Hokkaido Day 13 (Otaru) (26 Feb 17) – Day Trip to Otaru and Viewing Sapporo from Mt Moiwa

The beautiful and peaceful iconic Otaru Canal

Day Trip to Otaru

The original plan was to visit Mt Moiwa in the morning and by noon arrive at Otaru. However, Mt Moiwa Ropeway opens at 11am, which would mean the half-day will be wasted. We made the decision on the spot at Sapporo JR Station to visit Otaru and return by evening and head over to Mt Moiwa. JR from Sapporo to Otaru took about 1 hour. We bought our train tickets from the vending machines which also allows us to get reserved seat tickets. We also bought our train tickets to New Chitose Airport for tomorrow since we are already at it. Once arrived at Otaru we headed for the Otaru Canal, which is about 10 mins walk away from the train station. To get to Otaru Canal, we walked straight along the street with Otaru JR station behind us. As we were walking towards Otaru Canal, we were surrounded by thick snow and couldn’t resist playing with the snow. As we were playing with the snow, my friend and I started building a snowman by the side of the walkway. We were hoping that our snowman will still be around by the time we return.
Taking JR from Sapporo to Otaru 
We reached Otaru Station in about 1 hour’s time
In Otaru Station
View of Otaru JR Station
Walking towards Otaru Canal
On the streets of Otaru (near Otaru JR Station)
My friend building a snowman on the streets of Otaru
The snowman we built
Buildings in Otaru is influenced by western architecture

The Charming Otaru Canal

We were greeted by a canal across a road, we knew we have arrived at Otaru Canal. Rows of brick-walled warehouses lined up across the canal, standing tall and unwavering by the cold winter of Hokkaido (was -4℃ at the time we were there). Covered with snow and icicles forming on its roof, these buildings eluding a sense of majestic to these buildings which once served as storage space in the first half of 20th century. These days these timeless warehouses transformed into shops and restaurant continue to stay relevant to their changing roles. As we strolled along Otaru Canal on the snow-covered pathway the stroll was comfortable and peaceful as we gaze at the canal and the warehouses, despite having quite a number of visitors strolling along the same path. A bridge nearby, Asakusa Bridge, where a lot more visitors gathered. The view from Asakusa Bridge is even more charming. This is where one can take iconic pictures of Otaru Canal running in the middle with warehouses on the right side and the modern buildings peeking through the snow on the left side. Diagonally opposite Asakusa Bridge is Denuki-Koji Street, which comprises of a cluster of restaurants that are built on whatever land they can find here. On the outside of Denuki-Koji Street are some small stalls that sell some street food. My friend and I headed into one of the cafes to have a small portion of melon soft serve. It was snowing when we exited the shop and seem heavier by the minute. We headed over to the sushi restaurant opposite Denuki-Koji Street.

There it is, Otaru Canal
Taking wefie at Otaru Canal
The warehouses standing unwavering to the cold winter weather
Me at Otaru Canal
The snow and icicles on the warehouses give it a different personality
Denuki-Koji Street Opposite Asakusa Bridge over Otaru Canal
Me on Asakusa Bridge over Otaru Canal
My friend with Denuki-Koji Street
Shops selling street food in Denuki-Koji Street
We went for the melon soft serve in Denuki-Koji Street. It is a pity the melon is not from Hokkaido as we were told Feb is not the season for Hokkaido melons
Denuki-Koji Street
My friend in Denuki-Koji Street
It started to snow as we were getting some street food in Denuki-Koji Street
Going for sushi in a restaurant opposite Denuki-Koji Street 
Maki with tuna
The sushi here is very fresh and tasty

Strolling in Otaru

After lunch, we walked along Rinkosen Street, the street opposite Otaru Canal, towards the Otaru Music Box Museum. There are a number of restaurants and souvenir shops on this side of the side. We went into one of the restaurants to have some ramen and grilled scallops. As we were walking along Rinkosen Street, we came across a shop selling 7-tier soft serve with 7 different flavours. Feeling full from the 2 lunches we had earlier, we opted for the 3-tier soft serve with lavender, vanilla and melon flavours. The soft serve tasted rich and not too sweet, perfect to be eaten in the snowing winter of Otaru. We went into LeTao cafe and got ourselves both flavours of their famed cheesecake. Their cheesecake did not taste too cheesy, coupled with the rich Hokkaido milk it is made from, the cheesecake is simply heavenly. Even my friend who is not a fan of cheesecake got bought over by LeTao cheesecake.

