Nostalgia and Romance in Japan’s North – Otaru, Hokkaido 4 Days 3 Nights
  • Day 1
  • Arrive at New Chitose Airport
Arrive at New Chitose Airport, Sapporo, from Tokyo. This 1.5-hour flight takes you to a whole different side of Japan. Continue your journey to Otaru by train, a 1-hour train ride that will take you directly to Otaru-Chikko station. There, the driver from your ryokan tonight, Ginrinsou, will greet you and take you to the historical inn. You may also reach Otaru by private car, a 1-hour drive.
*Please book in advance.

You may arrange to arrive early and enjoy playing some golf. There are many golf courses near New Chitose Airport. The courses are surrounded by rich natural forests, and one 18-hole course offers panoramic views. Hokkaido is well known as the best place to play golf in Japan, as it is rich in nature and boasts a variety of courses.

The town of Otaru, perched on the shores of Ishikari Bay in western Hokkaido, has prospered since the late 19th century as the gateway to Japan’s northern prefecture. The Otaru Canal that runs through the town, and the warehouses that line it, were once the center of a thriving business district, with boats and barges bringing goods through the “gateway to Hokkaido.” The canal is still the picturesque center of the town, and the warehouses have been converted into stores selling fine glassware, as well as coffee shops, restaurants and shopping malls. The cobbled streets in the old town gleam under oil lamps in the evening, and you can wander about the town drinking in the historical atmosphere.

Otaru has earned its nickname “town of hills” – it is richly endowed with steep hills, including the aptly named Jigoku-zaka (“Hell Hill” – it’s really steep). The town is surrounded on three sides by mountains, including Mt. Tengu, a popular ski resort in winter and a scenic destination all year round, especially in good weather, when the panoramic view of Otaru and its port area is absolutely wonderful. A ropeway is available to take you to the mountaintop.

Check in at Ginrinsou.

Ginrinsou is located in central Otaru. Priding itself on its historical heritage, architectural legacy and impeccable service, Ginrinsou is one of Hokkaido's most prestigious ryokan. You can experience the ultimate relaxation by soaking in its beautiful open-air hot spring bath, set high atop a small cape with a breathtaking panoramic view of Ishikari Bay. For your dining pleasure, French cuisine, as well as an outstanding selection of Japanese foods featuring seasonal seafood delicacies, is available at the ryokan's tastefully decorated Ginrinsou Grill.

Hokkaido is famous for its local seafood, especially herring, crab and salmon. At Ginrinsou, you can enjoy local seafood and vegetables that give pleasure not only to your palate, but to your eyes and your spirit as well.

  • Day 2
  • Otaru
WINTER - Why don't you come and enjoy the cold weather and snow to create some special memories? Let's rent skis or a snowboard and skiwear and jump into the white power snow. Don't worry if you're new to snow - a 1-day experience course for you to try the sport is available at both ski resorts on the mountain.

Tenguyama Ropeway
This Otaru landmark is just 15 minutes from the city center. A four-minute ropeway (cable car) ride takes you to the top of Tenguyama, the mountain overlooking the city. In the daytime, you can see spectacular views of the port of Otaru and Ishikari Bay. The night view from the summit of Tenguyama is equally breathtaking, and is famous as one of the top three in Hokkaido. Even if you don't ski, Tenguyama is worth a visit.

Asarigawa Onsen Winter Resort
Asarigawa Onsen Winter Resort is also about 15 minutes from Otaru. Located near the seaport, the upper reaches of Asari Ski Resort provide spectacular views across the water. This hill is suitable for beginners to intermediate skiers, as well as snowboarders. Families can have great fun sledding.

Sapporo Kokusai Skiing Resort
Only 35 minutes by car takes you to this large ski resort, one of the best places for powder snow in Hokkaido. The resort offers a variety of terrain, from beginner to expert, as well as a freestyle park and a family area.

SPRING and SUMMER – Travel to the beautiful Shakotan Peninsula and visit the coastal town of Yoichi, famous as the home of Nikka Whisky. You could also visit the “Space Apple,” its space museum (Japanese astronaut Mamoru Mori is from Yoichi).

You could take a train for 40 minutes from Otaru Chikko station to Yoichi station, or travel by private car for 30 minutes.

