A November 2004 trip
to Hokkaido by Composthp
Quote: With no drivers license and limited time, we explored Hokkaido via the JR train. We took a domestic flight from Tokyo to Sapporo and travelled by train to Obhiro, Kushiro, Kawayu Onsen, and Kamikawa. From there we headed back to Sapporo, Otaru, and Hakodate, where we flew back to Tokyo.
Touring Hokkaido during the low tourist season has many advantages. We enjoyed winter discounts from all the places we had stayed in, and in some places, we were the only foreign guests. This worked to our advantage when it came to soaking in the onsens, since we are shy and prefer privacy while bathing.
The rudest shock we had was how early the sun sets each day. Our bodies were able to adjust to the cold, but not to the short presence of the sun. By 5pm each day, when the sun had completely disappeared, we automatically began to seek food and a warm bed. It became a joke among us once the sun began its descent: "The sun is setting, it's too dark, there's nothing to see, let's go back."
We found ourselves constantly gawking at the locals. Being used to temperatures of no lower than 16 degrees, we were amazed to see young teenagers dressed in miniskirts when temperatures ranged from 0 to 5 degrees.
The vastness of Hokkaido made it necessary for us to travel each day on the train for at least 3 to 4 hours. As such, we found ourselves doing most of our sightseeing from the comfort of the JR train. Alas, what I would give for a little more time...
If you plan to travel like we did, ask for an English copy of the train schedule at any JR reservaton office. Trains do not run frequently to certain destinations, so knowing the schedule is important.
When in Tokyo:
Grab the Tokyo map or guide and bring it along everywhere, as they serve as discounts to many of the attractions.
The Japan National Tourist Organisation website has in-depth travel information.
The Japan Guide kept us within budget.
The Japan Airport transportation offers how-to instructions on getting out of Tokyo's airports. What the website fails to mention are the numerous flights of stairs travellers need to manuevere in and around the local subway/rail stations.
Go here for a list of free attractions.
Or, check out the no-frills carrier Air Do, which has daily flights to Sapporo.
Word of caution when purchasing discount air passes: these must be purchase outside Japan (except for Air Do). If purchasing in Japan, check out the other discount schemes, but beware of the fine print and stipulations that come attached with it.
Travelling around Hokkaido:
Since neither of us drive, the JR express was our main transport provider. If you intend to travel extensively around Hokkaido, purchase the JR Hokkaido pass.
Alternatively, if you are travelling in pairs, the JR Hokkaido paired kippu is a better deal.
The most redeeming quality of this hotel was the price. With room rates going for as little as 3,000 yen (US$30) per night for a double-bedded room, this hotel was the cheapest place we stayed during our trip.
The proximity is another plus point. Located less than a 5-minute walk from JR Kushiro train station and the Akan bus interchange, and 10 minutes from shops and restaurants, one cannot quibble too much. It is also quiet, as it is located away from the main traffic area. Also, check out their little cafe restaurant next to the hotel; the decor is quaint, with a little touch of Russia.
What made this an unforgettable hotel? This was where we experienced a tremor (richter scale of 5) in the early hours of the morning for the first time in our lives. We were woken up suddenly when our beds shook vigorously. The first time it happened, I thought I was dreaming. When it shook the second time, stronger, it got our full attention. Yet all was quiet outside. After quickly convening in the corridor to ensure that no one in our party was injured, we concluded that there was no need for panic yet and returned to our rooms.
The tremors occurred thrice more, but at lesser strength. We heard two public announcements 1 hour later (probably by the civil defense), assuring the public that all was well.
The morning brought news that trains might be disrupted and that there was some property damage, a few injuries, and one death. Fortunately, our train was unaffected. The hotel withstood the tremor well, with only a fallen fire extinguisher as proof. In the streets and train station, all was normal. Another day in the life of the Japanese.
Go here for reservations.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on January 1, 2005
Ekimae Hotel Adachi
12-2 Suehiro-Cho, Kushiro-Shi
The Western-style rooms are large and beautifully furnished, with subtle product endorsements of their souvenirs scattered around the room for guests to try. These products can be purchased at their souvenir store on the ground floor.
Our room had a view of the snow-covered main street and the Ishikawa river. We paid 10,500 yen (US$102) per person. The room rate included a full-course Japanese Kaiseke set dinner and a sumptuous breakfast (choice of Western or Japanese-style).
