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  • Sep18

    Otaru

    September 18, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Our first port of call in Japan was Otaru, a port city on the northwestern coast of the Sea of Japan. It's not as well known or populated as Sapporo, 25 kms to the east, but it is a charming place to visit.

    When we arrived, we had to go through Japanese immigration where we were photographed, fingerprinted and briefly interviewed by the local authorities. With some 2500 passengers to process, some people didn't disembark until almost 11:00AM. Fortunately, we only had to go through that exercise once on the trip. In any case, even the last person to leave the ship would have had plenty of time to visit all the highlights.

    After nine days at sea, it was nice to get back onto solid ground for a few hours. We wandered through the market and visited the music box museum, where they sell boxes ranging in price from about $25.00 CDN to over $10,000.00!!! For that kind of money, you'd best really like the tune it plays.

    Right in front of that museum is a steam clock very similar to the one located in Vancouver's Gastown district. In fact, Otaru's clock was a gift from the city of Vancouver in 1994.

    We strolled along the Otaru Canal, which was built in the first half of the 20th century. At the time, when entering the port, large vessels were unloaded by smaller ships, which then transported the goods to warehouses along the canal.

    The canal became obsolete when modern dock facilities allowed for direct unloading of larger vessels. A portion of the canal was restored in the 1980s instead of being landfilled, while the warehouses were transformed into museums, shops and restaurants.

    But what struck us most on our first day in Japan were the eye-poppingly high prices, particularly of produce. At the markets, one can purchase a slice of melon, similar to cantaloupe, for ¥500 or about $6.25. The entire melon was selling for ¥3,000 or almost $37.00 CDN!!! A handful sized bunch of grapes was ¥700 and a beautiful looking peach was ¥550. We vegans would have to come out of retirement to be able to afford to live there.

    We initially thought these prices were so high because the shops and markets are located in a touristy part of town. However, we learned later in our travels that those prices are pretty much the norm. Yikes!

    After seeing and visiting all we wanted to see, we made our way back to the ship and chilled for a while before dinner.

    Although Otaru was very pretty, I think if we pass this way again we'll probably hop on the train to Sapporo, which likely will have a little more to offer.
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