inaho, Otaru, Hokkaido 047-0032, Japan

Opening Hours: 11.00 am to 8.30 pm

What to order: Fried Half Chicken and Karaage Chicken

2. Le Tao Double Frommage

LeTao is renowned for its very addictive double fromage cheesecake. It is the best we had so far. Originate in Otaru, their flagship store is along Sakaimachi street. There is no LeTao cafe in Sapporo or Chitose, only takeaway store.

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

There are 3 Le Tao shops in Otaru, the first is the main branch with LeTao Cafe above it and the other one LeTao Pathos, a casual cafe. The difference is the LeTao Cafe above the main branch requires minimum spending while LeTao Pathos has no minimum spending.

3. Waraku Kaiten Sushi

We always dined at Waraku Kaiten Sushi when visiting Otaru. The sushi shop mainly frequented by locals is located just opposite the Otaru Canal. 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. 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.

4. COMSEN 小樽運河食堂

COMSEN offers all you can eat Alaskan King Crab BBQ buffet at 6,000 JPY per pax for 2 hours. It is definitely worth the money if you are planning to eat lots of Alaskan King Crab. The tips for this buffet is to cut the king crab and grill the meat without the shell to allow faster cooking time.

Eat all you can Alaskan King Crab

Address: 6-5 Minatomachi, Otaru, Hokkaido 047-0007, Japan

5. Rainbow Softserve

The rainbow soft-serve not only taste good but also very instagrammable. The shop is located on Sakaimachi Street.

The shop

6. Kitakaro 北菓楼

Kitakaro is one of the famous souvenir shops in Otaru. They are famous for their cream puff.


1. Rokkatei 六花亭 – We find Rokkatei overrated as we tried few of their confectioneries which ended in disappointment.

Otaru Accommodation

Otaru is just 45 mins away from Sapporo hence you can also stay in Sapporo and visit Otaru for one full day. We decided to stay in Otaru for the convenience of getting more sleep hours and not to worry about driving back at night. Both ways are also practical.

Hotel Sonia Otaru

We stayed in Hotel Sonia Otaru which is located along the Otaru Canal. This allows us to leave our cars at the hotel’s car park and walk around Otaru. The hotel offers a bath for its hotel guests.

Airbnb is a good alternative choice apart from the hotel. Get Extra RM160 off on your Airbnb booking when you Sign up new Airbnb HERE!

Book Hotel Sonia Otaru: Expedia / Agoda / Hotels.com

Hokkaido Car Rental

We booked our Nissan car online with ToCoo Japan. If you are travelling to few cities, Hokkaido Highway Pass will be beneficial as HEP allows unlimited use of Hokkaido’s expressways, for one fixed price thus saving on toll.

Read: How to Rent a Car in Hokkaido

Pocket Wifi

We rented our portable wifi from Roaming Man which offers 3GB data daily at a 4G speed at only RM12 per day for up to 5 devices.

Promo code: RMWIFI19 for 10% off discount. (validity: 4th May till 31 July 2019, for travels until 31 Dec 2019)

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About Tommy Ooi 509 Articles
Luxury Hotel Reviewer & Destination Blogger. Passionate for travel, exploring new culture & indulging divine food, Tommy has traveled to 42 countries & 140+ destinations.

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