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Historic canals in Otaru Hokkaido
Historic canals in Otaru Hokkaido
Otaru Japan
Otaru Japan
Historic canals
Historic canals


Otaru Japan is a seaside town and port on the southwest coast of Hokkaido, 35km northwest of Sapporo. It’s a nice town to visit for a day trip en route to or from Niseko, or you can use Otaru as a base to visit various Hokkaido ski resorts.

It’s novel to see snow at sea level in Otaru, but it’s also nice to look at the historic canals, wander along the old Sakaimachi Street, and to check out the glass crafts, the wacky Japanese shops, and the seafood market. Of course, there is plenty of fresh seafood to eat as well. Beyond the pretty Snow Light Path Festival held in February, there aren’t a huge number of other tourist attractions, but it’s a nice town to indulge in some Japanese culture.

Summary of Pros and Cons of Otaru Hokkaido

  • Otaru provides a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the real Japan, away from the touristy “resortification” that you find at some of the Hokkaido ski resorts.
  • The price for Otaru accommodation is significantly less than what you’d find at Kiroro.
  • There are various Hokkaido ski resorts close to Otaru.
  • If you stay in Otaru Japan, a daily commute is required to get to the nearby ski resorts.

Otaru Ski Resorts

The Otaru Tenguyama ski area on Tengu-yama is only 3km from central Otaru. It’s a small ski area with only 6 runs that are mostly serviced by a ropeway as well as 2 little chair lifts. The top elevation is only 532 metres, so even though the slopes are mostly northeast facing, the ski area is ideal for storm riding and thankfully competition for freshies is negligible.

Of similar ilk is the Asari Ski Resort at Asarigawa Onsen which is only 9km southeast of the town of Otaru. If you’ve got a car, Asari is only a 15 to 20 minute drive from Otaru. Otherwise there are regular buses from the JR Otaru train station that take 30 minutes. Like Otaru Tenguyama, Asari ski resort is good for a day trip to ski the solitary off-piste and sidecountry areas. Asari is also at low elevation so it’s good for really windy days when some of the lifts at Kiroro are closed.

Kiroro Ski Resort is an upscale resort that’s 28km from Otaru. It's possible (albeit rather clunky) to get a bus between Otaru train station and Kiroro each day, or self-driving will make it particularly easy to get to there. 

Sapporo Kokusai is a 23km drive southeast of Otaru. Kokusai receives massive amounts of snow, and even though the slopes are crowded with lots of beginners, the sidecountry areas tend to offer plenty of fresh tracks.

Sapporo Teine is 29km southeast of Otaru and like its Sapporo counterpart it is good for beginners, and it also features some steep tree skiing.

Niseko needs no introduction! The very high profile Niseko is 68km to the southwest. If you’re staying in Niseko and want a day trip to Otaru, Limousine Sightseeing can take you there, or it’s a 1:20 hour train between Kutchan and Otaru. Or Moon Transfers (use drop down menu) provide private transfers between Otaru and Niseko.

Getting to Otaru

If you don’t have your own wheels or you’re not on a multi-resort tour, it’s easy enough to catch a train from the New Chitose Airport or Sapporo City to Otaru. See Hyperdia for train timetables and fares. Or Moon Transfers (use drop down menu) provide private transfers between the New Chitose Airport and Otaru.

Otaru Hotels

Otaru accommodation provides very good value for money. The Otaru hotels include large western style hotels and upscale Japanese ryokans, and there are also dormitory backpackers if you are travelling on a shoestring. The Dormy Inn Premium is an Otaru hotel that is very nice, yet inexpensive, and it's located only one minute walk from the Otaru train station.

The Grand Park Otaru is a beautiful 4-star hotel which is located right on the water with views up and down the coast from one side, and views of the hills you'll be skiing on the side of the hotel. Below the hotel is a shopping centre, bars and restaurants. This Otaru hotel is surprisingly inexpensive considering the quality on offer.

Otaru Hotels Listings

Tours That May Include Otaru

Safari (Road Trip) Tours
Hokkaido Storm Chaser DETAILS
7 Days | 6 Nights | 6 Ski Areas

Base/invoice currency is in yen not including 8% consumption tax.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 2,610 USD 2,610
Book before Aug 31st to receive 40,000 yen discount off the advertised price
Book before Aug 31st to get a 13.8% discount
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Chase the storms and access the deepest and best quality snow conditions on the day in the Otaru area and Central Hokkaido's world famous deep dry powder.
Hokkaido Explorer Tour DETAILS
12 Nights - 10 Ski Areas - 10 Days Skiing/Riding
From price based on twin/double-share option per person for group tour for 2018-19 season.
Base/invoice currency is in AUD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 3,643 USD 3,643
Pay by 31 Aug forearly bird special
Get 2% discount if you pay before Aug 31
Ability: Expert
Based in Niseko Hirafu then Furano then Otaru, chase the best conditions and snowfall at 7 of Hokkaido's best ski areas and lesser known ski areas including Niseko, Rusutsu, Moiwa, Furano, Asahidake, Kamui Links, Mt Racey and Tomamu.
Furano & Otaru DETAILS
9 Nights | 8 Ski Days
From price based on twin/double-share room.
Base/invoice currency is in USD ex taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 3,495
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Chase the powder in & around the Furano & Otaru areas with qualified guides for 8 epic days. The package also includes quality accommodation with daily breakfast in Furano and Otaru plus all lift tickets, all private ground transport & welcome & farewell dinners.
See all Safari (Road Trip) tours that visit Otaru here
Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area Tours
Niseko Freeride Tour DETAILS
8 Days | 7 Nights | 6 Days Riding
From price based on twin/double-share option.
Base/invoice currency is in AUD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 1,570
To be eligible for this special price you must book & pay the required deposit by the last day of the promotion...no exceptions
Ability: Intermediate to Advanced
This snowboarding tour takes in what many would argue are the best ski areas in Japan with a choice of up to 11 ski areas in the Niseko region. Home base is a nice hotel in Niseko so you have access to Niseko's vibrant nightlife. Have a guide to take you to the best powder stashes at each location.
Sky to Sea Progression Skiing DETAILS
10 Nights | 7 Days Instruction Furano/Otaru
From price based on twin/triple-share accom for last tour.
Base/invoice currency is in AUD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 3,088 USD 3,088
Full payment required by Aug 31 to get early bird discount
Up to 4.6% discount if you book & pay by Aug 31
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Advanced
Do you want to learn to ski powder? And also see some of the best Hokkaido ski resorts and experience the Japanese culture? The focus of this Furano and Otaru based tour is to help you develop your powder skiing skills without boring drills.
See all Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area tours that visit Otaru here