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Otaru Highlights

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3 Chome-63 Shukutsu, Otaru-shi, Hokkaidō 047-0047, Japan

The Old Aoyama Villa was built on the business of pulling fish, specifically herring, from the sea. The Aoyama family was one of the region’s three most important, controlling a fishing operation boasting more than 10 tohs—a toh...

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5 Chome-8-15 Irifune, Otaru-shi, Hokkaidō 047-0021, Japan

If the Aoyama Villa is the best of classic Japan, the Sakaushi Residence, begun only 10 years later, shows what modern Japanese were thinking. From the outside, the place looks like a really nice house in a Virginia suburb, and why not? It was...

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5-5-4 Minatomachi, Otaru-shi, Hokkaidō 047-0007, Japan

The Otaru Canal was built in the early 20th century to make up for the town's not having a deepwater port. Big ships were unloaded into little ships which then traveled the canal to warehouses. But even after Otaru dredged a harbor...

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2 Chome-1-20 Ironai, Otaru-shi, Hokkaidō 047-0031, Japan

The Otaru City Museum is housed in one of the former warehouses along the canal. A lot of it is kind of standard small-city-museum stuff, but it does have some excellent material on the Ainu, the people who occupied this island before the ethnic...

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7 Chome-6 Kurokawachō, Yoichi-chō, Yoichi-gun, Hokkaidō 046-0003, Japan

Some of Japan's best whiskey—and the Japanese take this drink almost as seriously as the Scots do—comes from Yoichi Nikka Whisky Distillery, just outside Otaru. The distillery was built in 1934, after Taketsuru Masataka came back to...

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2-2 Nobukachō, Otaru-shi, Hokkaidō 047-0016, Japan

Whiskey isn’t the only game in Otaru. Because of the clean springwater, some of Japan’s best sake is made here. A tour of Tanaka Shuzo Brewery Kikko Gura, which has been creating sake since 1899, reveals how rice can be turned into...

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3 Chome-16-13 Inaho, Otaru, Hokkaido 047-0032, Japan

Otaru may be the only place in Japan with a fried-chicken tradition. If you’re tired of fish, give Wakadori Jidai Naruto Honten’s naruto half-chicken a try. Seasoned with salt and pepper, allowed to sit for a day and then finally fried...

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7-20 Sakaimachi, Otaru, Hokkaido 047-0027, Japan

Otaru is famous for its glass, and there are shops everywhere. Those after something authentic should start the search at the oldest and most original, Kitaichi Glass, which offers one of the largest assortments in town. Across the street, the...

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1 Chome-1-1 Irifune, Otaru-shi, Hokkaidō 047-0021, Japan

With all the glass shops in town, there has to be a lot of broken glass, so the clever people behind Souvenir Otarukan offer a large assortment of kaleidoscopes—they claim there are about a thousand different ones up on the second floor. The...