[blog]* Day 20, Part 2: glass figurines, music boxes and teddy bears in the angelic little city-town of Otaru. Not much food today, though...
So, continuing on!
Having seen all there was (not) to see at the docks, I headed back up towards the more touristy canal area.
There's a little paved road running alongside the canal with vendors hawking hand-made trinkets and artists offering quick sketches. It was relatively quiet, today - Otaru is one of those weird little cities which goes into hibernation five days a week, before bursting to life over the weekend.
I feel a little weird saying this, but you really should try and visit Otaru over the weekend, if at all possible - yes, with the crowds, the noise, and with all the touristy gimmicks attached. The main draw of Otaru is its touristy charm, after all.
This suspiciously medieval-looking tower overlooking a busy intersection dates back to, of course, circa 1992.
More rickshaw drivers.
I love his expression there.
This (adorable!) little alleyway is actually buried just off one of the main roads.
As mentioned earlier, gorgeous old Western-style buildings are dotted across all of Otaru, living out fruitful second lives as restaurants and glasswork shops like this one.
How cute are the glass jellyfish!? I should've bought one...
The 'tourist path' winds a little away from the canal to turn onto this bendy little side-street, a wonderfully charming affair with tiny little shops on both sides selling all manner of adorably useless trinkets and food.
This glass shop had actually put its furnaces out front for public display.
If you're familiar with the Anpanman series you'll recognise this pair of statues as being super-adorable. If not... well, I'm telling you - they're (really, really!) adorable.
Along the way, there was also this - a gentleman, cooking scallops.
With a BLOW TORCH.
Of course I had to try it...
I really, really wanted to like this but... it was OK. There's nothing theoretically wrong (or, for that matter, not awesome) about cooking with a blow torch, I think it could have just used a tad more heat, and better source material.
Well, I should have known better: Otaru isn't especially famous for its seafood - Hokkaido as a region is, but Otaru largely imports from elsewhere within the prefecture. So, largely like Asahikawa in that way.
Lots of cats, teddies and other miscellaneous fuzzy things on sale or display in Otaru. It all "draws in with Otaru's grand history of association as a Western-style port city" - well, say the shopkeepers, at any rate.
In reality it is more that Otaru has become a favourite date spot for young couples with too much money and too little common sense, and couples, of course, just love teddy bears. Well, the girl half of the couple, at any rate.
Another scallop blow-torcher, this one drawing a bit of a crowd.
Some seafood stalls too.
I also stopped by popular chocolatier-pâtisserie Rokkatei to try their desserts out. I have to say I was a little disappointed: the ice cream had that dreadful, powdery texture characteristic of 1) chalk, and 2) skim milk powder. Ick.
The biscuits were OK - Oreo-like, didn't really leave an impression. For ¥250 (£1.90 / $2.90) it's still decent value (well, by British standards - perhaps not by anyone else's?) But really, I can add my own Oreos to my own ice cream, thank you very much.
Another fuzzy-cute-thing speciality store:
It was getting dark as I left the store, and the streets were already starting to empty. It's a shame, really: Otaru is prettiest at this hour.
Incidentally: if you're wondering why I've been seeing such (really quite) spectacular sunsets these last few days - there's actually a really good reason for it. You'll hear more about tomorrow, but here's a hint: it involves a typhoon...
It's hard to capture in photos alone, but I'd just arrived at the far end of the tourist district. Music box shops surrounded the intersection here on three sides, and wherever you were you could hear the gentle tinkling of music boxes in the background - invariably, of course, a chart-topper from ten years ago that you annoyingly just can't quite place.
But it was kind of nice.
I'm sure you'll recognise this pair of statuettes, at least...
I dropped by some of the stores to take a look. The amount of care that goes into creating the shop displays is impressive...
Really, I never knew consumerism could feel so warm and fuzzy.
They look kind of creepy...
This particular store is set in a cavernous wooden hall, stretching some three stories high and with at least two basketball courts' worth of floor space. It is, in a word, beautiful.
Anyway, with it getting dark and most shops shutting for the night, I decided to head back to the station.
"Big Boy"? Really?
A loving family of zombie cats, apparently
Remember the alleyway I'd dropped by earlier? It's even prettier by night -
I also encountered this:
It's hard to get the scale across, but it's basically a giant takoyaki ball, 8cm across (the usual is 3cm or so.)
The stall sells it as bakudanyaki, literally "bomb-yaki". Touristy gimmick and no, I didn't try one, but it certainly seemed to be selling well enough. Hmm, you never know. In the future I might well have to do up a post on how, 30 years ago, a certain small store in Otaru...
The gentleman here was taking his wheelchair-bound wife on a tour of Otaru, and had stopped to look at the stall's selection of prints for a souvenir; it was so dark he had had to use a torchlight.
(Well, I thought that was kind of sweet, somehow...)
A quick peek here at the Otaru Brewery (since 1995!) beer hall on the way back.
And back to Sapporo for the night.
Results: Day 20
The List: #28 - blow-torched scallop / #29 - disappointing ice cream sundae
There's really not much I can say about Otaru, I guess? I like it - it's warm and friendly, and to top it off it has speciality shops selling music boxes and teddy bears.
It also has absolutely nothing to do with food, but you can't be too perfect, I suppose. If you find yourself in Sapporo, it's well worth the short hop over.
Next: Day 21 - Hakodate (coming soon - stay tuned!)
Prev: Day 20, Part 1 - Otaru (Part 1)