Sunday, May 30, 2010

Going to Otaru... Two

18th October, 2006 - Well T-chan has definitely been feeling worse in the mornings now - and still no sign of her  taste returning. We decided to borrow the parents car and head off across to Otaru to spend some more time together. On the way we planned to visit <a href=" />Asari Dam again. The "UFO Bridge" looks quite different during the day, and I have to say that it's even more freaky to drive over when you can see what you're doing! Did I mention my growing fear of heights?

Deep waters run still. However, deeper waters also tend to overflow... not sure why the engineers hadn't quite worked out where the water level was going to get to when they build the fence. Still... keeps the fishes in. This is a hard thing to watch all of this water... just sitting there.... considering that Australia and Adelaide was (and still is) in the grip of a drought.

This is generally a good place for Autumn Colours, however, this year was definitely a disappointment. There was very little colour around, especially when I recall Jozankei and how absolutely impressed I was.

It's still a nice area, but it's a bit cool for a picnic.

We left Asari Dam and continued on to Otaru (here's a link to a useful map of the Otaru). It had been three years since we last came during the Autumn months, and it had be beautiful back then. Once again the weather was beautiful for strolling around... but the chill air had started to appear lately. These sorts of days were coming to an end with the approach of winter in Hokkaido. Otaru is separated into two main tourist areas. The canal and the Sakai-machi street where you will find most of the glass and music box shops.

The following shows just some of the scenes along Sakai-machi street. The big building here is the Kitaichi Venetian Museum of Art. Why in Otaru? I think it's the link to the glass/crystal industry. Venetian glass being the yardstick by which others are measured.

School kids on excursion. This is a typical "real school uniform" look... very smart. Not exactly sure what they'd be doing here today - T-chan says they'd be part of a school trip from somewhere else in Japan (2nd year High School students invariably go for a trip either to another part of Japan or even overseas). You'll notice that there's not that much bling on these girls. When T-chan went to school (a few years ago now)... their dresses were measured to ensure that they were "appropriate length", and hair dying was definitely prohibited. T-chan and her mother had to convince that her hair was naturally curled (actually it was permed... shhhh... family secret). Generally things have loosened up a lot in Japan these days - even in the private schools.

Near the end of street there is a large public square, known as Marchen Square.

LeTAO le Chocolat cafeteria in Marchen Square... you'll often find someone outside offering free samples of their wares... yummy.

Otaru Orgel Doh (often translated to Emporium)... Orgel or music boxes are one of the famous things in Otaru. Here you'll find just about any type of music box from the modern and small to the enormous and old (and with prices to match). Sorry - no photos inside on this trip...

Out the front of the Orgel Emporium is the Steam Clock... yes - a steam powered clock. It's supposedly the largest in the world, and only the second to be built. Actually, whilst this appears old, it was made in 1995 by Raymond Saunders. Steam clocks are a generally recent thing, the first popular one was actually made in Gastown, Vancouver in 1977. Every 15 minutes the chimes ring out...

Whislt your here - if you've got any anime interest at all, make sure you stop in at Yume no Oto (The Sound of Dreams). There's a great range of Studio Ghibli gear, as well as a raft of other anime-themed gear.
(care of Street View)

Good ol' Totoro! And if you don't know about Studio Ghibli then you should go out and hire one of their movies - especially anything by renowned director Hayao Miyazaki.

Bears are never far away... at least this one is not stuffed! He also looks much more friendly (on account of not being stuffed I'm sure).

The architecture in Otaru is quite eclectic. Theres the more traditional old Japanese building...

And the stranger fusion styles as well.

Nothing says old like living walls...

Not exactly the golden arches of McDonalds... not sure it will catch on.

Or if you want a treat - you can always go low-brow and get a Frankfurt-on-a-stick . Not quite a hot dog, but yummy nonetheless. And yes... they're called Furankufuruto! T-chan was looking forward to reliving childhood memories of eating these... but not sure they're that appetizing when you can't taste.

Otaru is famous for it's hills. And it's snow. Generally this is not a convenient combination. Outside of winter you get to see how they keep it all together. Doesn't look that sturdy - but works a charm.

And here's the obligatory canal shot. Not much has changed in 3 years.

Our fourth trip to Sapporo is winding up... and today was just a test-run for our hectic adventure in Kyoto. It's been a good day -  but we know it's going to be hard trip.
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  1. That bridge is something! It's creepy!! nostalgic! I still have my music box sitting on my desk. ^_^

  2. Yeah - the photos don't do it justice.

    As for Otaru - it's a great place (we've been back 4 times all up, and enjoy it everytime). It's like any tourist oriented place - has good and bad side. There's definitely a unique feel about Otaru compared to most other Japanese towns IMHO. And the good thing is that it's very close to Sapporo and T-chan's house.

    Have you seen the movie Love Letter?

  3. I'm probably heading up to the snow fest again this coming February - and was browsing for things to do this time. This being just about my 5th (?) time to the festival, I've run through a lot of the obvious stuff, and the botanical gardens aren't good for much under 4 feet of snow. Sarah had recommended Otaru last time, but we didn't get around to it... it's definitely on my list this time.

  4. Otaru is a great place... and would be very nice with a light (romantic) sprinkling of snow. It kinda depends on the winter... if it's bitterly cold, Otaru might be a little unpleasant. Have you seen the movie "Love Letter"?

    Now - when you say that you've done all of the obvious stuff... what's that? Most probably if you're heading up for your fifth trip, you have likely seen a lot already.

    In terms of other things to do/see in February: * Visit Otaru (see the glass factory and music-boxes) and don't forget the illumination at night along the canal
    * If you ski then Teine is relatively easy to get to from the city itself, and not bad skiing;
    * Visit Ookurayama Ski Jump just near the city (if there's a competition on it's worth seeing if you haven't seen before... or just go for the views);
    * Cross-country skiing;
    * Snow-mobiling at Snowmobile Land;
    * You could head off to an onsen to enjoy an outdoor onsen in the snow (Shikotsuko is nice for this, or closer still Jozankei...)
    * Go for a trip down to the Hakodate... stopping off at Noboribetsu (need at least 3-4 days for both)
    *Asahikawa Winter Festival only a couple of hours away by car and a similar sort of experience to Yuki Matsuri
    * Go for a trip up north to see the ice-flows (a big trip though)
    * For meat-eaters and beer drinkers like me... can't beat Jingisukan... for vegan/vegetarians, this is one to avoid at all costs.