6-Day South Hokkaido Itinerary
Above shows a snapshot of Hokkaido on Google Maps and an overview of the route we took. Clearly, there were more places in Hokkaido I would love to visit but due to the brevity of time and accessibility by our JR East-South Hokkaido Pass, we were limited to 5 cities: Hakodate, Lake Toya, Noboribetsu, Sapporo and Otaru.
I first plotted my route according to the attractions we want to visit on Google Maps. When I’m done with the final bookmarking, I export it to a phone app, Maps.me, through this method, which allows me to transfer all my bookmarks into the app and use it offline on the go!
With chasing sakuras and excellent Japanese cuisines in mind, we set off to places that offered the best of these!
Day 3: Noboribetsu
Noboribetsu is most known for 3 things – Onsens, Jigokudani (Hell Valley) and Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura (Ninja Village). Their hot springs contain 9 different types of water, with minerals such as sulfer, salt, and iron. The quality of these minerals results in the spas here are ranked as one of the world’s most outstanding hot springs.
Jigokudani (Hell Valley)
Jigokudani, also known as Hell Valley, got its name from the hot steam vents, sulphurous streams and other volcanic activity present at the valley. It is an explosion crater of Mount Kuttara. The views of boiling and bubbling water make people imagine Hell where demons reside, hence the nickname “Hell Valley”. Not surprisingly, Jigokudani smells a little like eggs due to the sulphur, and can be rather warm during mid-afternoon.
En route from the Hell Valley bus stop to Hell Valley, there are rows of shops selling food and souvenirs. Hotels are also interspersed along the way, with attractive offers of hot spring packages. 10,000 tons of hot spring gushes out daily to be supplied to accommodations in this onsen town.
When you see a pair of blue and red demon statues at the entrance, you know you’re on the right track.
There are several trails you can take at Hell Valley:
- Jigoku-Dani Pathway- 568 metres, 10 minutes
- Oyunuma Pathway 1 – 298 metres, 10 minutes
- Oyunuma 2nd Pathway – 444 metres, 10 minutes
- Oyunuma Pathway 2 – 308 metres, 7 minutes
- Oyunuma Scenic Pathway – 388 metres, 15 minutes
- Funamiyama Pathway – 599 metres, 20 minutes
- Funamiyama 2nd Pathway – 229 metres, 7 minutes
We took a 20-minute hike up to Oyunuma, a gourd-shaped sulphurous lake 32 metres deep. Oyunuma is a crater lake created by a volcanic eruption, and is still active today. Sulfur spring at 130 degrees celcius gushes out from the bottom, and the dusty black surfaces ranges from 40 to 50 degrees celcius.
The hot water from Oyunuma flows into the Oyunumagawa river, where visitors can enjoy a natural foot bath (ashiyu). To get to Oyunuma Brook Natural Footbath, take the Oyunuma Scenic Pathway. Unfortunately, the trail to Oyunumagawa river was closed on the day we visited, so we were unable to experience the ashiyu.
We were also told that the best time to visit Jigokudani is during autumn, where the autumn foliage adds an extra speck of colour to the sand-coloured terrain.
Getting to Hell Valley: Take a bus from JR Noboribetsu train station. Alight at "N11 Noboribetsu Onsen". One way bus ticket fare: ¥340 Duration: 25 minutes
Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura (Ninja Village)
Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura is a history theme park that emulates the Edo Period, thus there are many photo opportunities with the traditional style architecture. Step 400 years back to the Edo period into a samurai residence, where samurais, ninjas, oirans and townspeople come alive. The staff of the Ninja Village are dressed as ninjas and geishas, which added to the traditional atmosphere of the theme park.
Local Japanese children also dressed up as cute mini ninjas, and I had a ball chasing them to snap pictures of their cute outfit.
While there, I caught various performances such as the Ninja Show and Oiran Courtesan Show. These performances are in Japanese, but a helpful ‘geisha’ handed me an English guide that explained what was going on during the show. There are also sights such as a haunted house, a culture theatre and a Katakura Residence & Museum.
Even though this theme park might be more suited for families with younger children, the exciting performances and beautiful traditional architecture is suitable for the older crowd too.
Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura ticket price: ¥2,500 Getting to Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura: Take a bus from JR Noboribetsu train station. Alight at "N5 Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura". One way bus ticket fare: ¥190 Duration: 15 minutes
Recommended duration in Noboribetsu: 0.5 day
Next page: Otaru