Otaru – Hokkaido | Travel Information

Otaru is a small port city in Hokkaido prefecture, with a population of roughly 135,000. It’s located north west of Hokkaido’s prefectural capital of Sapporo, and would take you 1 hour by train from Sapporo Station.  Otaru, was originally a place where the native Ainu (Early people to Japan) people live. The name Otaru, is the original name by the Ainu people, meaning ‘River running through the sandy beach’. You can easily recognize where Otaru gets it’s name, by visiting the coast, where the canal which flows through the middle of the city, meets the ocean.


As it is a city on the coast, a large part of it’s local economy has long come from the ocean. Without a doubt, Fresh seafood is one of the best things there is to eat, and you don’t get much fresher than local business along the Otaru waterfront. If you want a chance to see what kind of fish live around Hokkaido, then head on down to the harbor, where you will meet plenty of friendly fishermen out fishing for some dinner.

Now if you would rather look at fish, than eating them, then the Otaru Aquarium is a stop for you! It certainly isn’t the biggest aquarium out there, but it still will keep you entertained for a few hours! They have quite a large variety of animals from cute and cuddly, to ugly and vicious. Dolphins, Harbour Seals, Penguins, Herring, and the Bering Wolffish are just some of the animals you can get up close and personal with.

You can even touch some octopuses, or sea urchins if you want! It’s a really cool play to visit, and a great way to spend a rainy day.

You can take a bus from Otaru station which will drop you off at the aquarium front! For a more direct service to the Aquarium, you will need to take the bus, which departs at 10 minutes to every hour from 9:50am, to 3:50pm. Buses leave the aquarium at 20 past every hour between 11:20am , to 5:20pm. The 10 bus leaves from the Otaru Canal, which means its also a great route to take to do some sightseeing. More information can be found on the Otaru Aquarium website.

For those wondering, The entrance fee and hours depend on the season. During the normal season (Middle of March to Middle of November) hours are 9:00am – 5:00pm. Middle of November to mid December is 9:00am – 4:00pm, and will cost 1400JPY for Adults (530JPY for Middle school Children, 210JPY for young children over the age of 3)

The winter season, from Mid December to the start of the normal season, the hours are reduced to 10:00 – 4:00pm, and will cost 1000JPY for adults ( 400JPY for Middle School Children, 200JPY for young children over the age of 3)

 Near the port, you will also find the Otaru Canal, which is lined with cafe’s, shops and many other local businesses. It’s one of Otaru’s most popular sights, as it just looks stunning! The Otaru Canal was completed over 100 years ago, in 1912, and stretches a little over 1 kilometer in length. This canal area has quite a historic vibe, and many buildings on the coastal side of Otaru have Ivy plants that have crawled their way up, subsuming large portions of buildings.

During the winter, the city of Otaru hosts the winter light up festival, where you can see the Otaru canal at it’s finest during the winter.

Accommodation in Otaru