If you are interested in Otaru’s hidden historic shrines, temples and churches, Yamanote (山の手), south side of the city center, has modest but atmospheric historic buildings scattered around hillside residential area. Most historic buildings are easily explore on foot from the train station.
Location (Tengu-yama) 3km southwest of JR Otaru Station
Highlights View from Tengu-yama, Soen-ji’s 515 wooden statues of rakan
01 MOUNTAIN & SKI AREA
天狗山 / Ropeway 9am-9pm / Return ¥1250 / www.ckk.chuo-bus.co.jp/tenguyama
If the weather is fine, take bus 9 from Otaru Station to the mountain foot of Tengu-yama (17min / ¥220) and rises to an altitude of 530m by ropeway. An observation deck offres fine views of the town and bay. There are two small free museums, which displays on 700 unique masks of tengu (long-nosed goblin) and local ski history. Hokkaido’s oldest ski area (1-day pass ¥4000) is open in winter.
Catholic Tomioka Church
カトリック富岡教会 / 2-21-25 Tomioka / 10am-3pm Thu-Sat May-Oct / FREE / catholic-tomioka-otaru.jimdo.com
This 1929 German Gothic edifice with stained glass is open to the public from Thursday to Saturday (photography allowed) between May and October. A 15-minute walk southwest of Otaru Station, you will find the church on the right side of Shodai-dori street.
03 HISTORIC BUILDING
Old Otaru District Meeting Hall
旧小樽区公会堂 / Kyu Otaru-ku Kokaido / 5-2-1 Hanazono / 9am-5pm or 10pm / FREE / otarushiminkaikan.jp/koukai
Located on the north side of Otaru Park (小樽公園), the 1911 wooden Japanese-style meeting hall was built as a guesthouse for the Crown Prince. It also has a relocated open-air Okazaki Noh Stage (岡崎能楽堂: Open Jun-Sep) constructed in 1926.
天上寺 / 4-32-1 Irifune / 8am-5pm / FREE
Down the road from Otaru Park south side, Tenjo-ji is a charming temple built in 1890. The best cherry-blossom season is early May. Take the loop bus 24 from Otaru Station to the Kita-gas-mae (北ガス前: 10min; ¥240).
住吉神社 / 2-5-1 Suminoe / 24hrs / FREE / www.otarusumiyoshijinja.or.jp
Otaru’s representative shrine contains the 1934 wooden office and stone lanters. It is a 5-minute walk from Minami-Otaru Station.
龍徳寺 / 1-3-8 Masakae / Dawn-dusk / FREE
About 550m east of Sumiyoshi Jinja on Route 5 is the Ryutoku-ji temple, established in 1857. The city’s oldest main hall (1876) housed one of Japan’s biggest mokugyo (fish-shaped wooden drum: diameter 135cm and weight 330kg), you can see it except day of the temple event.
宗圓寺 / 1-19-10 Shiomidai / 9am-5pm Apr-Nov / FREE
Walk 700m up the slope from Ryutoku-ji, this hillside concrete temple, founded in 1630 as a family temple of the Matsumae clan, has the 515 wooden statues of rakan (Buddha’s disciples) carved from Muromachi to Edo periods. The temple was replaced here in 1909. No photography inside allowed, but you can purchase rakan origami. It is closed in winter.
OTARU YAMANOTE MAP