Otaru (小樽) is a port city on the coast of Sea of Japan; its development started as a major financial and trade district in Hokkaido. However, after Sapporo has been flourished, the prominent industries in Otaru have become art crafts including glass works and music boxes. It also has become one of the favorite places for tourists due to its Victorian-style lamps adorned streets, ancient buildings, and picturesque canal.
I arrived in Otaru from Kushiro (釧路) at almost 5 o’clock. After checking into my hotel, I decided to take a walk to the street. I was very surprised that there were so less people on the streets, and the stores seemed to start closing. The streets full of old-fashioned buildings emitted a very nostalgic and exotic atmosphere, especially the store-clustered area stood out like a backdrop for a beautiful early 20-century movie. However, the people-less streets also showed an unspeakable solitude. I then realized that most business closed at 6 o’clock at night, so I had to come back the next morning to explore more!
There’s a dome shaped roof on my hotel, Hotel Nord, that’s open for customers to enjoy some refreshments and the gorgeous aerial views of Otaru.
After taking some photos from the hotel’s dome roof, I took a walk toward a shopping streets. Most of the shops, whoever, were not opened yet, but it was fun to look around what these shops were before heading toward the canal and the most prosperous town center in Otaru. Lily of the Valley, known as “すずらん” in Japanese, is a specialty in Hokkaido. This street lamp is cleverly designed in the shape of lily of the valley. I thought it’s absolutely adorable.
When I finally reached the town center, I found that indeed the lively sceneries made a huge contrast of the loneliness in the previous day (or previous late afternoon, I should say…).
Kitakaro (北菓楼) carries both Japanese and western-style desserts. Its celebrated cake is called “Fairy’s Forest”(妖精の森), which is a Baumkuchen (layered cake). In my opinion, it tastes kind of like a stiffer version of honey cake…
This is the very famous glass studio in Otaru. There are several stores that carry various genres of glass work collections. LeTAO is also a popular dessert store here. The presentation of different types of chocolates was certainly beautiful. I thought I was in a stage set for an old movie. 😀 There are several “Silver Bell” (銀の鐘) cafes in Otaru, conveniently named “Silver Bell First,” “Silver Bell Second,” “Silver Bell Third,” and “Silver Bell Fourth.” Silver Bell Fourth also provides a “floating ice hall” for customers to enjoy the very freezing experience! The special perk for customers is that you can choose the cup for your coffee to take it home! They even supply the sink for you to wash your cup and some paper boxes for it and the saucer that comes with it, if any. This is such a brilliant way to get your special Otaru souvenir that will always remind you the lovely time you’ve experienced in Otaru!
I opted Silve Bell Second, majorly because it showed a very interesting creature called “Clione,” commonly known as “Angel Fish” or “Floating Ice Angel.”
These creatures came from Sea of Okhotsk with the floating ice; they’re very tiny with the bigger ones for about 3 cm long. It’s difficult to capture them in the photos because they kept flapping their tiny transparent fins shaped like wings, and apparently they could swim pretty fast too! I did film some videos of them swam in the tank with better quality though, but WordPress does not allow me to upload any videos. 😦
This store, called Otaru Orgel (小樽 オルゴール堂), does not exactly sell orgels. Instead, it sells a vast selection of music boxes, and everybody is bound to find something for his or her taste! The standing clock in front of the store is a steam clock built by a Canadian horologist, Raymond Saunders.
Kitaichi glass studio (北一硝子館) and Taishou glass studio(大正硝子館) are two largest glass studios in Otaru, both having several branch stores scattered in town center. Taishou makes delicate cute little figurines, such as animals, vegetables, fruits, etc for customers to arrange them to for decoration. Kitaichi’s works focus on more practical use, including various types of wine glasses, saucers, plates.
After a heavy shopping and light lunch, I headed back toward my hotel. This canal has appeared in numerous photos. If there’s only one photo you can take in Otaru, this is the one! Not only just the photos, the stamps, the illustrations, everything that associates to Otaru can this image emerge.
I personally didn’t get too much hype about it, but sure I agreed that it was enchanting enough to have many people taking this photo again and again…though they pretty much look identical, heh…. 😛 I realized that there was annual “Tide festival”(潮まつり) coming up at the end of July. However, when I went to Otaru Plaza that serves as a tourist’s information center, I then saw many blue wind chimes hanging there. I simply thought they’re quite charming with a unique blue hue. The price was fair, 1500 Japanese yen each so I got one. Then I read the description on the panel, saying this particular wind chime was the winner of this year’s “Tide Wind Chime” (潮風鈴) designed and handmade by studio J-45’s glass master–馬場雅己. There were only 300 limited wind chimes made. That time I didn’t know who 馬場雅己 was until I searched him online later and found his works were exhibited in Taiwan early this year! Of course, this wind chime has been immigrated to my house safely, and its unique blue hue seems to cool down the hot summer in Taiwan. 🙂 I departed for Sapporo at around 3 o’clock in the afternoon… after 2 long train rides in previous 2 days in a row, I was glad that it only took 30 minutes from Otaru to Sapporo…