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小樽Otaru

A quiet canal, cutting through the heart of town, its waters gently sparkling under the sunshine. Buskers play classy jazz music, setting the heartbeat for the area. Gas lamps and walkway lights dot the landscape街の中心を横切る静かな運河の水面は、やさしく煌めいている。街頭ミュージシャンが演奏する素敵なジャズの音色が街の鼓動となり周辺に響き渡る。街に点々と続くガスランプや歩道の灯りが、石造りの建物を照らしている。そこは北海道を代表する魅力的な港町、小樽だ。

札幌から快速電車で30分ほどのところに位置する小樽。蒸気時計から一定時刻にメロディーが奏でられる、この趣のある穏やかな街では、のんびりと散歩するなどの心地よいひと時が気持ちを和ませてくれる。ロシアへも近く、一度は貿易の玄関口として栄え、ロシアが何百年に渡り北海道にもたらした文化的な影響を明治や大正時代の建物と並んで建てられた西洋スタイルの建築物に見ることができる。また、小樽ではヨーロッパの影響を北一ヴェネツィア美術館で見ることも可能だ。イタリアのルネッサンススタイルで作られたガラス製品や仮面舞踏会のマスク、ヴェネツィア貴族の華美なスタイルを真似てデザインされたカフェや展示室を楽しめる。

小樽は伝統的な街だけあって職人工芸が盛んだ。この街を訪れたら忘れてはならないのが、小樽オルゴール堂。オルゴール堂にうっとりとするようなオルゴールのメロディが響き渡りロマンチックな雰囲気を醸し出している。オルゴール堂では、様々な種類のオルゴールがディスプレーされ、クラシックな音楽からポップミュージックまで奏でる音楽も様々。また、自分の音楽の好みに合わせたカスタムメードのオリジナルのオルゴールをオーダーすることもでき、ギフトにも最適。小樽オルゴール堂2号館では、エオリアン・ハープの珍しい演奏や、アンティークオルゴール、1908年にイギリスで製造され、日本で初めて自動演奏を紹介したパイプオルガンの音色を聞くことができる。

日本で有名な小樽のハンドメイドガラスを楽しむなら「北一硝子」がオススメ。北一硝子三号館は、デザインテーマ毎に和、洋、カントリーの3フロアに区切られていて、陳列された商品の中から目的に合ったクオリティの高いガラス製品を選ぶことができる。他に、イタリアンモダンアートガラスの専門店や、クリスタルガラスやアクセサリーを取り扱うクリスタル館などもある。北一硝子で一番のハイライトはなんと言っても、北一硝子三号館内にある「北一ホール」だ。167個の石油ランプは1つ1つ点灯され、その全てが灯されたほの暗い幻想的な空間で、飲食と共にピアノの生演奏も楽しめる。また、北一テラスのカフェでは、小樽の町並みを眺めながらラベンダーフレイバー含む6段ソフトクリームを試してみてはどうだろう。

大正時代の小樽の生活を感じてみるなら、にしん御殿の敷地内にある「旧青山別邸」へぜひ足を運んで欲しい。ニシン漁で巨万の富を築いた青山家。その3代目の娘、政恵が17才の頃よく招かれた山形の邸宅の素晴らしさに惹かれ、別荘の建設に取り組んだ時に、その素晴らしさを上回る邸宅を建てることを決意したという。美意識が高く、高級志向の強かった政恵の父、2代目の政吉は、約6年半の歳月をかけてその豪邸を完成させたそうだ。邸宅には6~15畳ある部屋が18部屋あり、館内の見所は、漆塗りの廊下、吹き抜けの天井、神代杉と杉の組子の欄間と島崎柳塢による13枚の襖絵など、観覧者を素晴らしい華麗な世界へ誘っていく。

日本海に近い小樽には新鮮な魚介類が豊富だ。小樽の街で贅沢なシーフードのビュッフェを楽しむのもいいだろう。夜にはほのかに街灯で照らされた運河沿いの道を散歩し素敵なひと時を過ごせる。海底の世界がお好みなら、おたる水族館に訪れるといいだろう。水族館の見所は、屋外で行われるイルカやペンギン、アザラシ、トドなどのショータイム。水族館には小さな遊園地も併設されている。

最後に、小樽の旅を楽しんだ後は、大自然に囲まれた『天空に浮かんだ城』のようなリゾートホテル、「ノイシュロス小樽」で過ごしてみるのはどうだろう。全室オーシャンビューの露天風呂付きリゾートホテルだ。ニセコ・積丹・小樽海岸国定公園内の、岬の先端に位置するホテルの客室からは、雄大な日本海を一望でき、客室に併設された露天風呂から眺める、ダイナミックな自然の景色は格別だ。また、最上階のラグジュアリー・スイートルームからは、海、森、積丹半島など、パノラミックなオーシャンビューの絶景が堪能できる。

Text: Bonnie Oeni
Translation: Asami Miyamura
, lighting up stone brick buildings shut with iron gates.

