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3-Day Model Trip Day3 / Sapporo - Otaru

Hokkaido

3-Day Model Trip Day3 / Hokkaido / Sapporo - Otaru

On my last day, I took the Rapid Train "Ishikari Liner" on a JR Line and arrived at Otaru that faces the Ishikari Bay in the Sea of Japan. Otaru used to thrive with herring fishing, and later developed as a harbor town for Sapporo where foreign ships moored. It became a large commercial city with the population over 90,000 by the early 20th century, and various freights were transported from foreign countries. It is the Otaru Canal at 10 minutes walk from Otaru Station that preserves the atmosphere of those days. The construction of this 1,140-meter long canal took 9 years since 1914. Rows of old warehouses built of stone stand along the canal. There is a stone-paved promenade and as many as 63 gaslights along the canal. I felt as if I had time-slipped into 100 years ago. The rickshaws for tourists added to this nostalgic atmosphere even further.

One of the warehouses built with timber-framed stones along the canal has a statue of a large fish called "Shachihoko". It is the Otaru City Museum in a remodeled warehouse constructed in 1893. The Shachihoko is 1.5-meter tall and made of 120 kg silver tiles. It must have been a symbol of wealth in the olden days. The museum exhibits models of Kitamae-bune boats that used to navigate from Osaka through Seto Inland Sea, San-in and the Sea of Japan to Hokkaido and materials on herring fishing, as well as full-sized modern shops and other buildings that actually existed. They were showing a precious documentary video that filmed the scenes of Otaru in the early 20th century in one corner.

There are many mini-galleries and shops of art glass and music boxes around the Otaru City Museum. It was the late 19th century when Otaru became known as the city of glass craft. Production of kerosene lamps and glass buoys had thrived, but died out as the demand decreased. It was around 1970 when new light was cast over the craft. Today small interior articles and tableware are very popular. I found a nice glass at one of the art glass shops.

I strolled away from the canal and reached the Shikinai-hondori Street. This area was once called a Wall Street of the North. There still remain many western style stone buildings. One of them is still used as the Otaru Branch of the Bank of Japan. The district is dotted with historic buildings, art museums and mini-galleries.

I took a bus from the former Wall Street and went eastward on the Sakaimachi-dori Street. I got off at the Marchen Intersection noted for the No. 3 Building of Kitaichi Glass, a gallery of lamps and art glass, and Orugoru-do, the largest specialty shop dedicated to music boxes. There is the world largest 5.5-meter tall steam clock tower at the front of Orugoru-do built with timber-framed bricks in 1912. It plays a steam whistle melody every 15 minutes. I took a photograph, visited the gallery and got back on a bus to Otaru Harbor Marina. There were markets for fresh foods and a large commercial facility Mical Honmoku that contains a hotel, restaurants, a supermarket, movie theaters and even a natural hot spring in a vast area of 130,000 meter square, which were crowded with the local people and tourists.

Hokkaido is also known to produce fine wine. There are several famous wine producing districts in Hokkaido, and Otaru is one of them. We can buy Otaru Wine at many wine shops in the city. I purchased local brand wine made from 100% Hokkaido grapes. My gourmand friends will no doubt be pleased with this souvenir. I returned to JR Otaru Station and boarded a Rapid Train to JR Shin-Chitose Airport. I had to say farewell to this beautiful land of Hokkaido. Snowflakes started to dance to see off a traveler going home. I hope to visit here in a blooming season and meet different scenery of the northland next time.