Throughout its history, Otaru has prospered as a port town, a railroad town, and a herring fishing region. Even today, Otaru’s canals and many historical buildings carry on this beautiful history.
Hills are a big part of life in Otaru, and part of the city’s unique charm. The sloping road which leads up to Otaru University of Commerce is known as “Jigoku-zaka” or “Hell Hill”! It was also formerly known as a mecca for skiers. Before your eyes spreads Ishikari Bay, home to abundant marine life and Otaru’s main source of delicious fresh seafood. The moment you set foot outside Otaru Station, the view of the Mashike Mountains across the bay will lift your spirits above the clouds.In three directions, Otaru is surrounded by magnificent mountains. These “houses built determinedly on the side of a mountain” are one of Otaru’s best known sights.
Walking through town, you will notice countless markets selling an incredible variety of seafood, as well as tempting fresh fruits and vegetables delivered directly from the neighboring towns of Niki and Yoichi. As sun sets, how about stopping by an eatery along Hanazono Ginza Street to sample these local ingredients accompanied by regional sake.
In spring, herring (nishin, also known as harutsuge-uo, translating to “fish which heralds the spring”) gather in enormous groups to lay their eggs. The ocean waters take on a whitish color with the eggs and spawn.
Sea urchins (uni) are found in two varieties: red ezobafun-uni or white kitamurasaki-uni. The sea urchin feeds on kelp, and high-quality kelp gives this delicacy a beautiful flavor.
Autumn mantis shrimp are dense, toothful, and packed with flavor! Otaru even holds a local Mantis Shrimp Festival, the “Shako Matsuri”.
Fresh seafood makes such a heartwarming addition to a wintertime hot pot.