The unisex onsen (natural hotspring spa) is located at the ground floor. Guests are welcome to soak in the onsen, which has a view of snow falling softly outside. It is opened almost round the clock. The water is said to have curative properties, especially good for arthritis. The temperature of the onsen is about 40 degrees so avoid plunging into the pool too quickly. Also, guests with high blood pressure and severe heart and lung diseases are cautioned not to soak too long.
Our dinner was served at the quaint country-styled Candle resturant. The dinner was a fusion of Western and Japanese dishes. The course consisted of assorted pickles, salad, a claw of steamed giant crab, miso soup, pan-seared beef, a hotpot of assorted vegetables and seafood, the freshest sashimi, boiled carrots, lightly buttered and delicious baked, locally grown potatoes... and who can forget the lightest lemon sponge cake, which was dessert (I'm getting hungry just writing it). Breakfast the next day was just as sumptuous and delightful. In short, we were well-fed during our stay.
How to get there:
We took the train from Kawayu-Onsen to Abashiri where we transferred for the Sapporo-bound train and alighted at JR Kamikawa station. From there, we took the bus bound for Sounkyo at bus stop no. 1 located to the right of the JR Kamikawa train station (outside the tourist information office). The 700 yen bus ride is approximately 25 minutes and departs every hour.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 1, 2005
Hotel Northern Lodge
Sounkyo koen Machi, Kamikawa cho,
In addition, guests can check their emails (wireless LAN) or surf the net in the lobby without extra charge (you have to stand throughout, but who's complaining when it's free).
Female guests are welcomed with a toiletry bag consisting of the usual. Rooms are brightly-lit, albeit small. The only gripe I have against this hotel was their strict check-in policy.
For reservations: Go here.
To get there:From the JR Hakodate station, walk towards the road intersection, past the malls and restaurants. Turn right after the 2nd traffic light. It is situated at the far right-hand corner. To get to the nearest tram stop from the hotel, exit through the hotel's back door, walk towards Lawson's (local convenient store), keeping the store at your left hand side, and walk straight until you reach the main road. It is about a 5-minute walk.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 1, 2005
Toyoko Inn Hakodate Daimon
minshuku has a total of 23 Japanese-styled tatami rooms for up to 60 guests. For the price of ¥7,500 (US$73) per person, we had a room with a beautiful view of the lake, delicious Japanese set dinners and breakfasts (the menu is simply too long to include here), and a delightful soak in their natural unisex hot spring bath. The hot spring has curative properties that are particularly good for those with arthritis and skin problems (so ladies, soak away!). It is also drinkable (a cup is attached near the sprout of the pool), which aids healing (drink three times a day).
As this is a family-run inn with a staff of three (not including his 80-year-old mother-in-law), guests are expected to lay their own futons (mattresses). They are welcome to use the lounge dominated by a log fireplace (maintained by the mother-in-law).
The manager speaks some English, so communication was not a problem. For an extra ¥500 (US$4) per person, he played guide and showed us the nearby sights and attractions too, a bargain since the alternative was a ¥2,000 (US$20) tour on the Akan bus.
For reservations, you can email him direct at email@example.com
To go there:
Take the JR local train and alight at JR Kawayu Onsen station or the Akan bus to Kawayu Onsen bus terminal. From the station, telephone the manager, who will pick you up personally. Upon departure, he will also take you to whichever station you have requested.
Kawayu Nibushi Onsen, Teshikaga-cho
Restaurant | "Ramen City, Sapporo"
Although ramen can be found almost anywhere in Sapporo, the majority of the ramen shops are clustered around and at Susukino, 5 minutes' walk from Susukino subway station. Head for Yokocho lane for some of the best ramen in town.
My personal preference is the miso-based ramen, although both flavours tend to be salty. For those with an allergy to ajinomoto, this is one dish you would want to avoid. Otherwise, ramen is a great meal to warm the stomach on a cold winter night. Local etiquette requires customers to slurp their noodles noisily: an expression of appreciation. As the expression goes, if you love the noodles, make a joyful noise, or in this case, a noisy slurp.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 14, 2005
Susukino Subway Station
With less than 5 hours of daylight left, we were hard-pressed for time to see the marshlands and the cranes at the Tsurumidai feeding ground. Fortunately, we met a quick-thinking guide at the tourist information booth who mapped up our itinerary for the day, right down to the train/bus departure times.
