Japan Road Trip 2014 Summer: Romantic Sapporo and Otaru

Otaru Canal in Hokkaido, Japan
Otaru Canal in Hokkaido, Japan

The next day was scheduled for a day trip to Otaru.

After breakfast from Mos Burger opposite our hotel, and a quick tour of the grounds of Hokkaido University (with huge influence of Western culture), we went to Toyota Rent-a-Car just a few blocks away to collect our car and sped on to our 1st destination of the day: the chocolate factory of Shiroi Koibito (白い恋人).

Sapporo University at Hokkaido, Japan
Hokkaido University on a weekend was a great place to relax and perhaps even for a picnic. Too bad we only chanced upon it and did not plan for a picnic over there!
Breakfast was a simple affair.
Breakfast was a simple affair. Coffee from Mos is actually one of the more decent coffee we could find in Japan.
Rented car for self drive adventure at Hokkaido, Japan


It was basically a museum/retail/theme park/factory (Link) for a brand that is synonymous with Hokkaido. In fact, 白い恋人 could only be bought in Hokkaido, making it the most significant token from the island.

Other than that, coming here early also meant beating the other tourists to the stores, tours (to see the manufacturing process) and photo-ops.

Just enjoy the scenery and don’t bother to buy the chocolate. The ice-cream, though is a good comfort food. Queue up to buy a cone and sit by the courtyard to admire the sight and sounds of the crowd wandering through the landscaped garden.

Shiroikoibito Park at Hokkaido, Japan
Tip: 白い恋人 could also be bought in the airport, so there’s no need to buy the snack here, and save the hassle of bringing it around.


A short drive thereafter, we reached the lyrical water town of Otaru (Link).

Otaru, being famous for its seafood (again!!) was the reason we made a detour. The revamped warehouses along the main canal (Link) housed all the (pricey) seafood. Our aim at Otaru was to have lunch, but we didn’t really want to break the bank from the lunch. After turning away from the main canal, we found ourselves hands filled with street food.

The seafood by the roadside was really a steal. They serve in small portion, so one could try different seafood delicacies. Save room for the comfort food! From the canal to the music box museum, there are also plenty of finger food sold (to eat on the go, or to pack for later). From rice biscuits to cream puffs to cheesecake, there are more to the savoury food found by the canal.

Eating seafood at Otaru Canal at Hokkaido, Japan
Clockwise from top: Delicious rice biscuit, grilled seafood lightly seasoned with soya sauce, giant tako ball the size of a fist, Handsome Me, chicken karaage
Touring Otaru Canal at Hokkaido, Japan
Clockwise from top: N waiting for his chicken, another outlet selling 白い恋人, the man with his giant balls, Handsome Me once more

The music box museum, together with the glass museum, was one of the highlights of the town (Link). The main building is housed in a gigantic warehouse, selling all sorts of music boxes. To make a customized music box, one can go up the the top most level and choose from a variety of melodies and boxes to go with the tune.

To me, visiting this place for the ambience was enough. It is a great place for insta-worthy photos. As for the music boxes, unless you like it, or you know one who particularly likes it, buying a cheap but generic one, or unique but fragile (ie not good for plane rides) music box is not appealing to a travel-easy person like me at all.

That being said, buying a customised music box for a friend’s birthday or other special occasion should speak a lot about the thoughtfulness of yourself.

Otaru Music Box Museum in Hokkaido, Japan

Leaving Otaru, we went through a mountainous journey towards our hotel for the night. That being a hot spring hotel, we decided to check in early (aimed to reach by 3pm), so that we could enjoy the facilities.

View of Nature at Hokkaido, Japan
Captivated by the scenery, we stopped by for 2 photo-ops along the way.

Jozankei, Hana Momiji And The Onsen

Research on the web recommended Jozankei as being the must-go hot spring destination, if one has limited time in the Sapporo region. Jozankei is a valley containing many hot spring establishments and is just an hour or so drive from Sapporo. It is almost equidistant from Sapporo and Otaru, which explained our itinerary for Day 1.

Hana Momiji was a great place to be. Despite being one of the cheapest ryokans in Jozankei, it was the best ryokan we stayed during the trip.

Traditional Japanese meal at Hana Momiji at Hokkaido, Japan

Accomodation of the night:

Hana Momiji

3-32 Jozankeionsen Nishi Minamiku, Sapporo 061-2303, Hokkaido

Click here for my TripAdvisor Review

What We Did in Sapporo:

  • Hokkaido University
  • Pick up car at Toyota Rent-a-Car (Link)
  • Shiroi Koibito (白い恋人)
    • 〒063-0052 Hokkaidō, Sapporo-shi, Nishi-ku, Miyanosawa 2 Jō, 2 Chome−11

What We Did in Otaru:

  • Walk down the warehouses/restaurants by the canal
  • Street food (Seafood, giant tako balls and fried chicken) for lunch
  • Music Box Museum (Website)
    • 〒047-0015 Hokkaidō, Otaru-shi, Sumiyoshichō, 4−1
  • Stop at rest points enroute to Jozankei for the scenery
  • Authentic Japanese Cuisine at hotel for dinner
Streetscape outside Otaru Train Station in Hokkaido, Japan
Tip: We parked at the car park outside the train station. It is pay per use. The mechanism would lock your car and upon leaving, you would have to pay at the kiosk (input your lot number) to release the mechanism.

Click on the links to find out more about the rest of the roadtrip!


Touch Down In Sapporo

Onward To Asahikawa!

The Nature of Sounkyo Gorge

“F” for Flower & Furano

Yorkshire Farm & Soba

We Do Not Want To Leave Hokkaido!