I had an opportunity to vist the 66th Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido, Japan last year. One day was enough to see all the festival sites, so on the second day of my trip I went to Otaru. Otaru (小樽) is a small harbor city, about half an hour northwest of Sapporo by train, making it the most popular tourist destination and a must visit for Japanese visitors.

Otaru was the terminal station for Hokkaido’s first railroad. The city is known for its beautifully preserved canal area , interesting mansions , glassworks, music boxes and sake distilleries. All these make Otaru an ideal, picture perfect one day trip from Sapporo!

Otaru Canal was completed in 1923 and runs through the city’s center. It is lined with cafes and shopping centers in converted old warehouses. It is a magical place, very unique to Otaru. Another place to visit is Sakaimachi Street, just a few minutes walk from the canal area. Rows of antique buildings will transport you back in time, as many of the old buildings along Sakaimachi Street have been converted into restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, boutiques and museums. The famous Music Box Museum consists of multiple buildings scattered around the southern end of Sakaimachi Street. If you have very limited time to visit each and every brick building, I would recommend to walk straight to the end part of Sakaimachi Street and visit Japan’s largest music box shop – Orgel Doh’s Otaru Music Box Museum. It is an old beautiful building, and believed to be one of historic landmarks of Otaru City. It is full of music boxes in various sizes and types. There is a Steam Clock made by a Canadian clock maker in front of the museum. The five steam chimes blow the melody every 15 minutes and the main steam whistles on the hour – a very popular landmark for tourists. I was transported to a land of fairy tales inside the museum. Glad, I didn’t skip visiting there!

The Otaru Snow Light Path Festival is held every February in Otaru, and usually runs at the same time as the Sapporo Snow Festival, which makes it possible to visit both the festivals on the same trip. The city is decorated in lights and small snow statues for ten days. Otaru canal also serves as the main site of the festival. I had a flight to Osaka in the evening, therefore couldn’t see this festival. Well that at least gives me an excuse to go back!

Access : There are many trains between Sapporo and Otaru along the JR Hakodate Main Line. One way trip costs 640 yen and takes 30 minutes by rapid train or 45 minutes by local train.

Once in the town, you can take regular taxis and chartered taxis that are easily available. Or if you are looking for that once in a lifetime sightseeing experience, you can opt for the traditional rickshaws. Alternatively, you can explore the entire city on foot.

Must Visit in Hokkaido, Japan 北海道, 日本: Otaru 小樽


what to wear in snow


Indian fashion


Sweater – GAP, $ 30 on Sale, 2014, also worn here;
Skirt - Azul by Moussy, $ 30, 2015, also worn here;
Jacket – Zara, 184 $, 2012; also worn here and here;
Shoes – Bershka, $ 35 on sale, 2015, also worn here;
Beanie – H&M, $ 10, 2011;
Bag – Charles & Keith, $ 50 on sale, 2014;
Gloves – H&M, $ 5,  2011;