A brief tale of my travels through Japan (in particular Sapporo, my second home). I started travelling to Japan in 2003, and have made 9 trips since then... I've been married (to T-chan), bought my first house, and had one child (our son, L-kun) and now a second one (our daughter, C-chan).
I'm writing this in 2012, so it's sort of like going back in a time machine. Eventually I will get back to current day!...
11th April, 2009 - Now Otaru is a short drive from our house, and it also happens to be one of the major "touristy" places in and around Sapporo... so we've been here many times before (like here and here). So I've written about Otaru a lot... but that shouldn't stop me writing again... should it? Now... a reminder of where Otaru is... if you catch the JR Hokkaido line it will cost you around 620yen and take about 30 mintues from Sapporo Station.
So here we are again in Marchen Square (don't ask me why it's called that)... this is the centre of activities but it actually lies to one end of the main shopping street, Sakai-machi. The reason we were here... a double date - but more of that later.
The Otaru Orgel Doh stands in the background
One of must-see places is the Otaru Orgel Doh, which is a magical place that just sells Orgels, or music boxes of all (and I mean ALL) shapes and sizes from the very small to the HUGE (and very expensive). Now, if you're like me, you most probably not a big time fan of music boxes - I mean, lets face it, who other than pre-teen girls have music boxes?
Well... apparently a lot of people. And the variety that you can see here (and this is just a small fraction of the shop) indicates a life-long job that for serious collectors. The great thing about the shop is that even if you're not into music boxes, you can still enjoy the amazing sensory assault delight that is the Orgel Doh.
Actually - no camera's allowed... but...
And - yet another plug for LeTAO le Chocolat cafeteria, also in Marchen Square. Don't forget to grab a free sample on the way past.
The good thing about a lot of Japanese places for the foreign tourist is that the sporadic use of English makes it slightly easier to guess what's going on. Actually, this cafe was one that we had enjoyed on our first trip and is worth a look inside (at least it was). It's a little bit touristy, but for Otaru that's par for the course. Grab a coffee and relax after looking at all of those music boxes.... it's just across from the Otaru Orgel Doh.
Well, the main reason we were in Otaru was because older T-chan's brother (H-kun) had come back to Sapporo with his girlfriend... and soon to be fiance (S-chan). Now, we're actually going to go over to Japan in the next few months to attend their wedding in Tokyo, and a little closer to the day, we might do a bit of a story on H-kun... but for now, let's leave the two lovebirds alone... And Otaru is a good place for lovebirds to spend time alone in. Especially for a daburu dēto... a double date. Ooooh - how exciting.
Speaking of lovebirds... here's a nice family shot of just me, T-chan (mystery woman as usual) and our lovely son...er... T-chan, did we leave L-kun back at the Ampanman shop by any chance?....
Actually, the building style is quite different in Otaru, heavily influenced as it was from early European influence - and there remains a strong presence of especially Russians in and around Otaru. I've never been to Otaru in the middle of a snowy winter, so I can't really say what it would be like. I know a lot of people have complained about how cold it can get, but I suspect that's pretty well anywhere in/around Sapporo outside the underground shopping during a snow storm. However, during Spring / Summer / Autumn it's a beautiful day trip from Sapporo.
There are also a lot of very nice cafe's in Otaru (as well as the overly touristy ones)... here's a nice little cafe that H-kun introduced us to, called Uminekoya.
This is a reasonable walk from the "tourist strip", and this cafe/restaurant is reasonably popular in Otaru. Especially for the exquisite and atmospheric buidling.
Their meals are fairly Italian in style - and I had a very hearty stew. Whilst stews are not the first thing I think of when I think Italian, it's not really what you would think of when you say stew. Very yummy - and as the day was actually quite cool still, it was a nice warm-you-to-the-bones meal. They do all sorts of curries, but principally they do Pizzas, Pastas, meat dishes, salads... and if you're interested, check out the menu (and yes they also do "couple plans" for that romantic lunch/dinner). Our experience was that it was a nice place to sit down and relax. Personally, it's atmospheric, but for me not that romatic (this is a little too country rustic for a date, and the service isn't particularly brilliant). Still a good place to go and enjoy a different experience.
Well - the day was spent, like most days to Otaru, enjoy the canals, enjoying looking at music boxes, Ghibli-esque toy store called Yume no Oto, visit the many sea-food places (Otaru has some of the best fish-cakes you can buy) , and of course glass shops...and more glass shops. There's definitely a lot of walking to be done. Sometimes you just need a good sit down and relax... you never know who you might meet. Hmmm - it makes me wonder, where do statues and sculptures go for their holidays?
And there's always a great drive back (if you have a car) to Sapporo, there's always the nice (if a little dark) views across Ishikari Bay, and the still snow capped peaks along the coast. So overall, it was a very nice place for a double date, and we'll most probably see a little more of H-kun and S-chan over the next few trips I suspect - and Imight even formally introduce you guys on the blog (properly)... ?;-)