Otaru, 2006

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Our first night was spent in Sapporo at the cozy Renaissance Sapporo Hotel. We awoke to a lovely view of the Sapporo harbor in the morning.

After a grand breakfast buffet of danish pastries, freshly-cut cantaloupe and honeydew (Hokkaido’s most famous fruit exports), and some miso soup, we were shuttled off to the quaint little village of Otaru 小樽. Absolutely one of the cutest little towns I’ve ever had the fortune to visit! One of its most famous attractions is the Otaru Canal, which runs through the town and is lined with beautiful Victorian-style street lamps.

If you’re ever in Hokkaido and near Sapporo, definitely make the 25-minute drive up to Otaru. There’s a wonderful assortment of artisan baked goods and chocolate, as well as quality arts and crafts. We were given about 90 minutes to explore the tiny town–definitely not enough time! There was so much to do and see. My mom and I ventured into a heavily crowded chocolatier shop by the name of LeTao and fell in love with the tiny, pyramidal chocolates made from Darjeeling tea. Lightly powdered with cocoa, cold to the touch but melts in your mouth immediately. Divine.

LeTao Royale Montagne
Photo Credits: http://www.letao.jp

Their cheesecakes are wonderful too, just as a fyi. After walking up and down the canal and admiring street artists and their quaint paintings of the small Victorian town oddly situated in the middle of Hokkaido, my mom and I stumbled into a cute Miyazaki store selling all Studio Ghibli wares. A Totoro wonderland. Nearby was a DIY music box shop. Not only were there literally an uncountable number of beautifully-made, glass-blown music boxes, but the upper floor was dedicated to a buffet of music box parts so you could make your dream music box. You were able to decide on everything from the turnkey to the platform and little adornments to the music recording. While I desperately wanted to make my own, my mom and I both recognized that we would have to drop serious dough: $50+ for a DIY music box. So the both of us settled on buying two snowglobe-shaped music boxes with little white rabbits and cherry blossoms–one for us and one as a gift to a family friend.

A little further down on a small side street, we walked into a little coffee and bakery store that our tour guide recommended. Another little novelty store: with a purchase of a cup of tea or coffee, you were given a slice of the moistest and fluffiest pound-cake and allowed to keep the teacup of your choosing. Mine was a small teacup engraved with purple flowers that sang Moonlight Sonata every time I picked it up for a sip of tea. I forget what the shop is called, but also worth a visit if you’re ever in Otaru!

otaru

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