Otaru is a small harbour town 30 km west of Sapporo. It is noted for its charming canal district, where an array of Western-style buildings from the late Meiji period prompted the Japanese to dub Otaru the "Romantic city". Have a look at the Mitsui Bank, former Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) building, Music Box Museum, among others.
Of greater interest for Western travellers (who may not necessarily be impressed at the sight of Western-style houses) are the so-called traditional 'herring houses', which belonged to herring fishers before the trade declined in the aftermath of WWII.
Glass-making is another celebrated local industry. Tourists can make their own personalized glasses at the Otaru Unga Kogeikan, or view beautiful glasses at the Kitaichi Glass Shops and Kitaichi Venetian Museum.
The Otaru Municipal Museum houses a paraphernalia of objects related to the town's history.
How to get there
Otaru is about 30 minutes from Sapporo and 75 minutes from Chitose Airport using the "JR Rapid Aiport" (￥620 and ￥1,740, respectively).
See the Sapporo section for flights between Sapporo and other Japanese cities.