We hopped onto the local JR Senmo train and headed for the marshlands. At JR Kushiro Shitsugen station (a cute little wooden cabin), we alighted on a wooden platform and made our way to the Hosooka observatory point for a spectacular panoramic view of the marshlands. Many pictures and 40 minutes later, we hopped back onto the train to Kushiro station, where we ran for the Akan bus that was departing in less than 10 minutes for the Tsuru-mura Tancho Sanctuary.
The bus journey took 1 hour and went through the town and into the farming areas at the outskirts of town. The feeding ground is located at the right side of the road; look for the Tsurui-mura signs posted along the way.
The Tancho (Japanese red crane) is regarded as a bird of good omen by the Ainu people. Due to indiscriminate hunting in the early 1900s, the cranes were almost extinct. It is now protected and designated as a natural heritage by the government.
The Tancho is a magnificent bird at 1.6m tall with a wing span of 2m and body weight of 7 to 12kg. We were awestruck at the majestic sight of the cranes. This is a must-see sight for nature- and bird-lovers.
Across the feeding ground is a country-styled souvenir shop. It has a viewing gallery on the first and second floor for visitors to view the cranes while sipping their tea or coffee.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 2, 2005
Kushiro Shitsugen National Park
For the none-too-adventurous, visitors can take the ropeway (1650 yen/US$16) to the mid-point of Mt. Daisetsuzan. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed onto the chairlift to Kurodake Peak unless they intend to ski (*sigh*). Nevertheless, the views during ascent (and descent, for that matter) were magnificent. As the mountains and gorges unfold, we could not stop "aweing" and "wowing" throughout the 10 minutes of the cable car ride.
Out of the cable car station, we found ourselves in winter wonderland. It was a complete contrast in landscape from where we were the day before. We were beside ourselves with joy, for we have never seen so much snow in our lives. The snow was soft, much like talcum powder without the scent. This was the famed powder snow of Hokkaido. How I wish we could pack some back!
The following day, we hopped onto a sightseeing taxi that the receptionist had booked for us prior (he was a master at bargaining, reducing the taxi fare from 16,000 yen to 10,000 yen). We covered the other popular sights, beginning with the waterfalls and Sounkyo Gorge; the latter were a little disappointing, since they have frozen over (it would be beautiful during other seasons). The Sounkyo Gorge, with sheer cliffs as high as 160m, did not impress either. Next were the Obako and the Kobako, so-named because the steep cliffs seemed to close in on the river, giving a 3D effect of an enclosed box.
Our final stop was the Taisetsu Dam and Lake. Surprisingly, the lake was not yet frozen, though workers were seen scraping off piles of snow from their boats. Our driver popped into the dam operations office and came out with complimentary booklets and postcards on Taisetsu dam and surrounds.
It took us about 2 hours for the entire tour. By this time, the snow was beginning to fall heavily, and we decided to catch an earlier train back to Sapporo. Even though the waterfalls were frozen, our visit to Sounkyo was one of the highlights in our journey.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 3, 2005
Attraction | "In search of Totoro: Ghibli Museum"
To an anime fan, especially fans of Hayao Miyazaki, visiting the Ghibli Museum ranks as top priority. This museum has one theme: "Let's lose our way together." Truly, this unique building seemed to be almost lost amidst the towering oak and cedar trees. Visitors are greeted by enthusiastic staff members who direct you to the main gate-keeper, a life-size Totoro. Alas, Totoro is well-protected from the fans' eager hands (*sob*).
Allow 2 hours to explore the museum. This includes a one-time entry to a short animated clip not available elsewhere. Visitors are given a cute movie ticket in a form of 3 consecutive slides; it makes an interesting keepsake. We were fortunate to catch the short movie "Mei", a sequel of sorts to the animation "My Neighbour Totoro" .
Elsewhere in the building, look for the life-size cat bus (open for children only), dead-end doors, and stairs that go nowhere. Check out the toilets too (we did), which have different themes, and ogle over the souvenirs on sale on the third floor.
Head for the rooftop for a photograph session with the guardian of Laputa. Search for the giant levitation stone that kept Laputa afloat. This is the only place, apart from the ground-floor garden, that allows photography.
