| Hokkaido

How to enjoy yourself in Otaru! The old and new North Canal

The North Canal area is the port used for transferring cargo from the ships. It was once used by the Japanese Postal service to deliver mail by ships and was the inspiration for the famous Japanese story (Fuzaidinushi).
During the Meiji era, many stone warehouses were built to house the cargo, some of which are still standing today.
The North Canal area of Hokkaido is quiet in contrast to the lively tourist area of the Otaru canal. It retains the atmosphere of the old port.
The area does attract a morning crowd of shoppers for the open market and stylish Cafes.
It is a fun place to explore in the quaint little town of Hokkaido!


The Canal Park of Otaru is reminiscent of the Meiji era.

At the end of the canal, in the Sapporo area, Canal Park (運河公園) comes into view.
There is a central fountain in the park surrounded with cobblestones. The Western-style building at the back of the fountain is the Otaru branch of the old Japan Post office. This building was opened in 1906. This early European style stone 2-story building has become a national cultural landmark.
On the right side of the building is an indoor playground for children. It has a motif centered around boats.

To the left of the Post Office is a restroom. This building is also made of stone and provides another scenic atmosphere from the Meiji era.

A stylish coffee shop inside the stone warehouse!

If you go further inside the former warehouse (which is designated as a Otaru city monuments) you will discover the GOLD STONE Theatre & Café. They are doing a good job of reusing this warehouse with a 200-year-old history.
By day, it is a coffee shop and by night it is a very lively bar. The daytime atmosphere does however still resemble that of a bar.

From the outside, you can feel the history!

Next to the old warehouse coffee shop is the Café Press(プレスカフェ). Since it is right next door to the GOLD STONE, you could enter from the canal front entrance, but I recommend entering from the back door.
There is an exciting feeling here like the back door was built utilizing the former warehouse space as a secret base.
In the back ways dimly lit corridors containing wood is the entrance to Café Press.
Its shop windows overlook the Canal allowing you to enjoy a fresh and exciting view from inside a warehouse built in 1895.
The pasta menu is really nice and they have a good selection of sweets and drinks that are affordable.

Inside there are parts of old cars and stylish gadgets and books that do a good job of matching the exquisite atmosphere of this historic building.

The Tanaka shop is well worth a visit!

Behind the back door of the café press, there is just one road along the canal on the mountain side. On it, you will see the long-established liquor store establishment of Tanaka Shuzo(田中酒造). The Tanaka brewing head office with its quaint appearance has been designated as a cultural property of the city.

Tanaka still has its old storefront, but its interior is a stunning Japanese-style building.

Tanaka stocks “Takarakawa”(寳川). A sake that has been brewed for generations. They also stock the sake made for girls (Otaru Bejin) (小樽美人) which was co-developed by the industry with the Otaru Chamber of Commerce.
It comes in plum wine, prune wine, blueberry wine, 5 kinds of peach wine. All with hyaluronic acid and collagen, which work well as a beauty aid.
You can sample the different flavors, so by all means enjoy!

Smart tip
  • This area of the North canal is about 10 minutes from Otaru station by bus. It is about a 20-minute walk from The North canal from the Otaru canal. Even while stopping on the way, it is a surprisingly quick walk.
  • The surrounding area is rich in shops with excellent atmospheres such as café "gull Ya" and the restaurant "Uminekoya" (海猫屋) where you can enjoy a good meal.
  • Tanaka brewery is a 5-minute walk from Minami-Otaru station. You can visit all year round. There is a parking area so it is safe to drive.
What's interesting

With delicious food and beverage outlets in the North canal neighborhood, this is a good place for lunch off the beaten path. It is recommended if you tire from walking around the canal area to stop and take a rest at one of the restaurants or coffee shops.