Otaru Market, Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan (Gallery)

We made a stop by Otaru’s wet market in the late morning to check out their range of fresh seafood. Being a seaside town, Otaru’s streets are lined with restaurants and shops selling seafood in various forms – from live to dried to fresh cuts served with don. Otaru’s wet market was smaller than Kushiro’s Washo market but better, with fresher seafood and great value. The stall owners are a lot kinder as well, perhaps due to lesser competition, and even took the time to explain the different catches and fantastic sea creatures.

I walked down the length of the market armed with my DSLR, trying my best to capture as much of the colour as possible. One of the shopkeepers saw me pointing and commenting on the giant crabs in my video, and without hesitation, lifted the entire crab out of the tank and said, “Yes it is hu-ge!” Haha! – often it’s really the locals that really make the place even more memorable. He gave me a pinch of uni to taste before we eventually sat down to enjoy a Major seafood meal.

Right- enough of my talking. I’m going to hit you with the pictures 😛

Otaru Wet Market Fresh Hotate Salmon Uni Kani Don Travel Food DiaryOtaru Wet Market Fresh Hotate Salmon Uni Kani Don Travel Food Diary King CrabOtaru Wet Market Fresh Hotate Salmon Uni Kani Don Travel Food Diary BlogOtaru Wet Market Fresh Hotate Salmon Uni Kani Ikura Don Travel Food DiaryOtaru Wet Market Fresh Hotate Salmon Uni Kani Don Travel Food Diary

Daijinmon (大仁門), Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

SCRIBBLES

Category: Japanese – Barbecue

Daijinmon is the most highly-recommended Japanese barbecue place and is touted as the best one in Otaru on Tripadvisor. If a sushi/sashimi-overdose was possible, it certainly happened during the trip, and so we decided to have barbecue instead. Daijinmon has an incredible wait if you don’t place a reservation, and since we happened to be strolling in the area in the mid afternoon and spotted it within radius of our Google Maps, my cousin and I went ahead to scout it out while our family rested their feet from an entire morning of walking about and waited for us in the shade by the Otaru canal (小樽運河).

1-13-5 Ironai, Otaru 047-0031, Hokkaido, Tel: +81 134-23-2876

It seems to me that Daijinmon only has branches in Otaru. I’m Japanese-illiterate, so if you do visit their website and discover otherwise, please let me know so I can share this with everyone 🙂 It was easy to find with GPS since Google Map pins it in the right place. The signs outside are an easy spot- with mouthwatering pictures yelling about the juicy goodness of fine cuts being licked by a charcoal heat.

Damage: $$

Unbelievable is all I can say. If we’d had the same thing back home in Singapore, it would’ve easily costed us 4 to 5-fold more. We had slices of wagyu, beef slices of every cut, fine cuts of kurobuta pork, vegetables for the grill… everything, and it summed up only about $35 each.

To go: YES PLEASE!!

Are you kidding? If I were in Otaru, I’d go back multiple times a week! The place is comfortable, clean, has friendly service staff with a great service attitude, delicious cuts of quality meats with the tastiest sauces.

Daijinmon 大仁門 Best Beef Wagyu Meat Barbeque Barbecue Otaru Hokkaido Japan Food Review Travel Blog


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

Daijinmon was further away that it’d appeared on Google Maps. We navigated the neat grid-like roads of Otaru under the gaze of the afternoon sun, taking a left 3 junctions down into a side street, and by the time we were on the right street we were melting. The clean wooden facade of Daijinmon was immediately visible, and we loitered around outside waiting for Daijinmon to open again at 3.45pm so we could place our reservation. I was poking my foot around in the gravel to distract myself from the heat when the sliding door suddenly activated and a tall, slightly awkward girl came out, pulled a chair to the side of the entrance, and looked at us curiously.

Re-ser-va-tion?, I said, and drew with my fingers some imaginary notepad on which I took an imaginary note, and then pointed at my watch whilst saying eight peo-ple at eight o’clock, while my cousin lifted up fingers to show number 8. She gave a confused look, and quickly ducked back inside. We looked at each other and shrugged, not knowing if she’d gotten our meaning. After a while she came back out, and we asked her again about the booking. O-K, she said, O-K. It seemed she didn’t need our name or any contact, but perhaps that could be because they didn’t see many foreign chinese people in their restaurant? Either way, when our entire convoy arrived at 8pm that night, we were ushered inside and upstairs without a moments hesitation.

