Zenibako is hot! Some say it's the "Kamakura of the North" in Otaru. Population and new shops upsurge.
The Zenibako area in Otaru is stealing the spotlight as an ideal place to move. The convenience of being near Sapporo and the bountiful natural environment of the surrounding ocean and mountains are boosting popularity, and there is an upsurge in new shops such as cafes opened by new residents. Traditionally this area has mostly been known for its beaches and as an industry complex. However, recently it is being thought of as a historically rich resort town and fittingly called the “Kamakura of the North”. In fact, it is beginning to develop into a town that features a brand new ambiance of excitement altogether.
A residential area five minutes on foot from Zenibako Station on the JR Hakodate Line is home to a bakery filled with daily crowds of customers hailing from both inside and outside of the city. The bakery is called “Quatre Feuilles atelier Zenibako”. It was opened in April by Mr. and Ms. Hasegawa, who moved to Zenibako from Sapporo.
They closed up their popular shop in Sapporo and relocated. Their old shop had been featured in magazines and on the television. And in fact, the husband, Naohiro Hasegawa, was working from the early morning to night without taking days off, and wound up suffering from health issues from overworking himself. The couple discussed “rethinking their approach to work” and decided to start a new chapter of their lives in Zenibako, where they had often come to enjoy the ocean scenery as a rest from their busy lives.
From the cottage style shop that exudes the pleasant warmth of wood construction, the Ishikari Bay and the mountains on the opposite side are visible. On days off, the couple takes parasols and chairs to the beach and enjoys reading there. They were originally worried about attracting customers, but Naohiro Hasegawa reports, “Customers from our Sapporo days still come see us. They treat it like a fun trip.” He is clearly enjoying his new life in a new location.
The amount of eating and drinking establishments featured in the free journal “Otaru Zenibako Secret Map has increased from 36 establishments when the journal first started coming out in 2013 to 70 establishments as of 2019.
According to the chief editor, even in this year with the coronavirus pandemic, as many as six new establishments including a café and wine specialist shop have opened up. The chief editor also reported that next year will also include plans for new places such as a used book shop with a café space and a cheese specialty shop. Reports indicate that over half of the owners of new businesses are people who have moved in from out of town. And Otaru City statistics also reveal that there were approximately 80 more incoming residents compared to residents who moved out of the Zenibako area from January to October.
What is it about Zenibako that is pulling in all these new people? In addition to the convenience of access in being located about thirty minutes from the center of Sapporo by both JR trains and expressway, there are also both beach areas and ski slopes nearby, and the vicinity includes the perfect environs for a resort area. Date City is called the “Shonan of the North” due to its low snowfall and temperate climate. And now, the Zenibako area in Otaru City is recently referred to as the “Kamakura of the North” due to its similarity to Kamakura City in Kanagawa Prefecture, with a historically rich cityscape and popular beach areas.
The inexpensiveness of the land is another attractive element. Compared to a typical residential area near Otaru Station, land in Zenibako is 60% cheaper. A man who purchased a used house on a plot approximately 500 square meters in size when he moved from Sapporo five years ago expressed his feelings that land is inexpensive in the Zenibako area, saying, “Obtaining land this spacious is difficult in Sapporo.”
According to a company involved in selling real estate in Zenibako, there have recently been requests from Sapporo employees asking for houses to telework from as part of the coronavirus pandemic response. Fourteen rooms in a rental terrace house (tenement house) built by that company in 2019 in Zenibako completely filled up immediately, and it plans to build one or two more new buildings.
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