If you are interested in Otaru’s hidden historic shrines, temples and churches, South side of Minami-Otaru (南小樽) and Yamanote (山の手) has modest but atmospheric historic buildings scattered around hillside residential area.


Points of interests in Otaru Hillside Area


Catholic Tomioka Church

(カトリック富岡教会) 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.

More info catholic-tomioka-otaru.jimdo.com


Old Otaru District Meeting Hall

(旧小樽区公会堂) 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.


Tenjo-ji

(天上寺) 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).


Sumiyoshi Jinja

(住吉神社) Otaru’s representative shrine contains the 1934 wooden office and stone lanters. It is a 5-minute walk from Minami-Otaru Station.

More info www.otarusumiyoshijinja.or.jp


Ryutoku-ji

(龍徳寺) 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.


Soen-ji 

(宗圓寺) 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.