• Projection mapping projects images of fireworks on the walls of the Former Mitsui Bank Otaru Branch

    Projection mapping, in which light and images are projected onto buildings and snow-covered ground, began on December 17 at the Otaru Art Village and in front of JR Yoichi Station. The event, spons...

  • The Otaru winter tradition "Otaru Snow Light Path" is back after a two-year absence, and is slated for February 11-13, 2022. To prevent COVID-19 spreading, the event will be held for a shorter period of three days, but the planning committee decided to go through with holding it at a reduced scale out of a desire to, "do something to hopefully bring back winter tourists who have been staying away due to the pandemic." However, in light of circumstances including the sudden global expansion of the new variant "Omicron" strain, the planning committee will make final decisions about issues including the scale towards the end of January 2022, with a keen eye on the developing situation.

  • While many ski resorts in Hokkaido are postponing opening due to a lack of snow, Snow Cruise Onze, a ski area in Haruka-cho, Otaru, was the first to open for business as scheduled on November 20. Temperatures this year were higher than usual but the artificial snow-making machine, which is rare in Hokkaido, proved to be very effective. The ski area was able to respond to the expectations of skiers despite “not knowing when the slopes would open if we just waited for the snow to fall naturally”.

  • The local tradition of lighting up the Otaru Canal in the Central Hokkaido city of Otaru is happening right now. Approximately ten thousand blue LED lights are shining, and the magical "Blue Canal" scene delights sightseers.

  • The seasonal ban on autumn mantis-shrimp fishing was lifted along the coast of the city of Otaru in central Hokkaido, and the first auction was held at the Otaru City Fisheries Cooperative Regional Wholesale Market on October 18. At fishing ports in the city, freshly caught mantis shrimps were removed from the nets and boiled in salt in large cauldrons.

  • An Ainu cultural and academic research group in the town of Bihoro in the Okhotsk region, which is involved in the preservation of Ainu culture, held a ‘cipusanke’ (boat launching ceremony) for a ‘itaomacip’ (timber boat) used by the Ainu for open sea voyages, at Ranshima Beach in the city of Otaru in central Hokkaido on September 19.

  • An ‘Ura Otaru Baza-Art’ (the other side of Otaru Bazaart) event began in Otaru on August 11. Work by the world-renowned artist Nara Yoshitomo is exhibited at the venue, which has been visited by many locals.

  • Despite COVID, it is heart warming to see how some businesses are showing resilience and adapt to a world that is now very different. Since I wrote my first column on the potential of Otaru for this space in March, I have enjoyed speaking to locals and people from outside Otaru about the ideas I expressed back then. Conversations often focus on Otaru’s future and the lack of a diverse and vibrant food scene, especially fine dining experiences. The city certainly boasts an enviable choice of sushi restaurants. However, there is more potential to complement this offer with a diverse gastronomic experience that showcases top local produce from the Shiribeshi area. The ingredients are there to turn Otaru into a very attractive gourmet destination in Hokkaido.

  • The Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony on July 23 featured the "Olympic Rings" wooden sculpture crafted in ring shapes designed to represent the Olympic logo. This logo was made with wood from trees grown in the town of Engaru in the Eastern Hokkaido Okhotsk region. The wood used was forest thinning timber from trees that have grown from seeds given to Japan as a gift from countries that participated in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The choreography for Opening Ceremony scenes, including this scene and the scene representing the feelings inside the hearts of athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic, was designed by Central Hokkaido Otaru-raised dancer and choreographer Shintaro Hirahara.

  • Visitors to the rugged cliffs of the Otamoi coast in the city of Otaru are often overwhelmed by the beauty of the clear sea below, before summer begins in earnest.