After lunch, we headed back to Otaru Canal and explore the street behind the warehouses. The snowing weather makes Otaru Canal more charming
There are some restaurants souvenir shops in this warehouse
The street behind Otaru Canal
Most of the warehouses are restaurants
My friend in the street behind the warehouse
Some of the warehouses on Otaru Canal
Lunch no.2. We had grill scallops and crab
And Miso Ramen
The grill scallops. There are uni also
The restaurant we had our second lunch in
We saw this shop selling 7-tiered soft serve. We only got stomach space to fit 3 and got the vanilla, lavender and melon flavour soft serve
We passed by one of the restaurants displaying live seafood outside the restaurant
LeTao Cheesecakes is a must-try when coming to Otaru
We ordered both flavours. The delicious cheesecake is rich and does not have a cheesy taste

Otaru Music Box Museum 

Feeling satisfied after our cheesecake, we headed to red-bricked western-styled Otaru Music Box Museum. Outside the Otaru Music Box Museum stands the Otaru Steam Clock which chimes every 15 mins. The interior of the Otaru Music Box Museum is mainly made of wood, from the flooring to the wooden stairways that lead to the 2nd and 3rd floor of the museum. My first impression of Otaru Music Box Museum, apart from it being crowded with tourists, is that it is a big shop selling all sorts of intriguing designed music box made of glass and some in wood. I was very careful when navigating in the museum amongst the hordes of tourists. The real gem is the room on the 2nd floor, near to the entrance of Otaru Music Box Museum. This is where the more expensive and unique and some antique music boxes are being displayed. We were quite turned off by the massive crowd flocking into Otaru Music Box Museum and left the museum.

Walking towards Otaru Music Box Museum along Rinkosen Street  
An oil lamp opposite Otaru Music Box Museum
The steam clock outside Otaru Music Box Museum which chimes every 15 mins
Taking a picture with the steam clock
There are a lot of music boxes for sale in Otaru Music Box Museum
The Otaru Music Box Museum feels more like a huge shop selling music boxes than a museum
Customers can choose what music for their music box here
More music boxes on sale
View of the music box museum from the second floor
Sleeping with a lucky cat
This is part of the display on the second level
One of the more expensive music boxes

Otaru Canal in the Evening

It is getting dark and still snowing, my friend and I made our way back to Otaru Canal Sakaimachidori Shopping Street to take pictures of the night view of the canal. Sakaimachidori Shopping Street has a mixture of western-style and ancient Japanese styled buildings. Personally I find the old Japanese styled buildings to be more charming. The street has shops selling all sorts of souvenirs, mainly souvenirs made of glass. Otaru is famous for its glassware from decorative glass ornaments to practical glass kitchen wares, one is sure to find some glassware that suits one’s needs here. I learnt from my research for the my Hokkaido trip that a cafe in Otaru sells cream puffs that are bigger than one’s face. As we are strolling along Sakaimachidori Shopping Street, we found Kitaichi Glass 3gokan Cafe Bar which sells the signature gigantic cream puff. My first impression of the rustic cafe is it is rather dark, as they used kerosene lamp to light up the cafe. However as we were settling in, I like the cosy ambience in this cafe. As we tucked into the gigantic cream puff, we found the cream inside the puff is generous and not too sweet and has a rich texture to it.

Sakaimachidori Shopping Street viewed from Otaru Music Box Museum
My friend in front of  Otaru Music Box Museum facing Sakaimachidori Shopping Street
This cream puff is gigantic! Still the cream tasted fresh and yummy
We had the giant cream puff at Kitaichi Glass 3gokan Cafe Bar. The rustic restaurant has a distinct kerosene smell as they use kerosene lamp as lighting.
Showing how big the cream puff is in Kitaichi Glass 3gokan Cafe Bar. The cafe is located inside one of the glassware shops.
We found a snowman in front of one of the glassware shops along Sakaimachidori Shopping Street
Taking wefie on Sakaimachidori Shopping Street
Taking pictures with random buildings in Sakaimachidori Shopping Street
There are some Japanese styled buildings alongside Western-styled buildings on Sakaimachidori Shopping Street
One of the shops in Japanese styled building on Sakaimachidori Shopping Street
We walked along this canal to get back to Otaru Canal. The buildings here are simply charming with the snow all around it
Me in front of the canal that links to Otaru Canal
My throwing a snowball into the canal
Walking along this small street is very peaceful. The snow-covered buildings are a beautiful sight to looking at.
Taking pictures of the canal. There are some shops selling glasswares along the canal

The night view of the Otaru Canal is peaceful and beautiful and has a very different flare from the day time. The Victorian-styled lamp lining along the pathway beside the canal gives a very romantic feel to the canal. Taking picture on Asakusa Bridge is a ritual that many tourists come here for, but taking pictures on the pathway is equally beautiful. After taking picture of Otaru Canal, my friend and I headed back to Otaru JR Station to catch the next train back to Sapporo. Along the way, we saw the snowman we built earlier in the day is still there. It survived the snowstorm and mankind’s destruction! We headed to Otaru JR Station and took a train back to Sapporo.

In Otaru Canal in the evening
Taking wefie on Asakusaga Bridge. This spot has the best photo spot of Otaru Canal, especially in the evening
My friend on Asakugawa Bridge overlooking Otaru Canal.