Nikka Whisky Distilleries
Nikka Whisky’s Yoichi distillery has been in its picturesque location since 1934, and offers very interesting tours of its facilities. Guides introduce you to the whisky production process and the history of the company, followed by a tasting session.

Cherry Blossoms
Along the Yoichi River, you will find lots of sakura trees, lined up for about 5km along the banks of the river. Sakura are usually in full bloom in May. *Availability depends on season.

After returning to Otaru, you may take a 90-minute private sunset cruise from Otaru Marina.
*Advance booking is required.
* Cruise operates from 16:30 to18:00; availability depends on the season.
* Operation is subject to weather conditions.

  • Day 3
  • Otaru
Take a train to Otaru station, just two stops away from Otaru-Chikko station, taking only 8 minutes. Grab a street map from the Visitors Center in the station and take off to explore the snowy city of Otaru.

Sakaimachi Dori
Sakaimachi Dori This is a fun street filled with souvenir shops, restaurants and coffee-and-sweets shops.

Otaru is famous for its glassware. The craftsmen here started out making glass buoys for fishermen, and later applied their knowhow to producing refined glassware as well. If time permits, try creating your own glass cups or bowls – a perfect souvenir of your stay in Otaru.

Music Box Museum
This fascinating museum, which dates from 1912, is asymbol of Sakaimachi Dori and displays a variety of historical music boxes. The Steam Clock in front of the building, a gift from the Canadian city of Vancouver to Otaru, is powered entirely by steam, and is well worth stopping by to see. Later, you might try making your own music box in the Handicraft Studio.

Sweets shops
Hokkaido is famous for its unique sweets shops. From chocolate to cheesecake, you will be overwhelmed by the variety of the region's original sweets.

Otaru Sushi Street
Otaru is famous for its sushi thanks to its long history as a fishing port, and fresh seafood can always be found at reasonable prices. About 20 restaurants await, for you to enjoy sushi made with locally caught seafood. Sushi Street is a nice place to stop for lunch during your trek around Otaru.

Otaru Canal
The Otaru Canal was a central part of the city's busy port in the first half of the 20th century. It became obsolete when the modern docks were built, but it was beautifully restored in the 1980s. The canal and surrounding area takes on a mysterious atmosphere when night falls and the old-fashioned gas lamps are lit. In February, during the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival, the combination of snow and lantern light creates a nostalgic and romantic atmosphere.

Another fun option: you can explore the town by rickshaw! With knowledgeable, English-speaking drivers, comfortable rickshaws and a leisurely pace, this is the perfect way to get to know the city and its history.

A variety of crafts experiences can also be arranged, including lessons in making music boxes, glassware, candles and sushi. A fun kimono-wearing experience is also available.

If you feel like extending your discovery experience, Otaru Aquarium could be an option. Located 15 minutes by taxi from Otaru station, this interesting aquarium is popular with visitors of all ages. In addition to fascinating displays of fish and other marine life, the aquarium offers performances by dolphins, walruses and other sea animals. In winter, the “Penguin Snow Walk” is extremely cute and not to be missed!

Otaru Yuki Akari no Michi (Snow Light Path Festival) is held every Feburary. During the 10-day festival the downtown district around the Otaru Canal is decorated with lights and small snow statues, as well as lighted bouys on the canal itself. The result is a unique and magical atmosphere.

*Held from the Friday of the first week of February for 10 days.

Return to Ginrinsou and soak in the hot spring bath to loosen your muscles after your day of sightseeing.

  • Day 4
  • Departure
Check out from Ginrinsou.

The ryokan's shuttle bus will take you to Otaru-Chikko station, where you will continue your journey.

If time permits, you might check out a few of the scenic spots on the way to the airport. The view from Asari Pass is breathtaking and especially popular for its beautiful autumn leaves and the view of the lake below, a reservoir for Jozankei dam. You could stop by hot spring town of Jozankei, and then have lunch by lovely Lake Shikotsu before continuing on to the airport.

If you extend your way to visit other area of Hokkaido, the famous ski resort of Niseko is 80km away and takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes by car.

Furano, which is about 2 hours away by car is famous for its beautiful lanfscapes. To visit lavender fields is very popular in July.