The museum is well-planned for easy access to the old, young, and the handicapped. There are benches scattered along corridors for tired visitors, sinks with foot-stools for the little ones, and ornate water fountains for the thirsty—the details are impressive.There are permanent and special exhibits in the museum. The special exhibits at the time of our visit were "artifacts" borrowed from Pixar. One drawing drew my attention and a smile. The Pixar animators had drawn Totoro, a blue monster from "Monster, Inc.", and a one-eyed alien, all holding one umbrella each a la Gene Kelly (a send-up of one of the scenes from "Totoro" and "Singing in the Rain").
This museum is for the young and the young at heart. Visitors do not need to understand Japanese, as his animations transcend language.
Visitors must pre-purchase tickets; the museum does not entertain walk-ins. To purchase tickets in Japan:Go HERE .
To purchase tickets outside Japan: Go HERE .
To get there:Take the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku station to Mitaka station (approximately 20 minutes). Mitaka station is the last station. Exit from the south exit, turn left, and look out for a green tent with Ghibli Museum emblazoned atop. This is where you can catch the "cat bus" to the museum. A one-way bus fare costs about 200 yen (US$2). We decided to walk back, passing the scenic Inokashira Park and the Tamagawa Josui. The walk was about 15 minutes.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 3, 2005
Studio Ghibli Museum
1-1-83, Shimo-renjaku, Mitaka City
Attraction | "Spirited Away: Edo-Tokyo Architectural Museum"
This is an open-air museum set up by the Tokyo Metropolitan government with the sole purpose of preserving designated buildings of historical value from the Edo period for future generations. It spans 7 hectares.
We spent a delightful afternoon reliving the movie, taking in the sights, and clowning around with the exhibits. Ask for an English brochure that provides detailed explanation of the history and origins of the buildings.
For fans, the must-see buildings are the public bathhouse (Kodakara-yu), the House of Uemura, the bar (Kagiya), and the stationery store (Takei sanshodo). Look out for the yellow tram, which brought Sen to the witch's sister in the swamp.
If you have time, explore the peaceful Koganei Park as well. This park seemed popular with the locals. It seemed a little odd to us, after arriving from the snow-covered Hokkaido the day before, to see Tokyo in her autumnal coat. Still, we counted ourselves lucky to be able to see two seasons in one trip.
How to get there:
Take the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku station and alight at Musashi Koganei Station (third stop after Mitaka). Exit through the north exit across the station and take the bus at either bay no. 2 or 3. Alight at Koganei Koen Nishi Guchi bus stop, cross the road, and walk towards the Koganei park. The museum is located within the park, about a 5-minute walk.
Fee (purchase from the vending machine in the visitor center):
¥400 for adults and ¥200 for students or senior citizens over 65 years.
Open from 9:30am to 5:30pm
The museum is closed every Monday and on public holidays.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 4, 2005
Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum
Upon registering, visitors are led into the main exhibit hall by a guide. The 20-minute tour includes a brief history of the company, the production process, and finally, a free sampling of the products; the latter was definitely the highlight of the tour for us.
At the end of the tour, we were led to a cafeteria where each of us were given a cup of oh-so-creamy vanilla ice-cream, a 300-milliliter carton of milk, and assorted cheese balls. While savouring our goodies, we were inquired on our next destination. Upon ascertaining that, one of the employees proceeded to map out our route, including the bus schedules. We were deeply impressed by their service and left with warm hearts even though it had began to snow again.
Visitors are required to make reservations prior. To do so, call: +81-(011)704-2329.
To get there:
Take City Bus, Higashi 63 (Higashi Eigyousho-mae-yuki) from Sapporo Sta. South Entrance to Kita 6-jo Higashi 19-chome, and then walk 5 minutes. Look for the "Snowflake" signage and follow your nose.
9 to 11am and 1-3:30pm. Open all year.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 6, 2005
Snow Brand Milk Products Historical Museum
6-1-1, Naebo-cho, Higashi-ku
The sun finally broke through the clouds on this day (it was three days of rain and dreary weather prior), lifting everyone's spirits and appetites. It was our last chance to see and taste the famed Hokkaido crabs, although ika (squid) seemed to be their main produce. Stall after stall, the vendors call out to tourists, handing out samples of piping hot crabmeat to lure them in. Competition seemed stiff, as vendors laid out their seafood in attractive displays. The streets smelled of sweet-cooked crab—no fishy smell here.
