Otaru Canal is the main attraction in Otaru and was built in 1923. The canal is bordered by a walkway so that you can stroll along the banks of the waterway and if you can make sure to come here in the evening as this is when the promenade is illuminated with ancient oil lamps giving it an old world feel.You can also take a tour along the canal or take to the water on a canal boat if you want to see the city from a different vantage point. Tours on the water start in the west and take around 40 minutes.
As Otaru is in the northern part of the country, the city can get a lot of snow and cold weather in the winter months. Although it might be cold, that does not stop the locals from celebrating. The Otaru Snow Light Path Festival is held in the month of February and the whole city becomes decorated in lights and snow statues for 10 days. The townspeople light up the city with little lanterns giving Otaru a beautiful candlelight ambiance. Do not miss out if you are here in February.
The Otaru City Museum is made up of two separate museums, a conventional history museum beside Otaru Canal and a less centrally located railway museum on the grounds of a railway yard. These city operated museums are a good place to learn about Otaru's history and the early days of the development of Hokkaido.
Not only is this museum a fascinating look at the history of the yen and the history of the economic development of Otaru but the building itself is also a little bit of an anomaly. Built in 1912, the building is very much built in the style of a Western European building more than a traditional Japanese one of the same period. The building was the first bank of Japan located in Otaru and it now provides an atmospheric setting for displays of the bank’s history.
The Tenjo-ji Temple is located a little outside the town center and it is more in a residential part of the city. But the Tenjo-ji Temple is one of the best places in the city to observe the cherry blossoms blooming in May. The temple itself is not very big but that is fine as there will not be too many people here. The Tenjo-ji Temple is a Buddhist temple built in 1882 and it has fortune-tellers about on certain days.
Otaru is one of the main glass producing parts of Japan and it was particularly famous for its oil lamps and glass balls that would have been used in the fishing industry. One of the most famous spots in town for glass pieces is Kitaichi Glass which has handmade crystals which are sold all over Japan.The glass industry now however also produces a range of decorative items and there are glass workshops dotted around the town which make great places to shop for souvenirs. You can also attend a class here and learn how to blow your own glass pieces.
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