We have invited people who have immigrated from abroad and are now living in the Shiribeshi region of central Hokkaido to contribute columns from a variety of perspectives. The columns appear in Japanese in the morning edition of the Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper every other Monday. https://www.hokkaido-np.co.jp/series/s_cool_otaru
In this section, the columns are posted in the author's original text.
【Column】Otaru and its untapped potential
I was born and grew up in Sardinia, a beautiful Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. I’ve lived over a third of my life overseas. Two and a half years ago I moved to Hokkaido with my wife Asako after 13 years in Australia. I am the only Italian living in Otaru.
Why Hokkaido and why Otaru?
We have loved this part of the world since we visited it for the first time over 10 years ago. Stunning nature, great local produce, four clearly distinct seasons, and a gifted geographical location. The choice of Otaru was purely a lifestyle one and a great compromise . It has a fairly unique location as there are not many places in Japan nested between mountains and seaside, so close to a large city like Sapporo, and with easy access to an international airport, Chitose.
It was a combination of all these aspects that in 2018 inspired us to settle here and start our business Taru Lab, importing wines, liqueurs and food products from Sardinia. While it was a fairly challenging idea to set up this type of business in a relatively small city, as we travel and work across all Japan, we thought that when you want to achieve something you believe in, place does not really matter. In September last year we also finally found a beautiful stone building in Ironai to open our wine shop and wine bar.
I have enjoyed creating a small international space, welcoming locals, domestic tourists as well as foreigners. I strongly believe that Otaru has so much untapped potential.
One of the concerns I’ve had since I moved here, it has been Otaru’s overreliance on foreign tourists. This pandemic has sadly showed that it was not sustainable.
Otaru has definitely more potential to diversify its offer a develop into a premier destination that goes beyond the stereotypical one-day visit for souvenir shopping.
Despite its charm and atmosphere, I always felt that at night the city has little to offer.
As a business owner myself, I would like to see more new businesses ideas developed to create a more vibrant environment for both locals and tourists, while contributing to a more sustainable local economy.