Travel to Otaru & Ski Areas

Travel to Otaru & Ski Areas

Central Hokkaido Guided Tours

Where is Otaru?

Otaru is located just northwest of Sapporo in the Shiribeshi Subprefecture of Hokkaido in Japan. It has a port on Ishikari Bay on the Sea of Japan, which is the source of all that moisture and abundant snow as storms head in from the northwest.

Otaru is 68km northeast of Niseko Hirafu.

Driving to Otaru

It’s ideal if you have a car or are on a multi-resort guided tour, so that you can get to ski areas on a powder day before the lifts commence operations and have flexibility to change ski resorts if weather conditions result in lift closures.

You can rent a car at New Chitose Airport or in Sapporo, and if you have experience driving in the snow, it’s reasonably easy to drive there and around. See the Japan driving tips for more information.

Multi-Day Tours

There are various options for multi-day guided tours that are based in Otaru for part or all of the tour. The tours include transport from New Chitose Airport, transport to the ski areas, and lodging and guiding.

Train to Otaru

It’s easy enough to catch a train from the New Chitose Airport or Sapporo City to Otaru. See Japan Travel Navitime for train timetables and fares.

Getting to the Otaru Ski Resorts

See the Otaru overview for a summary of the ski areas near Otaru including relative location.

Travel to Kiroro from Otaru

Kiroro is 28km south of Otaru, a drive of about 40 minutes. Self-driving is a particularly easy way to get there, especially if you want to be there well before first lifts.

It’s also possible to get a taxi if you have the yen for it.

There are buses between Otaru and Kiroro that take significantly longer than driving. In high season, the bus to Kiroro has two morning departures from bus stops at the Otaru train station and several hotels such as the OMO5 Otaru Hotel, although afternoon return trips do not stop at all hotels. Buses need to be reserved and attract a small fee.

Travel to Asari from Otaru

Asarigawaonsen Ski Area is only a 15 to 20 minute drive (10km SW) from Otaru. Parking is free.

Otherwise there are regular buses from the JR Otaru train station that take 30 minutes to the Asaraigawaonsen bus stop, and then it’s a 5 minute walk from there.

Sapporo Kokusai

If you don’t have a car, you could get a taxi to Sapporo Kokusai from Otaru (approximately 8,000 yen). Otherwise it’s a convoluted process to get to Sapporo and then get a bus to Sapporo Kokusai.

So driving is the easiest way to get to Sapporo Kokusai from Otaru. Note that google maps may indicate that the road between Otaru and Kokusai (route 1, past Asari) is closed even though it’s open during the day. Very occasionally during big storms it’s closed. You can check for any road closures on the Kokusai facebook page.

Travel to Sapporo Teine from Otaru

Sapporo Teine is 32km southeast of Otaru, a drive that takes about 45 minutes.

If you don’t have wheels, you could catch a train from Otaru to Teine train station (about 25 minutes) and then get a bus to the ski resort from the south exit. The bus takes about 25 minutes to get to the Highland part of the ski area (ie the top part). On weekdays the bus will not get you there for first lifts and on weekends you might just make it.

Bus to Onze Snow Cruise

Those wanting a cruise on groomed slopes could head to Onze Snow Cruise which is 15km southeast of Otaru.

There are daily buses from Otaru to Onze with Resort Liner that will get you there late morning. It stops at hotels such as the OMO5 Hotel Otaru and the Otaru train station.

Getting Between Otaru and Niseko

Niseko needs no introduction! The very high profile Niseko is 68km to the southwest. If you’re staying in Niseko and want a day trip to Otaru or are swapping bases, Limousine Sightseeing can take you there, or it’s a 1:20 hour train between Kutchan and Otaru.

Getting Around Otaru

The main part of the city of Otaru can be navigated on foot. The footpaths may not be cleared so you’ll probably have to wear your most sensible footwear with plenty of grip.