Nope, you’re not in Venice, but in the charming port town of Otaru. Located just half an hour away from Sapporo, a simple train or car ride transports you from the hustle and bustle of Hokkaido’s modern capital city to a little slice of Europe in Japan. A quaint, serene town where one of two only steam-powered clocks in the world (the other is in Vancouver, Canada) mark the time with an enchanting chime, this is where life winds down to a remarkably pleasant, sauntering pace. Located extremely close to Russia and once serving as a gateway for trade, the cultural influence Russia has had on Hokkaido over the centuries can be seen here, with its Western-style architecture lined next to buildings from the Meiji and Taisho era. Otaru also monumentalises its European influences in the Museo Dell’Arte Veneziana, exhibiting glass products and masquerade masks in the style of the Italian Renaissance, and housing rooms and cafes designed to mimic the ostentatious lifestyle of Venetian nobility.

As expected of a traditional town, Otaru is famous for its artisan trade. A trip to the famous music box museum, Otaru Orgel-Doh, is not to be missed. Tucked away in the deepest pocket of town, be drawn in by the magical, romantic atmosphere created by delicate, dreamy lullabies resounding from the music box museum, mingling with the scents of freshly baked confectionery and warm hot chocolate wafting over from cafés nearby. At the museum, you’ll be fascinated by the sheer variety of music boxes available, playing an assortment of music from classical music to the latest pop tunes. Music boxes can also be customised to fit your music tastes, making any gift item from Otaru Orgel-Doh a truly personal one. At Otaru Orgel-Doh’s Number 2 Hall, you can listen to rare performances of the Aeolian harp, an antique music box and a 690-pipe organ that was made in England in 1908 before being shipped to Otaru, and was also the first automatic playing pipe organ introduced to Japan.

As Otaru hand-made crystal is renowned in Japan, visiting the Kitaichi Glass Gallery will be an aesthetic experience. With the main shop divided into design themes such as Japanese, Country and Western, you’ll find an array of good-quality glass homeware products to suit your preferences. Other Kitaichi shops in the town specialise in modern Italian glass art or glass and crystal accessories, adding to the variety. However, the highlight of a trip to the Kitaichi main shop must be dining at the Kitaichi Hall, solely illuminated by 167 oil lamps, all individually lit by hand. Here, beautiful piano music also acts as the soundtrack to your meal. For the more adventurous, stop by the Kitaichi Terrace Café to try the 6 flavoured soft ice-cream peculiar to Otaru, with flavours including lavender!

For a taste of the decadent Otaru life in the Taisho era, head to the Kyu Aoyama Bettei (Old Aoyama Villa) on the Nishin Goten grounds, a house owned by the millionaire Masakichi, who made his fortune through the fishing trade. When his daughter, Masae, was seventeen, she fell in love with a beautiful mansion that she often was invited to in Sakata, Yamagata, which looked like that of a feudal lord’s. In the design of the villa, Masakichi considered his daughter’s feelings and decided to build a grander mansion than the one she had visited. With his refined appreciation for the arts and a keen taste for luxury, he took 6 and a half years he wanted to construct a building with a unique aesthetic. Pulling out all the stops, the house has 18 rooms about 6 – 15 jo (tatami mat measurement) in size, each with its own distinctive flavour. Must-sees include the beautiful corridors, ceilings, the rose sandalwood beams and Ryu Shimazaki’s watercolour painting of the eight immortals depicted across 13 Japanese sliding screens, truly transporting you into a world of the opulent and the divine.

If you’re a fan of the underwater world, visit the Otaru Aquarium. The highlight of the aquarium is its unique outdoor animal shows, featuring a variety of lovable sea creatures such as penguins, seals, otters and dolphins. With a focus on audience interaction, kids and adults alike will have a memorable experience. With a small amusement park located outside the aquarium, you’ll also find plenty of thrills outside of the aquatic realm.

With Otaru so close to the Sea of Japan, a source of great seafood, try one of many sumptuous seafood buffets around town as the day closes. Then, as the night descends in a blanket of stars over this sleepy town, take a walk along the dimly lit canal, which transforms into a ‘romantic road’ in winter, complete with floating candlelights on the water, candlelit lamps along the snow-lined paths and jazz musicians crooning about love.

Lastly, for a royal night’s rest and an unforgettable experience at the ‘floating castle in the heavens’, check in at the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru, representative of the Otaru identity in the way they comfortably mix the Japanese spirit of hospitality with Viennese-style architecture. With both Western-style and Japanese-style rooms that contain personal open-air baths facing the Sea of Japan, you can enjoy a fantastic view of ships bobbing up and down, while the sun sets in a shimmering blaze across the water, all the while feeling the cool breeze against your skin. In summer, rooms located in the west give you a beautiful view of the sunset, while rooms located east ensure you can see the sunrise and the glittering lights coming from fishing boats at night. The hotel’s luxurious suite rooms are located in the uppermost floor and give a spectacular panoramic view of sea, forest, and the Shakotan Peninsula, a marine protected area with its breathtaking coastline of natural stone pillars projecting from the sea. It’s a grand experience fit for those who know how to enjoy the finest things in life.

Text: Bonnie Oeni

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