Kitaichi Glass is one of the most popular brands based in Otaru, established in 1901 as a manufacturer of petrol lamps and trawler floats. As Otaru developed into a major tourist destination over the years, it shifted to producing tableware, ornaments, wind chimes, and the like, branching into a total of 17 locations within the city.
On the bustling Sakaimachi-Dori shopping street stands the Sangokan (“Building No. 3”), a historic building constructed in 1891 as a fishery warehouse where local herrings were processed and canned. Trolley tracks from those bygone days, which connected the warehouse to the harbor, are also well preserved, allowing visitors to walk over as an atmospheric corridor.
Today, the former warehouse is home to an outlet of Kitaichi Glass, three floors full of stunning glassware, as well as a café called the Kitaichi Hall.
Simply put, the Kitaichi Hall is nothing short of magnificence, with a lofty ceiling and wooden beams. Its only source of lighting is 167 petroleum lamps, a few on each table and some on the chandeliers above, giving a warm, nostalgic, dreamlike feel to the place. Along the wall sits a Steinway grand piano, where live performances are held daily from Tuesday to Friday (except national holidays) at 2:00, 3:00, and 4:00 PM.
Full of local fare, the menu is well worth a mention, of course. The whipped ice cream and royal milk tea are made from the famous Hokkaido milk, and the parfait is made from haskap, the blue honeysuckle native to Hokkaido. During the lunch hours between 11:00 AM and 2:50 PM, you can also order rice bowls and noodles featuring Hokkaido’s signature seafood: crab, salmon, and salmon roe. There’s a nice selection of Otaru’s craft beer, too.
The petroleum lamps are lit by human hands every morning at 8:45, allowing early visitors to watch the operation before opening for the day at 9:00.
Know Before You Go
Kitaichi Hall is open every day from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM; the lamp-lighting begins at 8:45 AM and the last call is at 5:00 PM. Not, however, that the opening hours may be subject to change.
Photography is much allowed, though you are encouraged to avoid picturing other customers’ faces the best you can. Using flash and taking videos, on the other hand, are strictly forbidden.