The pathway beside Otaru Canal also offers great photo spot
Taking a picture with Otaru Canal in the evening

Our Final Destination – Viewing Sapporo from Mt Moiwa at Night

Reaching Sapporo, we headed to our last destination of the trip – Mt Moiwa. To get to Mt Moiwa Ropeway station, my friend and I took the subway from Sapporo JR Station to Susukino Station and changed to the Streetcar (Shiden). The Shiden is a tram system that runs from Central Sapporo to Western areas in Sapporo and is the only way (other than catching a cab) to Mt Moiwa Ropeway Station. We alighted at Ropeway Iriguchi Stop and walked about 3 mins to the bus stop where a complimentary shuttle bus picked us up and brought us to the base station (Sanroku Station).
The Streetcar or Shiden is the only way to get to Mt Moiwa Ropeway
Inside the crowded Shiden
The shuttle bus that took us from Shiden stop to Mt Moiwa Ropeway Sanroku Station
The bus ride to Mt Moiwa Sanroku Station takes only 3 mins
Map in Sanroku Station explaining the stations of the Ropeway System on Mt Moiwa
My friend with the Mascot of Mt Moiwa
This is the Ropeway that will take us to Chufuku Station where we changed to the mini cable car to the summit Sancho Station

Mt Moiwa is a 531m mountain located in Southwest of Sapporo, a romantic place for locals to date. The jewel of the crown on Mt Moiwa is its unobstructed view of the entire Sapporo and beyond. On a good day, one can see as far as the Japan Sea. To get to the summit, we took the Mt Moiwa Ropeway to the mid-station (Chufuku Station) and another mini cable car to the summit station (Sancho Station). As the ropeway pulls us up to the Chufuku Station, the City of Sapporo shine like stars in the sky beneath us. It felt as if the ropeway is hanging through a cleared path in the forest of Mt Moiwa. The ropeway reached Chufuku Station in 5 mins. There is a big souvenir shop at Chufuku Station, as we were trying to catch the mini cable cars to Sancho Station, we thought we could come back later to get some souvenirs.

Inside the mini cable car towards Chufuku Station
We are already mesmerised by the view of Sapporo city as we ascend in the Ropeway, to the mid-Chufuku Station
Night view of Sapporo from the Ropeway
Night view of Sapporo from the Ropeway

We changed to a mini cable car in Chukufu Station which brought us to Sancho Station in around 2 mins. The mini cable cars are essentially 2 small trains like cable cars running on rail tracks. Once at Sancho Station, my friend and I went directly up to the observation deck on the rooftop. As we were exiting the lift, we were greeted by a huge diamond-shaped tripod with a bell in the middle sitting in the centre of the observation deck. It is believed that couples who rang the bell together will find happiness. The Bell of Happiness is surrounded by some railings for couples to put a padlock with their names on it, which is believed that couples who do that will forever be in love with each other. Pass the Bell of Happiness we saw what we came here to see, the view of Sapporo. The night view here is touted to be the new 3 most beautiful nightscapes of Japan. The cold winter wind (it was around -8℃ at the time of our visit) did not stop us from admiring the beautiful night view of Sapporo. Sapporo shone like stars in the sky, brightly lighting the darkness around us. As it was dark, I find it a little tough to make out where is what, on top of that we couldn’t see the Sea of Japan due to the darkness. What a better way than looking at Sapporo from Mt Moiwa at night as a way to draw the curtain to our 14 day trip across Hokkaido. My friend and I looked back at our maiden trip to Japan and recollect how much we had enjoyed ourselves while travelling in Hokkaido, looking at Sapporo from Mt Moiwa. Soon it is time for us to take our leave travelling back to Sanroku Station and head back to our apartment. After all, we have to pack our luggage for our early flight out of Hokkaido tomorrow.

My friend at Mt Moiwa Rooftop Observation Deck
Me ringing the Bell of Happiness. As we were the first ones to take a picture with the bell, I broke the tranquillity (and in the midst startling some people) when I strike the bell
Night view of Sapporo from Mt Moiwa.
Panoramic shot of night view of Sapporo City from Mt Moiwa
Another panoramic shot of Sapporo City from Mt Moiwa. It was freezing up here but the view was well worth it
Me with the night view of Sapporo City
The lights make Sapporo City look like stars in a galaxy system
Night view of Sapporo City is both stunning and peaceful
Night view of Sapporo City
My friend raining the Bell of Happiness
Taking a wefie at the Observation Deck of Mt Moiwa with the beautiful  night view of Sapporo City behind us
Enjoying the view of Sapporo City from Mt Moiwa
One last shot of Sapporo City before we head back to our apartment
Taking the Ropeway back to the base station of Sanroku Station
Night view of Sapporo City from the Ropeway as we descend. If you look closely you can see Sapporo TV Tower (it is lighted up in Red)
Night view of Sapporo City seen from Mt Moiwa Ropeway



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