On the second floor, we left our shoes in a shoe rack and stepped onto the raised deck which was flanked by private rooms with wooden sliding doors on the left and right, walls fitted with ricepaper. It was cozy, with lots of dark wooden furnishing, and cushions on which guests could seat themselves around the table and grill. The menu was extensive but entirely in Japanese, so we did a fair amount of pointing, gesturing and attempted to get our point across in sl-ow hal-ting english, which seemed to work quite well. We ended up with a feast to behold, and we’ve fondly remembered that meal ever since. One of the best Japanese barbecues I’ve ever had, at a standard comparable to Gyu Kaku here (or maybe even better), and at an incredible price. This is just one of the many reasons I need to find my way back to Japan- and perhaps you should to, too.

Daijinmon 大仁門 Best Beef Wagyu Meat Barbeque Barbecue Otaru Hokkaido Japan Food Review Travel Blog

Let’s explore: The little town of Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

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!

Travel Diary: Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

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 Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Seaview Sea

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.

Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Canal Street

Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Canal Seafood Dried Shops

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.

Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Canal street side stalls

Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Canal seafood Ika stuffed squid

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.

Kitakaro (北菓楼), Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

SCRIBBLES

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.

Kitakaro 北菓楼 Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Creme Puff Food Review

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.

Kitakaro 北菓楼 Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Creme Puff Food Review

Kitakaro 北菓楼 Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Creme Puff Food Review

Otaru Orgel Museum (Music Box Museum), Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan (Gallery)

On our second day after lunch, we went to the Otaru Orgel Museum, which is synonymous with the “music box museum” simply because that’s the museum’s claim to fame. We drove up to the museum and parked in the open-air carpark just in front of the main entrance, and from the outside, the building looked incredibly plain for something that supposedly housed a variety of interesting souvenirs and music boxes.

Stepping in, however, I could see that I was incredibly wrong and, as they say, looks can be deceiving. A soft, cheerful music filled the entire place, and I was greeted with huge rooms on both my left and right – displays full of shiny, moving things from miniature carousels, to snow globes and photo frames, to intricately carved music boxes within which little ballerinas danced or fabric butterflies flapped their wings. Sort of like a disney shop for grown-ups.

Orgel Museum Otaru Music Box Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog

Orgel Museum Otaru Music Box Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog

I don’t think you’ll need that much time at this stop – around 45 minutes should do – unless you’re a huge music box fanatic or plan to do some serious souvenir shopping. The upper floors contain some of the most exquisite (and very expensive) music boxes and other vintage items, but really, I spent the most time standing by the shelves pressed up against the wall, picking out little musical movements encased in clear acrylic boxes, labelled and prepped to play everything from Backstreet Boys to Phantom of the Opera to KPOP/JPOP and Classics. I eventually brought home Beauty and the Beast‘s signature soundtrack because it’s my favourite Disney classic, and I thought nothing would be more magical than to have a musical movement which tinkled the tune whenever I feel like winding it up for a listen.

Orgel Museum Otaru Music Box Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog

Orgel Museum Otaru Music Box Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog

LeTAO (ルタオ), Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

SCRIBBLES

Category: Dessert – Cheesecake

We made a highly-anticipated stop at LeTAO (ルタオ) in Otaru for their famous cheesecakes. I heard all about the melt-in-your-mouth creamy cheesecakes of LeTAO from friends who’d gone ahead, and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint.

7-16 Sakaimachi, Otaru City, Hokkaido, 047-0027

Being right at the start of the street as you turn off the main street, LeTAO is impossible to miss.

Damage: $$ – $$$

If you’re heading upstairs to the cafe, you’re not going to stop at one. And if you’re shopping on the ground floor, with the sales assistants smilingly handing out samples of everything delicious (think lots of chocolate), you’re not just going to walk out with one box either- more like a bag, or two, or three!

To go: YES! Definitely!

Needless to say, you have to try LeTAO‘s cheesecakes – A light texture, with soft, smooth, cheesecake, nestled within a bed of feathery light cake crumbs and a light cream. To me, it was as if special notes of the cheese, distilled somehow, were gently whisked and incorporated into the cake, and as it descended upon my tongue, I couldn’t help but feel a smile grace my lips.

For all the hype surrounding LeTAO‘s cheesecakes, I’m surprised no one has made much mention about their tea. The LeTAO tea is incredible! There is an amazing range of flavours, and if you just open the lids of the sample cans, the beautiful scents will hit you like a dream. We bought some to take home with us from the shelves on the second floor (where the cafe is), and we’ve rationed the teas till now because they are simply so precious in fragrance and taste.

LeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary BlogLeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary Blog Chestnut Mont Blanc DessertLeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary Blog Double Fromage CheesecakeLeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary Blog Desserts Double Fromage Cheesecake