This is the place to sample some of the freshest seafood at cheap prices. After some price comparison, we settled in one of the tented stalls away from the main market area. On promotion was the chirashi set (raw sashimi atop rice). For the price of 1500 yen (US$14), we were allowed to choose three different toppings; crab miso soup, free-flowing green tea, and grilled squid were included as part of the "service" (as the locals called it).
It was one of the most satisfying, value-for-money lunch we had. I chose baby abalone, crabmeat, and sea urchin as my toppings. The baby abalone was thinly sliced and crunchy and the crab was exquisitely sweet, while the sea urchin was fresh and creamy. *sigh*
To get there:
It is located to the right of the JR station, less than three minutes’ walk.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 8, 2005
Asa-Ichi: Hakodate Morning Market
Three minute walk from the JR Hakodate station
Odori Koen, Sapporo
The Odori Koen is a 1.5km promenade and is 10 to 15 minutes’ walk from the Sapporo station. The main landmark is the TV tower, where visitors pay 700 yen for a panoramic view of Sapporo city. This is also the venue for its famed annual Sapporo Snow festival. Since we were too early for the festival, we were content to view the colourful illuminations that dotted the promenade. We were a little disappointed (a case of over-representation in advertising) and soon headed for the underground shopping mall, the Aurora town, and Pole town, where it was even more brightly lit and definitely warmer.
Kanemori Waterfront warehouses, Hakodate
The Hakodate Christmas fantasy was most probably designed by some bureaucratic committee out to squeeze every tourist dollar from their visitors. The venue was at the red-bricked Kanemori warehouses, a 5-minute walk from the streetcar station Jujigai. The huge warehouses have been converted into shops selling souvenirs, food, trinkets, handicrafts, etc. Visitors holding the 2-day pass have an additional 5 to 10% discount at certain outlets here.
The central attraction is an 18m-tall Christmas tree presented by Hakodate's sister city of Halifax, Canada. At precisely 1800 hours, the Christmas tree is lit up with much fanfare, accompanied by a modest fireworks-laser display, daily until the 25th of December. We viewed the light-up from Hakodate Mountain on our first night there and had the front-row "seats" on the following evening. It was a mesmerising sight.
Across and up the slope towards the Motomachi district are brilliantly lit trees lining the cobbled slopes. Look out too for the colorfully decorated street tram that circulates this district. It all certainly puts one in a shopping mood.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 13, 2005
Christmas fantasy in Hokkaido
Odori Koen and Kanemori Waterfront warehouses
The first level reconstructed a typical day in the life of the Ainu, through clothing, jewelry, crockery, etc. On the second level are displays tracing their religious beliefs and history. There is also a little activity area for children (and adults) where visitors are taught to create Ainu patterns using paper.
What fascinated me more was the building itself. Dating back to 1926, this building has beautiful, patterned ceramic tiles embedded into the walls... if only walls could talk.
To get there:
Take the tram No 5 and alight at Suehiro-cho station. Cross the road (away from the slopes), and it is the building at the corner.
April to October, 9am to 7pm
November to March, 9am to 5pm
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 15, 2005
Hakodate City Museum of Northern Peoples
In winter, the most popular activities seemed to be sightseeing and soaking in the numerous natural hot springs. Hiking, camping, canoeing, cycling, and other more physical activities are popular during other seasons.
This lake is the largest inland lake in Hokkaido and the world's second largest crater lake. It is also home to hundreds of swans that migrated here from Russia. Also spotted were flocks of Mandarin ducks and seagulls vying for food handed out by visitors and locals. In the center of the lake is Nakajima. There are sightseeing boats available for visitors who want a closer look.
The lake is usually calm, but we arrived on particularly cold and windy day. We soon took refuge at one of the souvenir shop, and upon our guide's recommendation (manager of Nibushi-no-sato), tried their delicious piping hot chai siew ramen (choice of miso or soya soup base). Yum!
Mashu ko/Lake Mashu
According to the travel pamphlet, Mashu ko is ranked first in the world for its transparency. However, this lake is rarely seen as it is usually covered in thick mist most of the time. I guess we were lucky to see the lake, thanks to the wind that blew the mist away... or unlucky, according to our guide. It seems that the Ainu locals believe that unmarried women who view the lake would remain um… spinsters for life. I suppose I must resign to my fate then.
