Year Round Otaru Weather and Seasonal Events Guide
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.
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
Otaru Weather by Month: Rain and Temperature Averages
|Month||Average High (°C)||Average (°C)||Average Low (°C)||Humidity (%)||Precipitation (mm)||Rainfall Days|
Otaru Seasonal Events – Festivals
Snow Light Path Festival, February
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
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
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
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 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)
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 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: 2 Chome-16-14 Mogami, Otaru 047-0023, Hokkaido Hours: 9:00 - 21:00 (gondola) Phone: 0134-33-7381 Website: Otaru Tenguyama
4. Otaru Aquarium
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
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)
For top tips from other travellers and the chance to have your say, try out our Compathy travel app.