Hokkaido Summer ~ Bears, Ogres and Hot Springs ~ Part 2  

Curated by :  Annie Zhong

Continuing from the previous article, today I’ll be introducing some of Noboribetsu’s wonderful delights such as the local “Hell Ramen” and soft cream produced from wholesome,  undiluted milk, and finally take you through the renowned “Jigokudani”, or Hell Valley of Noboribetsu! Ready or not, here we go!

Before we actually delve into the main attractions, I want to bring up something else really cool we noticed about this place. Like most other places in Japan, there were many small tiny shrines and temples that could be found here and there along the side of the main street. The unique thing about the ones here was that the purification water you usually use to cleanse yourself before doing the omairi (visit) to the shrine/temple here was not regular water, but hot spring water! Normally I’m disinclined to wash my hands at these places usually because I don’t like getting my hands wet when I have my camera, but this time I happily put my camera to the side and dipped my hands in for a nice, soothing hot spring hand soak~



And now onto the  famous local dish known as the Hell Ramen, which is basically just spicy ramen with a devious name. There’s a 0 to 10 level of spiciness, or the level of hell, if you prefer, for the ramen and they have pictures of past customers who have been brave enough to order and finished the level 10 dishes plastered all around the walls of the shop. As it was already physically hot enough with it being the middle of summer and the fact that there was no A.C. in the already steaming ramen store, all of us opted for level 0. I had used the excuse of not wanting to overheat myself before going to the hot spring later that afternoon then, but now looking back to it I wondered what would have happened if I had women-ed up and ordered the level 10……


After lunch we made our way to the main attraction there at last: Jigokudani! This place was thought to have formed over 10 thousand years ago, and smells strongly of sulphur. You can see streams of steam coming out from several locations in the area, all emitting heat from the hot springs boiling below. For a place with such an unpleasant name, the site itself was actually very pleasantly surrounded by lots and lots of greenery, which contrasted with the white and sand colors of the crater quite nicely~ I managed to get this shot just as we were leaving and the sky cleared up to reveal a nice, clear, crystal blue~


In this valley there is a particular fissure that constantly sends boiling hot spring water bubbling up to the surface. There’s a long walkway that they’ve built in the middle of the crater for you to walk to its center and see the water coming out of the pit in the ground. There were tall fences lining the entire circumference of the hole so I couldn’t get anywhere close to the hot spring to actually touch it (though as the water temperature here was supposedly 80 degrees celsius, I’m not sure that that would have been a very good idea…), but it would have been very fun to bring along an egg and somehow boil it here xD A year after visiting this place I had spent a weekend in Hakone where they sell boiled eggs that turned the shells of the eggs black after being in the hot spring water. I wonder what color an egg would turn if boiled in these spring waters...guess I’ll have to go back someday with a basket of eggs to find out!

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After we could no longer bear the stench of rotten eggs in the air we said goodbye to the Hell Valley and moved on to our last activity in Noboribetsu which was, of course, the hot springs. Just as Hakone is the hot spring destination that every foreign tourist knows about, Noboribetsu is the hot spring destination that every native Japanese knows about. There is a particular street leading up to the Hell Valley known as the hot spring street where nearly every building is some sort of hot spring hotel/bath facility. Most of the hotels also offer day-of usage of their hot springs so that cheap people like ourselves could enjoy a high-end bathing facility without needing to pay the ridiculous fees of spending a night there which we could never afford.


Because they don’t allow guests to take pictures inside the hot spring baths and because I probably can’t get away with posting a picture of people bathing without getting seriously sued, I’m just going to show you the exterior of the facility that we used. I know it looks pretty bland from its appearance, but its hot spring facilities were actually pretty amazing! A classic example of never judging a book by its cover, or in this case, never judge a hot spring facility by the appearance of its front door.

And once again, because of my pathetic endurance and tolerance for heat, I had to step out of the hot springs before my friends as I was literally feeling my head spinning after a measly half an hour of dipping into several different types of hot springs. This is probably why people don’t usually do hot springs in the summer but in this case I didn’t have much of a choice. Although thanks to my wimpiness, I was able to make the time to enjoy the other best thing to enjoy in the summer: soft ice-cream~ With Hokkaido being famous for its milk products, the soft cream made with undiluted milk here was absolutely one of the best ice creams I’d ever tasted! The milky flavor was so strong and so think that it was almost a bit overwhelming, but after a few bites it starts to grow on you. To this day I still can’t have a normal vanilla flavored ice cream cone without being reminded of this glorious specimen.  


And so with that delicious ending our trip through Noboribetsu now comes to a close! Stayed tuned for the next Hokkaido chapter where I take you to the little town of Otaru, a splendid little town of glass, music boxes, and green moss!

ORIGINAL ARTICLE SOURCE : www.hisgo.com/visit-japan/

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