Otaru, and Traveling Without A Plan

There is just a semblance of a plan when my travel companion James and I go on trips. So I’m not even sure if the people who’ve thought of joining our adventures would love our vagabonding. Planning is confined to booking the flight and hotel in advance, plus a little research on where to eat (Lonely Planet is a great resource, and the where-chef-eats book given by dear friends Candice and Dean Dee). For Sapporo, all we wanted to do was walk through Odori filled with ice sculptures, and eat Hokkaido uni and ramen. Then, it’s bahala na. We usually go with the flow and not race through it all. We get up late, even nap in between. It just works for us.

We had not heard of the port city Otaru until a Pinay migrant we met at the Snow Festival insisted that we take the 30-minute train ride from Sapporo. So we did, after having seen enough of Odori. She said it was by the sea, it was old, historic, romantic and served great sushi.

When we arrived at the Otaru Station on the JR train, we went straight to the tourism office and asked what we should see. We were told, “walk by the canal”.

It’s a ten-minute walk from the station.

The canal is just a canal and it’s not even as pretty as Venice’s. But it turns scenic when snow covers the centuries-old stone and brick warehouses standing along the canal.

Some have been turned into bars and shops.

From the canal, we took a detour to Sakaimachi Street which was the one of the high points of our trip. There you’d find restaurants serving fresh seafood (lots of scallops and king crabs), cafés, dessert places, souvenir shops and boutiques.

And there’s a museum-cum-department store filled with music boxes and glassware. Other than seafood, Otaru is known for such crafts.

If Hokkaido were Christian, this could easily be the Christmas town of Asia.  The Pinay at the fair was right – it was magical and romantic, indeed.

The stroll ended with sushi. I will never eat better-tasting sushi again after Otaru.

We capped the tour with vanilla-and-melon ice cream. Had it al fresco. Ice cream and sub-zero. Overkill, but awesome.

Now we know.  We’d plan for Otaru next time.