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The city of Otaru is a port in the Hokkaido region of northern Japan, well known for its superb and diverse architecture, delicious local cuisine and variety of excellent shops and markets. Situated on the coast of the Sea of Japan in the country's Shiribeshi subprefecture, the southern section of the city is dominated by majestic mountains, the most prominent of which is Tenguyama, and dramatic slopes descending towards the sea. The region also boasts a range of man-made attractions, such as historic buildings and monuments alongside a range of contemporary and modern developments. Otaru has a peaceful yet distinctive ambience and is also popular due to its location near to the large and bustling metropolis of Sapporo.
The quaint streets of Otaru are home to a collection of excellent attractions and excursion possibilities. Alternatively, tourist can travel to the nearby city of Sapporo to experience a bustling city environment.
The herring fishing industry was once a major component of Otaru's economy until the herring population dropped dramatically and many fishermen were put out of business. At the time, wealthy fisherman would build large mansions from which to run their business and provide accommodation for themselves and their employees. One of these 19th century mansions still remains in the city and has been well preserved over the past two centuries. That mansion is now open to the public as a tourist attraction. Fascinating artefacts still remain in the house, allowing visitors an insight into the work and lifestyle of the people who once lived there.
The Otaru Canal was once an important part of the city's hectic port, until modern facilities made it redundant as a shipping canal. Despite being obsolete for trade and commerce purposes, in the 1980s the canal was meticulously restored and the surrounding warehouses were transformed into museums, shops and restaurants. Old fashioned gas lamps still light the canal at night, making it a beautiful place to take a stroll and appreciate the quaint scenery of this historic part of the city.
The Otaru City Museum actually contains two separate museums, the history museum and the railway museum, both of which house fascinating exhibits and artefacts relating to the city's history and culture. Another interesting museum in the city is the Otaru Music Box Museum, where guests can observe a variety of remarkable music boxes and, for a small fee, build their own.
Otaru is an excellent place to pick up a variety of gifts, souvenirs and antiques from speciality shops and stores around the city. Popular authentic Japanese souvenirs available in the area include music boxes and traditional kimonos, and are found in many of the fashion boutiques and antiques shops across town.
The city is renowned for its delicious seafood and sushi dishes, which are recognised across Japan as some of the best in the world. Although it can be quite expensive, the trying the local sushi is an essential part of any stay in the city of Otaru.
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