This is Edmond from Hokkaido Government Representative Office. For Day 2 of my trip to Hokkaido, I took a day trip to visit Yoichi and Otaru.
Firstly, I headed to JR Sapporo station where I caught the limited express train to JR Otaru station (45 mins) and transferred to a local train (24 mins), which took me to JR Yoichi station. I then headed to my first destination of the day, Nikka Whiskey Yoichi Distillery, which is a short 5 minutes’ walk away from JR Yoichi station. Before leaving the station, make sure to check the timing of the train that will take you back to Otaru, as there is usually only 1 train per hour.
Nikka Whiskey Yoichi Distillery built in 1934, was founded by Mr. Masataka Taketsuru, known as the father of Japanese whiskey, whose ambition was to make genuine whiskey in Japan. With its prominent red roof, it is very reminiscent of the whiskey distilleries that you will find in Scotland, the birthplace of whiskey.
Entrance to the distillery is free, where you can witness the traditional “Direct coal-fired distillation”, which requires highly skilled craftsmen to perform and therefore is hardly seen today. You will be able to feel the heat and smell the whiskey throughout the entire distillery room. Heading further in, remember to try the various whiskeys that are available at a tasting room. Finally, there is also a souvenir shop, where the whiskeys are on sale.
Nikka Whiskey Yoichi Distillery homepage: https://www.nikka.com/eng/distilleries/yoichi/
Entrance Signage of Nikka Whiskey Yoichi Distillery
Grounds of Nikka Whiskey Yoichi Distillery
Traditional “Direct coal-fired distillation”
Whiskeys that are available for tasting
I returned to JR Yoichi station and boarded a train back towards Otaru, where I began the next phase of my exploration! Firstly, as I am in Otaru, I definitely have to try some of the local sushi for lunch. There are many sushi restaurants littered throughout Otaru and I highly recommend stopping by one of them.
Sushi set meal in Otaru
After lunch, it is time to explore Otaru, starting from the famous Sakaimachidori Shopping Street, where you will find many restaurants and souvenir shops.
Sakaimachidori Shopping Street
Walking along Sakaimachidori Shopping Street, I soon reached the Otaru Music Box Museum. The building was built in 1912 and you will be able to find various music boxes on sale. You will also even be able to customize your very own music box. The building and its interior is also very “insta-worthy”, so it is a good place to head to for photos!
Otaru Music Box Museum homepage: https://www.otaru-orgel.co.jp/english/e_main.html
Otaru Music Box Museum, taken from Sakaimachidori Shopping Street
Interior of Otaru Music Box Museum
Various music boxes on display at Otaru Music Box Museum
Moving along Sakaimachidori Shopping Street, I also noticed a lot of “Kitaichi Glass” outlets and I decide to pop-in one of them. You will be able to find some of the finest glassware that is only available in Otaru on sale at these various outlets. There is also a stunningly beautiful café, which is known for its grand hall that is lighted with oil lamps and meals served on Kitaichi glass dishes.
Glassware on sale at a Kitaichi Glass outlet
Kitaichi hall interior
Finally, at the end of Sakaimachidori Shopping Street, I reached the most famous tourist attraction in Otaru, the Otaru Canal. This place is exceptionally famous for its beautiful scenery of the various old stone warehouses and its walking path along the canal. The best photo spot is from the bridge overlooking the canal, where you will find many tourists trying to take their “insta-worthy” photos. It also sets up a romantic backdrop, perfect to bring your special someone along for a date.
I also heard there is an on-going “Otaru Yuki Monogatari” illumination event where the canal is lighted up by 10,000 balls of blue illuminations. Therefore, I waited till the evening to snap a picture of it!
Otaru Canal with blue illuminations in the evening.
After a fun-filled day of exploring, I caught the train back to JR Sapporo station and had a warm delicious meal of soup curry to end of the day!
Soup Curry meal at JR Sapporo station
It was definitely a fruitful day trip to Yoichi and Otaru, which I would recommend to everyone doing. If you are staying in Sapporo, why not take the time to head there and explore, since they are located relatively close to Sapporo.