Kitaichi Glass is located on Otaru Canal and features a unique hall filled and lit with genuine oil lamps! "Building Three Kitaichi Hall" used to be a warehouse for Otaru freestone, but since 1983 it has housed a popular cafe.
The area serves as a popular tourist attraction as well as a cafe, so it is possible that many Hokkaido Likers have heard of it before. However, chances are you've never seen it at 8:45 in the morning!
Inside a total of 167 oil lamps are displayed in chandeliers, on the tables, and along the walls. Every morning at 8:45 each lamp is lit by hand to prepare for the day. There is a special tour available for anyone interested in watching this lighting process.
Every morning, using only indirect sunlight reflected on the walls, the lighting process begins. Two parts make up each lamp, the "Tsubo" section and the "Hoya" section. The "tsubo" portion of the lamps is the oil container where the flame is lit, and the "hoya" section is the chimney-like cover that is placed over, and protects, the flame.
▲An oil filled "Tsubo" section of the lamps.
▲The "Hoya" is placed over the flame, completing the lamp.
"There are two different sets of tsubo sections. We alternate between these sets every other day, doing maintenance on one set while the other is being used and vice versa." explained Mr. Yusuke Kondo from the PR division of Kitaichi Glass.
Each "tsubo" piece is set in place, lit, and then the "hoya" cover is placed over the flame. At the end of the process 167 completed oil lamps light the hall.
In the dimly lit hall the many lit lamps create a sea of light points which illuminate the room. The atmosphere is almost like that of a church or monastery.
▲These small umbrella-like shades are used on the table lamps. Each is handmade by the staff and made of shoji paper. These fixtures help direct light back down onto the table.
There are lamps on the wall, the tables, and located in chandeliers above the tables.
It takes only 15 minutes to light the 167 lamps used in the room. Once the chandeliers are lit the indirect light is removed from the room and the lamps are all that remain.
During the tour, the staff makes sure to tell you when they plan on lifting the chandeliers into place, so you're sure to get a good look. Before lifting they allow tourists to get up close and see the chandeliers in detail.
The chandeliers are actually lifted quite a distance, they sway slowly the entire time they are raised. Many of the children watching were amazed for another reason, often muttering "Wow! It's just like Harry Potter!"
Because the lamps use oil, they do emit a peculiar smell. But for many it is a bit nostalgic.
The lighting is soft, gentle on the eyes, as opposed to electric or candle lighting. This gives the room a calming atmosphere.
If you have the chance to stop by Kitaichi Glass, be sure to visit this hall at 8:45!
After viewing the lighting ceremony you can enjoy a nice cup of coffee in the soft lamplight.
■北一硝子 (Kitaichi Glass)
■三号館北一ホール (Sango-kan Kitaichi Hall)
(7-ban 26-go, Sakaimachi, Otaru)
Hours of Operation: 8:45 - 6:00
Closed on holidays.
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Takako Chiba)
Photographs provided by 諏訪写真事務所.