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October 25, 2017 - Noboribetsu - The Comforts of Hell!
Note: This travel report is in no way sponsoring the following onsen hotel.
One of the places I was really looking forward to was my overnight stay in Noboribetsu. It is one of the top onsen resort towns in the country and with that I had to come for a visit. After doing some research I decided on the largest onsen hotel in the area, the Dai-ichi Takomotokan All hotels in the area have onsen facilities but this one is particularly large with a huge facility with a dozen pools to choose from. Most are indoors but some are outdoors as well. The onsen facility here also faces Hell Valley which makes for an amazing scenery.
The hotel complex is made up of many buildings. I stayed in the south building which affords a nice view of the town and the surrounding highlands. Each room is rather large so for a solo traveler it is a bit of a waste, but hey I can't complain!!
The town itself is not that interesting as it is full of other onsen hotels. There are also numerous small restaurants, souvenir stores, and pharmacies for guests. But in all of this, there is this weird shrine with a large statue. This is Enmado Shrine. Every few hours there is an odd performance where the statue comes to life and talks to the crowd. I won't give it away on how tacky this performance is, you will have to find out for yourself!!
The main attraction of Noboribetsu, if it isn't the onsen or the tacky statue performance, is the natural scenery itself. Noboribetsu was created as a result of super heated water from the ground bubbling to the surface. Hell Valley is a vast geologic feature where such super heated water bubbles up creating a barren and actually dangerous place due to the high concentrations of sulfur.
This landscape might not look very impressive but over time you can appreciate that the onsen waters what hotel guests enjoy all come from this area. There are many hiking trails that take you to various spots in the valley. On occasion you will see a small geyser bubbling hot water to the side of the trail. As you continue to climb up the hiking trail, you will get an amazing view of the valley below. As you hike another several minutes, you will come across another fascinating geological feature.
To me this is the first time I had ever seen such a large pond of super heated water. Water forcibly comes out from a vent roughly located where the most amount of steam as shown in the photos. From the lookout point above, you could see a large volume of water spewing out every few minutes. There is a parking lot and trail head by this area which gives unique experience as large amounts of steam billows towards you.
From Oyunuma Pond, there is a small river that flows out of it. The waters of the Oyunumagawa River is still super hot but over time as it flows out of the pond and deep into the forest, it gradually cools. The water cools even further as the waters go over a few small rapids and waterfalls. The sounds itself is very soothing.
At some point the water is cool enough to use. This is where the Oyunumagawa Footbath is located. There are rudimentary benches on one side of the stream where tourists can sit down and dip their feet into the warm water. To me this was one of the most unique and fascinating experiences I have ever had. To have the chance to enjoy the forest and greenery while enjoying a natural footbath with others. The stream itself is very shallow so you can walk on the stream, though most do not do this to prevent disturbing others.
After the grueling hike, it is back to the hotel and enjoy some onsen. As the usual practice, no photography is permitted. My hotel package included an in-room dining service which included an extensive keiseki dinner.
The photos above are only a few of the many items I had. Mine was the "Crab Special" where the main theme is crab. Most dishes had crab in it which was very delicious. I had crab sashimi, crab tempura, crab nabe, crab rice porridge, among others.
Overall the trip to Noboribetsu Onsen was amazing. If you get a chance, I encourage you to visit this place and relax near Hell. Hell Valley that is.