The first place that I visited in Hokkaido was Noboribetsu, a high area so famed for its hot spring water. It’s called the hot springs theme park for a reason: the ground beneath me was supplying 10,000 tons of 9 different kinds of hot spring water a day to the resorts nearby! Locals in the ancient times acknowledged that the muddy river flowing with hot water here is good for their health. Centuries later, it was turned into the healing center of Japanese soldiers. Lots of ryokans started popping up and soon after a train station was built, Noboribetsu became a popular destination for those seeking to experience its hot spring water.
On this trip, we explored the hot spring town of Noboribetsu, reachable by a scenic 15-minute bus ride from the Noboribetsu JR station.
“Why is the Hell Valley called ‘Hell Valley’?” I asked.
I just passed by a snowman wearing a red scarf and orange horns, cute thing trying to be badass. Turns out I’d be seeing more of them here at the Hell Valley.
“You’ll see why,” they said.
We walked to the Shikotsu-Toya National Park from the hotel. At the entrance I could smell sulfur already (like rotten eggs, but more tolerable). As we climbed up this slope, I saw the view I’d googled earlier.
More than 10,000 years ago, this place was once part of a mountain with high volcanic activity. Over the years, thousands of explosions happened and as a result, the Jigokudani Valley was formed. It’s still believed that high volcanic energy is still within this valley, underground.
Yup, I was on a surface which could just erupt.
Up until today, gas and hot water still keep on pouring out the valley’s natural vents. Remember when I said Noboribetsu supplies 10,000 tons of hot spring water? It came from this place.
Wait, why is it called Hell Valley again? Well, because people thought it looked like hell, with steam coming out and all, a place that could’ve been the home of the devil -_- It’s not that eerie unless you go at night, I think.
There’s a walking trail in the area that will lead you to different scenic spots. Along the way, you’ll see a narrow river with white water flowing (that’s the sulfur, we think).
At the end, you’ll see a small protected crater containing beautiful hot iron pond.
Those who have visited this place say that it’s breathtaking and all… but TBH I wasn’t particularly blown away at the moment I visited. That said, it’s still an experience. Gives you the feeling that you’re on a different planet.
Around the area, there’s more to discover. The trail will also take you to the Oyumunagawa hot spring foot bath, where you can take off your shoes and just soak in the water! Wish I’d gone, but by the time I was done taking pictures, it was already dark (the downside of traveling in winter).
Go here you want to explore nature’s offering in a less developed resort in the mountains. The Shikotsu-Toya National Park offers free access and is a huge place to explore — estimate an hour to cover the main areas led by the trails. Read more about Jigokudani Hell Valley.
I’ll blog soon about the real reason people head to Noboribetsu — the onsen experience.