In the center of the lake lies a sacred small isle known as the Isle of Gods. This isle is off limits. The best views are from observation platform 1. Here, visitors get a panoramic view of both lakes, Mt Io, and its surrounds.
Mount Io was the first sight that greeted us when we arrived at Kawayu-onsen station. The strong scent of sulfur and hissing vents were even more impressive at close range. For ¥200, you can even try an egg cooked by one of the hissing vents.
At the foot of Mt Io, look for the strangely twisted bare dwarf pines that seemed to thrive despite the sulfuric surrounds. The landscape has an eerie feel about it.
The tour covered Lake Mashu, Lake Kussharo, and Mt Io. It took us about 2 hours. Just when we thought we were coming to the end of it, our guide brought us to another two scenic observation points for panoramic views of the surrounds via the Bihoro pass.
En route, we were surprised and fortunate to catch a glimpse of the protected red fox that had wondered onto the road, probably driven by hunger. I wondered who was more surprised, our guide (whose ears were probably ringing from when all five of us screamed at the sight of the fox), the fox, or us. In all, we enjoyed ourselves and counted ourselves lucky to have covered so much of the area in such a short time (something not possible had we joined the Akan sightseeing bus), all thanks to our guide and host.
At Nibushi-no-sato, there is a short walking trail that follows the shoreline of Lake Kussharo. It is perfect for a leisurely stroll before dinner or for those interested in bird-watching.
There are three main attractions in Otaru that are approximately a 8- to 10-minute walk from the JR Otaru station. They are situated along the Ironai Street, formerly known as the "Wall street of Hokkaido."
The Otaru Canal (Otaru Unga) is a must-see for all visitors. It is best viewed at dusk, when the canal is lighted by gas lamps lining one side and the historic brick warehouses are reflected in the waters. We were, however, disappointed by this sight, although the photos we took turned up surprisingly well. Perhaps we were simply too cold, wet, and tired to admire it at the time.
Kitaichi Glass Emporium/ Kitaichi Museum of Venetian Art
If you are as clumsy as an elephant, this is NOT the place to be. As the name suggests, these buildings house some of the most exquisite glass crafts and lamps. We spent a good hour admiring the works. At the museum shop and gallery, the sales staff discreetly and quickly wipes away fingerprints left behind by visitors. For souvenir hunters, there are small trinkets available at affordable prices. Look for the little cute bookmarks in the shape of gas lamps or beautiful pendants that change color according to the light.
Otaru Music Box Museum (main building) and the No2 Otaru Music Box Antique Museum
Visitors need not fear losing their way to these museums since the tinkling sounds from the music boxes can be heard metres away. Simply follow your ears. If you are still not sure, look out for the steam clock that stands in front of the main building (it actually steams). Both buildings are located diagonally from each other. The buildings themselves are of historical significance, dating back to the 1900s, when Otaru was in its heyday. The red-brick main building houses hundreds of music boxes for sale, while most of the antique music boxes can be found in the No 2 Otaru Music Box museum. Visitors can create their own "one-of-the-kind" music box at the third level of the main building. Admission to these buildings is free. They are open from 9am to 6pm.
Interspersed among these buildings are old warehouses that are now shops selling soft toys, souvenirs, ice cream, confectionary, and seafood. For a panoramic view of Otaru, go to the Le Tao, the corner confectionary shop across the No 2 Otaru Music Box Museum. Take the lift to the top most level and climb the stairs for the remaining way. The view is magnificent; it is also a quiet place to rest and take a breather.
More museums? Head for the Otaru Museum near the Otaru canal. Entrance fee is a mere ¥100. The museum is aptly housed in a former warehouse and has some interesting relics from the early 1900s.
A visit to Otaru will not be complete without heading for Sushiya Street, just after the Sun Mall arcade for some of the freshest sushi and seafood. Avoid the restaurants lining the main road, as these are expensive. Rather, go to the alleys for the hidden ones. We discovered an out-of-the-way, unpretentious restaurant in a narrow alley that serves up yummy, cheap authentic Japanese food.
This small seafood market is conveniently located to the left of the JR Otaru station. A popular activity among local tourists is looking for fresh and preserved seafood. Opened from 8am to 6pm, it is a good place to ogle over the famed Hokkaido giant crabs.