Winter vacation in Hokkaido – one day visit to Otaru and beyond to nearby skii resorts

Otaru, a harbour city once popular for busy trading activities is a highlight for many visitors on day visits from Sapporo. If you’re not short of time, it is recommended to stopover here longer. Enjoy the charming colonial vibes while tasting fresh seafood that is so good that you will soon understand why and how this city qualifies its nick as a ‘Sushi Town‘.

We are no stranger to Otaru – so well that the city is connected directly via a rapid train from New Chitose Airport, the gateaway from Sapporo. What caught our curiosity was the easiness to travel to snow skii resorts – Kiroro resort (40mins from Otaru) and beyond to smaller towns (Yoichi, Shakotan, Furubira, Niki) which are still near to reach on rails.

Along the canal of Otaru, there’re many old stone buildings best viewed on a canal boat. Running through the canal waterway for 45mins, it briefly brings you back to the glory moments of its bustle in the 1800s. You can also catch the beauty of the city from a viewing tower above the restaurant ‘Otaru Denuki-koji’, but don’t tell anyone about this as it’s still well-kept away from the tourists.

Sushi town‘ is a popular reason why tourists make their way to Otaru. To ride on this hype, sushi restaurants line up the streets to offer visitors with freshly caught delicacies from the port.

Miyakozushi (都寿司) is a sample of fine sushi restaurants. It only serves Edo-style sushi ingredients and seasonal sushi topped abalone, shrimp and salmon from the japan sea.

Ankake Yakisoba, a japanese-chinese fused dish is gaining popularity in the sushi town. Heavily-gravy in thick sauce with chinese wok fried noodles and ingredients, travelers can enjoy Ankake Yakisoba restaurants-hopping just by following the useful ’30 restaurant guide’ pamplet that jotted down addresses, operating hours and the kind of Ankake Yakisoba served.

That’s how good it is and you know you should follow too.

It’s no wonder why Japanese people love matcha, also known as ‘green tea’ flavours. Snack as much sweets as you can, with some of the greatest like Hokkaido’s famous Marusei Butter sandwich (raisin and White Chocolate sandwiched with hokkaido butter), Letao cakes, Royce Chocolates, 7-layered ice cream (this doesn’t need any more introduction) and many more. That’s the joy of traveling.

Glasswares and music boxes – these are also the main attractions along the main shopping street in Otaru. Kitaichi is a historical household brand that offers fine-quality glass products and one of them is the colour-changing cups according to temperature. There is also a major music box museum-shop that sits behind the iconic steam clock, just around the corner of the post office.

Build a snowman! Stop for some #instaworthy photos along the streets and shop to your heartiest content at the tax-free shops.

Just a street away, Sake Brewery is another pit stop to enjoy free sakes and of course, understanding the procedures for making good sake with rice and pure groundwater.

Witness the factory making of sake in Otaru – cultivating, fermenting, squeezing and storage. Along the way, smell these freshly-produced sake that will be soon bottled and sold in attractive packagings.

Have fun at snow resorts, just mins from Otaru.

Slide off soft powdery snow at the Kiroro resort, just 30mins from Otaru. Soak in the winter ambience with affordable snow activities at the resort, costing on average below SGD$15.

The resort has many activities for the family. Drive your own snow mobile, roll in the snow in a babble ball or take up a new skill – snowboard or skii at the resort’s metres deep snow.

Free activities for all ages? Grab a tube and go on an adrenaline ride off pristine snow slopes. Sole up with snow shoes and trek through the snowy forest on a winter forest tour or simply soak in the nature beauty in the top-floor hot spring (onsen) at the Kiroro resort – don’t miss this!

The Kiroro resort also offers a whopping 6 dining choices for breakfast and is one of the newest snow resort accommodation that offers quality comfortable Starwoods hospitality. There’re also regular shuttles that ply between New Chitose airport and the resort, hence offering great convenience for travelers.

There is just so much to do in Hokkaido! Even if you don’t drive, rely on the regular train services to go to places and enjoy what the city has to offer!


  • ANA/JAL flies to Hokkaido via Tokyo (Haneda/Narita airport).
  • A train fare between Sapporo city and Otaru is less than SGD$10 per way, which can be used with your JR Nationwide pass/Hokkaido rail pass.
  • Otaru city offers a day pass on the stroller tourist bus at SGD$10/day to do stops along the way at major attractions from JR Otaru station. It is also easy to walk from the station to Otaru shopping and sushi street.
  • Links:
    Otaru Tourism:
    Akaigawa Tourism (Kiroro Resort):

    Sy is a guest of the Otaru city, Akaigawa city, Kiroro resort and its partners.

    Photos by SONY a5100, enlarging focus areas with the hybrid autofocus system and capturing clear high res photos.

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