Otaru is full of surprises. There are beautiful hidden cafes, quiet side streets of Taisho-era buildings, and great views of the sea and the mountains. But, while few visitors ever get beyond the canal and Sakaimachi, for those that do, the view from above Otaru rivals that of the many sights found below—a full view of Otaru Bay, the city, and of the neighboring mountains. And getting above it all is easy. One way to do this is to catch the ropeway up Mt. Tenguyama (1,140 yen r-t). The ropeway start is roughly 15 minutes from downtown Otaru with Chuo Bus and others servicing Mt. Tenguyama. An easier way, and one that is free, is to go up to the Asahi lookout point (旭展望台) which is easily accessible from Otaru Station. It’s a 200 yen bus ride up to the turn for the lookout. Take the bus bound for Otaru University of Commerce, getting off at the stop for Hokkaido Shougyou High School (one stop before the university). The road across the street from the high school is the one going to the lookout. There is a marked sign, but in mid-summer it is covered in clematis flowers. The bright green stairwell for the apartment building on the corner is a better marker. The lookout is less than a mile up from here. The alternative, known to the many local high school and university students, is to walk from the station. It’s roughly 30 minutes walk to the high school from Otaru Station, up the Jigokuzaka (Hell’s slope). Follow the students. From the high school, allow for an additional 30 minutes to the lookout. Once there, 190 meters up, Otaru is spread out before you, crowding the coastline of the glistening bay. Best thing is, on most days, you will be the only one there.
By Shawn Clankie