Otaru Canal at Night

Year Round Otaru Weather and Seasonal Events Guide

Otaru Canal at Night

Otaru weather is notoriously extreme, yet, that doesn't seem to put off the city's many visitors. For tips on how to prepare and a guide to Otaru's best seasonal events, check out our Otaru weather guide.

Otaru Canal at Night

Photo Credit: Mith Huang via Flickr cc

Hokkaido’s northerly location gives Otaru, one of its most popular cities, an often frigid climate that has often been compared to northern Europe. The winter is lengthy with little respite, yet, this does little to deter the many tourists who flood into the city intent on seeing Otaru blanketed by magical snow. In the warmer months, Otaru weather becomes far more hospitable and the snow gives way to verdant greenery and blue skies.  

Below, we’ll give you the rundown on all things Otaru weather, including tips on suitcase essentials and a guide to seasonal events and activities that you definitely shouldn’t miss. 

For a more general look at Otaru, check out Otaru – Everything You Need to Know.

Otaru Spring (April and May) Clothes and Necessities

In April, as the snow begins to melt on the lowlands, Otaru’s flower fields start to sneak into view. The spring is a beautiful time of year in the city and generally comfortable, when days spent sightseeing outdoors become very manageable. However, average temperatures remain pretty low and brutally cold snaps are common, ultimately meaning that it is still advised that you pack warm clothes and solid shoes. 

Otaru Summer (June, July, August and September) Clothes and Necessities

From June to September, tempratures in Otaru become very pleasant, with average temperatures hovering around 20 degrees. Light sweaters, t-shirts and shorts are all able to make an appearance in the summer and your winter coat can take a well-earned break. Although the days are generally warm, temperatures after nightfall can dip significantly, so be sure to pack one or two warmer items. 

Otaru Autumn (October and November) Clothes and Necessities

In autumn, Otaru weather begins to turn chilly once again. Temperatures, which have been known to drop below freezing in late November, demand layers and thick outerwear, especially at night. In case of snow and ice, sturdy shoes are advised, plus hats, scarfs and gloves will no doubt come in handy. 

Otaru Winter (December, January, February and March) Clothes and Necessities

At the beginning of December, Otaru’s famous snow begins to fall, not letting up until around March. In January, the city sees only three hours of sunlight a day and temperatures throughout the season are dramatically low. To combat the cold, layers, a thick coat, hats, scarfs, gloves and thermal underwear are all advised, especially if you plan to spend a significant amount of time outside. Throw fashion out the window and wrap up warm!

Otaru Weather Now and 15 Day Forecast

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Otaru Weather by Month: Rain and Temperature Averages

MonthAverage High (°C)Average (°C)Average Low (°C)Humidity (%)Precipitation (mm)Rainfall Days
January-1-3.7-6.67215228
February-0.5-3.4-6.471120.925
March3.40.2-2.96895.424
April10.56.22.36661.217
May16.511.57.27064.314
June19.915.511.87851.612
July23.719.616.38181.714
August25.521.518.179123.914
September21.617.313.572133.115
October15.311.17.167130.919
November7.94.41.168164.525
December1.8-1-3.871155.527

Otaru Seasonal Events – Festivals

Snow Light Path Festival, February

Otaru Snow Light Path

Photo Credit: t-konno [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Otaru Snow Light Path Festival kicks off in early February and lasts for 10 days straight. The event runs in parallel with the Sapporo Snow Festival, meaning many snow hungry tourists hop between them both. The festival sees the city lit up by the light of thousands of lanterns, all strategically placed around the city to beautiful effect. The event is also defined by its snow statues, which pros and amateurs alike display throughout the city. 

When: early to mid-February
Address: Otaru Canal, Old Temiya Line, and all over the city
Website: Otaru Light Path

 

Otaru Sakura (Cherry Blossom) Season, May

Otaru Cherry Blossoms

Photo Credit: Photo studio C’s via Flickr Public Domain

Japan’s sakura season, or cherry blossom season, is a magical time of the year and an integral part of Japanese culture. The blossoming of the flowers typically takes place from late March to early May, depending on the region. The best time to see sakura in Otaru is from early to mid-May. There are many spots around the city for viewing sakura, but any local will tell you the best spot is on Mount Tengu, where a large and famous sakura tree springs to life each year. The views from the mountain aren’t bad either. 

When: early to mid-May
Website: Otaru Sakura Information

 

Peony Festival, May to July

Peony

Photo Credit: Jebulon [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Held annually at the Old Aoyama Villa (Otaru Kihinkan) from late May to early July, the Peony Festival is a showcase of hundreds of peony flowers which bloom in the villa’s beautiful gardens. The Aoyama family that lived there in the 20th century made their fortune through herring fishing, and herring is still served up to hungry visitors today. 

When: late May to early July
Address: 3-63 Shukutsu, Otaru 047-0047, Hokkaido
Website: Old Aoyama Villa

 

Tide Festival (Ushio Matsuri), July

Celebrating the city’s maritime heritage, the Tide Festival runs over a period of three days in late July and is one of the biggest events on the city’s calendar. Kicking off with fireworks on the first day, this is followed up by street parades of dancers and performers that fill the city streets with life. In addition, food stalls are set up and games and shows for children are common. 

