Otaru has become a special memory for me. The tinkling music in LeTAO and the Orgel Museum transported me into a Disneyland of sorts, while the abundance of food places along the street and souvenir shops kept it real by singing with wonderful aromas and displays of kawaii toys, telling me that indeed, “This is Japan”.
I managed to capture some of my experiences in this charming town of Otaru, so come along and take a walk in the town with me!
I remember waking up to this scene in the morning- watching as yachts slowly sailed out of the marina to sea, V-shaped ripples trailing in their wake. Once I escaped the veil of slumber, I excitedly sat up and pulled out my now-crumpled sheet of itinerary to see which stops I’d planned out for the day.
Otaru, about half an hour’s drive northwest from Sapporo, has a small town kind of feel – we would walk along its wide, clean pavements, and make stops every few steps or so along the rows of shops, full of the most tantalising displays of chirashi don and fresh sashimi one moment, to dried seafood shops and souvenir shops the next. I guess part of the charm of Otaru was derived from not really knowing what might be stumbled upon. Full of historical buildings and some of the most incredible dessert shops, the town was bound to be full of pleasant surprises.
A day isn’t long enough for Otaru, especially if you have an affinity with food like I do. We would walk into glorious clouds of mouthwatering smells and be seduced by stalls selling a dazzling array of- very good, might I add- food with samples generously being offered to you as you stroll down the street; there’s no way anyone could go hungry in Otaru.
And through the centre of it all, lay the beautiful Otaru Canal (小樽運河, known locally as Otaru Unga; featured picture)- a quiet, gentle body of water, mirroring the façades of the low rise buildings standing alongside it, delicately covered in a vibrant green, and also the clear blue sky. In the late afternoon, after hours of walking about, I’d sat by the canal on a cold stone bench, fleeing the sun for a moment of rest, and thought about how perfect this town seemed to be.
Category: Japaneses – Desserts – Creme Puffs
I’d read about Kitakaro (北菓楼) – in particular, about its amazing creme puffs. Like the others in Japan, Kitakaro sells more than creme puffs, and has a range of beautifully packaged snacks and items which you can take home for gifts. Besides the creme puffs, they sell a variety of heavier cakes as well.
7-22 Sakaimachi, Otaru 047-0027 (There is a branch in Sapporo as well, at AIMARU Sapporo, 4 Chome Kita 5 Jonishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo 060-0005)
In Otaru, Kitakaro is just slightly further down the street from LeTAO, on the same side of the road. A building of grey slate, it would’ve been easily passed up if not for the bright orange signs on all sides of its entrance, the standing sign by the pavement, and the posters of ice-cream and baumkuchen.
Damage: $ – $$
The creme puffs are under $2 – they’re huge, full of generous filling, and well worth the money. I tried the baumkuchen as well, and it might be that I’m not a baumkuchen fan, but I couldn’t quite appreciate it beyond thinking it to be some form of kueh lapis (an Indonesian layered cake that is relatively common in southeast Asia). I spent more money on the items at LeTAO, but I saw people coming out with Kitakaro bags, so I suppose you’d best budget for a couple of $10s.
To go: YES!
Everything else was quite ordinary, and I think you could find comparable items in the other dessert shops. If you don’t have time, just head straight to the back of the shop where they have shelves full of their creme puffs and buy one- or two. The puffs were well-aerated and pillowy, and the cream was light and fluffy with just the right amount of flavour and sweetness. Trust me, you won’t regret it.