Otaru in Hokkaido: Let’s Try Some Street Food!
Another one of those “I’m hungry, let’s find food” moments led me to a very narrow discovery. While wondering around Otaru in Hokkaido with a friend during the local celebrations for the annual Snow Festival, we found ourselves at the end of the canal which runs through the town.
Local Food in Otaru, Hokkaido #1: Potato on a Stick!
The festival celebrations spread all along the canal, and after all the excitement we felt in need of a good sit down. Suddenly, we smelled something delicious. The smell of steamed potato and potato croquette filed the street and we were powerless to resist. The fluffy goodness filled us with warmth on this cold evening and only cost around 350 yen.
These came from the Otaru Potato Collection shop, which led us to a slightly and possibly generally overlooked section of town: a very narrow and hidden collection of restaurants, vendors, and izakaya.
Local Food in Otaru, Hokkaido #2: Soft Cream
The potato vendor was attached to Denuki Kouji (or alley), a part of Otaru I can only liken to a miniature Japanese-style London because nowhere else is so narrow. It almost feels like a lost city where you might expect to find gnomes and fairies. The alley is full of small restaurants serving a wide variety of foods, from tempura to melon ice cream and crepes, each with their own jolly workers and friendly owners who are always open to a chat. The atmosphere is like something from a Hayao Miyazaki film with the additional pleasure of involving food.
At the Local Restaurant in Otaru, Hokkaido
Being a vegetarian in Japan is not always the easiest, but considering the restaurants are build as intimate wooden huts with the seating placed around the chefs workstation, it is easy to find out what is in your food and ask what they recommend for someone with your eating habits. As well as being able to see how the food is prepared, you get to ask a local what the best parts of the city are and what they recommend while eating your vegetable tempura and drinking your Sapporo beer.
Most of the restaurants charged around 1,500 yen for one meal. The tempura my friend and I had was about this amount. Things like ice cream and steamed potatoes will be a little cheaper, but the friendly atmosphere and variety of restaurants you can find in Denuki Kouji make you glad you stepped into a slightly dim alleyway where the exit is not always in front of you.
Denuki Kouji, 1-Chome 1 Ironai, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido
400 - 1,800 yen