When: late July
Address: Otaru Port, No.3 Wharf
Website: Otaru Tide Festival

 

Otaru Mantis Shrimp Festival (Otaru Shako Matsuri), November

Mantis Shrimp Sushi

Photo Credit: eeems via Flickr cc

For an end of year fishy feast, head over to No. 3 Wharf in late November for some world-class local mantis prawns. Mantis prawns, or shako, are similar to regular prawns but larger and packed with flavour. Held over two days, it is a great chance to sample this Otaru delicacy and a lot more besides, all fresh from the adjacent Ishikari Bay.

For more on Otaru food, plus some top restaurant recommendations, take a look at Compathy Magazine’s Otaru food guide

When: mid-November
Address: Otaru Port, No.3 Wharf
Website: Otaru Shako

Top 5 Otaru Attractions

1. Otaru Canal

Otaru Canal 3

Photo Credit: Toby Oxborrow via Flickr cc

Otaru Canal is the jewel in the crown of Otaru; a beautiful stretch of water that once served as a vital commercial artery and which has now become the heart of the city’s tourist industry. Thoroughly revitalised after the decline of its original use, Otaru Canal is now lined with shops, restaurants and attractions of all kinds. 

Station: Otaru
Address: 5, Minatomachi (Otaru Canal)

 

2. Otaru Music Box Museum (Orgel Emporium)

Otaru Music Box Museum

Photo Credit: bm.iphone via Flickr cc

The Otaru Music Box Museum, more accurately a kind of store and museum combination, is the largest of its kind in Japan and an intriguing spot to spend an hour or two browsing or shopping. Orgel Emporium, the alternative name for the store, is packed with music boxes of all kinds, from the old and intricate, playing age-old folk tunes, to the modern, blasting out contemporary pop songs. Be sure to take a look at the steam-powered clock out front which is said to be the world’s largest. 

Station: South Otaru
Address: 4-1 Sumiyoshicho, Otaru 047-0015, Hokkaido
Hours: 9:00 - 18:00
Phone: 134-22-1108
Website: Otaru Orgel Emporium

 

3. Mount Tengu

Mount Tenguyama

Photo Credit: Nao Iizuka via Flickr cc

Mount Tengu is a terrific spot from which to catch panoramic views of the city, Otaru Port and Ishikari Bay. A popular method of ascension is the gondola that departs every 12 minutes and takes about four minutes to reach the summit. If you’ve got wheels, you can also drive to the top, or if you’re feeling energetic, walk. From the mountain, visitors are able to ski, check out Tengu House (home to hundreds of Tengu goblin masks), eat at the mountaintop restaurant and much more. 

Admission: Adult ¥1,140, Child ¥570 (gondola)  
Station: Otaru Station
Address: 
Hours: 9:00 - 21:00 (gondola)
Phone: 0134-33-7381 
Website: Otaru Tenguyama

 

4. Otaru Aquarium

Otaru Aquarium

Photo Credit: MIKI Yoshihito via Flickr cc

A trip to Otaru Aquarium offers the chance for an excursion out of the city, where you’ll be surrounded by rich nature and calm. The aquarium itself features 250 species of sea creature, mainly native to northern Japan. A highlight is the “Penguin Snow Walking” show that takes place three times a day, but don’t miss the performances by dolphins, sea lions and walruses either. Next to the aquarium is a small amusement park with a Ferris wheel. Overall, an excellent family-friendly day out. 

Station: Otaru
Address: 3-303 Shukutsu, Otaru City, Hokkaido
Hours: 10:00 - 16:00 (Winter, 12/17 - 2/26)
9:00 - 17:00 (Standard Hours, 3/18 - 10/15)
-16:00 (10/16 - 11/26)
Phone: 134-33-1400
Website: Otaru Aquarium

 

5. Ryugu Shrine

Otaru Aquarium

Photo Credit: 禁樹なずな  [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ryugu Shrine offers a cold weather take on traditional Japanese shrine architecture. Originally built in 1869 to maintain peace in Hokkaido, it was later rebuilt in 1941 when it took on its present form. The main building is in the shinmei zukuri style, characterised by an upside down V-shape roof with striking, jutting beams at its peak. Several festivals take place at Ryugu Shrine throughout the year, each of which is a great chance to see the building at its best. 

Station: Otaru
Address: 3-22-11 Inaho, Otaru 047-0032, Hokkaido
Phone: 134-22-4268
Website: Ryugu Shrine (in Japanese)

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Otaru blogs on Compathy. 

Cameron Langdell

Cameron Langdell

My name is Cameron, and I came to Tokyo from from California because I crave adventure and want to explore this beast of a city and gain knowledge and experience in the process. I hope you enjoy my articles about Japan.



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# Otaru Travel Tips # Hokkaido Travel Tips # Japan Travel Tips

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