Hell Valley in Noboribetsu Hokkaido

Noboribestsu & Hokkaido's Hell Valley

Demons and Onsen in Noboribetsu

Around 40 miles south of Sapporo is Noboribetsu and Hell Valley. Noboribetsu is one of Hokkaido’s most popular onsen towns, where many people come to sample the soothing waters of the natural hot springs. They also come to witness the foreboding landscape of Hell Valley.

The town of Noboribetsu is fairly small and the stale smell of sulphur is inescapable. A handful of large onsen hotels dominate Noboribetsu’s town, providing for Japan’s love of hot springs, which are popular all year round. 

Given the task of protecting Noboribetsu’s many hot springs are a number of large demon statues, painted in bold blues and reds and wielding huge clubs.

One of Noboribetsu's demons in Hell Valley
One of Noboribetsu's demons in Hell Valley

Two of the demons that protect Noboribetsu’s onsen

Noboribetsu is frequently soundtracked by the distant dull thud of the bubbling mountain waters that pump out from vents in various parts scattered across the small town. 

Noboribetsu’s main shopping street has several well stocked souvenir shops that stock local specialities, as well as a few very fine small restaurants. Throughout the town steam spurts skyward from a myriad of holes in the ground. 

Entering Hell Valley

If you’re not visiting one of the onsen, the main draw to Noboribetsu is the stunning local scenery known as Hell Valley. The scenery is breath-taking. The hillsides and mountains are riddled with hot springs that continuously spew out steam. 

The mountains are a mash of colours, from rusty oranges and yellows all tinged with green highlights. Steam jets spurt into the air at scattered spots, whilst gangs of ravens cackle high above the mountain’s snowy summit.

Hell Valley in Noboribetsu, Hokkaido
Noboribetsu's Hell Valley

In winter, navigating the steep climbs and sharp icy descents of Hell Valley requires a lot of close attention. Thick snow and ice increases the difficulty of the climb up the trails, though the views high over Oyunuma Pond are ultimately worth it. 

The temperature of the pond’s water is around 50 degrees and huge volumes of hot white steam rises from it’s surface. 

Back along the trail through the forest next to the Oyunumagawa river you’ll find the naturally heated foot spa, still popular late in the day with darkness rapidly descending. From here a short walk downhill on the main road leads back to the main town.

Oyunuma Pond Hell Valley Noboribetsu Hokkaido Japan
Oyunumagawa river, Hell Valley, Noboribetsu in Hokkaido

Oyunama Pond and the foot spa in the Oyunumagawa River, Hell Valley

At night the main geothermal vent that runs below the centre of Noboribetsu pumps out huge plumes of salty steam high into the darkness of the night, backlit by the street lamps that line the roads. 

With the loud echoing thuds that reverberate from beneath the ground with every fresh barrage of steam that pours into the sky, it’s easy to understand how Noboribetsu came to be known as Hell Valley.

Steam from hot springs in Noboribetsu Japan
Steam from an underground hot spring in Noboribetsu, Hokkaido, Japan

Steam from Noboribetsu’s onsen pours into the night sky

How to Get to Noboribetsu and Hell Valley

It’s an hour and 20 minutes by train from Sapporo to Noboribetsu train station, followed by a 15 minute bus ride. 

Train tickets cost 1800 yen for an unreserved seat or 2160 yen for a reserved seat. You can check the train times for trains to Noboribetsu at the excellent Hyperdia website. 

Tickets for trains to Noboribetsu must be purchased from the JR ticket office in the main hall of Sapporo station and not from the self serve ticketing machines. The JR ticket office is a small office on the opposite side to the entrance gates to the platforms.

To get to Noboribetsu-onsen and Hell Valley from Noboribetsu station, take the bus from immediately outside the station to Noboribetsu-onsen. Any bus from here will take you to Noboribetus-onsen. 

The bus takes around 15 minutes from the station to Noboribetsu-onsen. Hell Valley is a simple walk through the town. At the top of the main shopping street keep walking uphill and the entrance to Hell Valley will be in front of you.

Accommodation in Noboribetsu

There are several large hotels in Noboribetsu that offer a wide range of onsen packages.

To search for and book an onsen hotel in Noboribetsu click here.

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