Otaru is a port city on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, about 25 minutes from its capital, Sapporo. Otaru thrived as a trading center until the mid 20th century when coal mines around the city started to run dry. Today, Otaru serves as a bedroom community for the Sapporo workforce as well as a wonderful tourist attraction of Meiji-era Japan. The Otaru Canal is lined with historic warehouses now renovated as boutique shops and restaurants, and the famous Otaru Beer brewery. The milder summer of Hokkaido make Otaru a great place to visit to escape the heat and humidity of southern Japan.