Hell Valley in Noboribetsu Hokkaido

The Best Things to Do in Noboribetsu

Demons and Onsen in Noboribetsu - Hokkaido's Hell Valley

Around 40 miles south of Sapporo is the onsen town of Noboribetsu and the surreal landscape of Jigokudani, otherwise known as Hell Valley.

The mountain town is shaped by its highly volcanic activity, which has made Noboribetsu the most popular onsen resort in Hokkaido.

There are several large onsen hotels here that make Noboribetsu a popular destination all year round. Many people come to bathe in the town’s natural hot springs as well as to witness the Hell Valley’s foreboding landscape.

Things to Do in Noboribetsu - Table of Contents

Noboribetsu's Jigokudanai, also known as Hell Valley

Frequently soundtracked by the distant dull thud of the bubbling mountain waters, the town of Noboribetsu is small enough to manage on foot. Huge plumes of steam shoot out of the ground throughout the town at all hours of the day. 

Loud echoing thuds reverberate like the sound of distant bombs with every fresh barrage of steam that pours into the sky, while the eggy smell of sulphur is often inescapable. Sat beneath the vibrant volcanic mountains, it’s easy to see why Noboribetsu came to be known as Hell Valley.

An easy day trip from Sapporo, or a great place for an onsen break, here are the best things to do in Noboribetsu.

Take a Walk Through Hell Valley

Located just to the north of the main town is the entrance to Noboribetsu’s Jigokudani – a.k.a. Hell Valley. A dedicated path that leads to an elevated boardwalk guides the way into the centre of Hell Valley’s stunning scenery, which is an incredibly wild and beautiful landscape.

Thick jets of steam spurt into the air at scattered spots beneath mountains which are a mash of colours, from rusty oranges and yellows all tinged with green. Gangs of ravens cackle high above the mountain’s snowy summit.

Beautiful at any time of year, the area is particularly special in autumn, when the trees turn orange and red, as well as in winter, when the surrounding mountains and forests are thick with snow.

Take in the View of Oyunuma Pond

There are hiking trails all around the area above Hell Valley. One trail leads to the Oyunuma lookout which offers wonderful views of Oyunuma Pond.

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.

Thanks to the volcanic nature of the area, Oyunuma Pond has a constant temperature of 50 degrees celsius. Steam constantly rises off the surface of the pond’s sulphuric waters, making for a dramatic view from the lookout.

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

Dip Your Feet in Oyunuma River’s Foot Spa

Back along the trail through the forest is the Oyunuma River. Here you’ll find the river’s naturally heated foot spa. A ledge built along the bank of the river allows you to soak your feet into the toasty pale blue thermal spring water that weaves through the forest.

Oyunuma River’s foot spa is a wonderful place to relax whilst surrounded by Noboribetsu’s wonderful and unique natural scenery, Don’t forget to bring a small towel as this is one of the best things to do in Noboribetsu, particularly if you’re visiting Hell Valley during the winter.

Meet Noboribetsu’s Colourful Demons

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

Two of the demons that protect Noboribetsu

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. Called oni in Japanese, the demons are said to protect the town and Hell Valley by driving away evil spirits.

There are eleven giant demon statues dotted around Noboribetsu, all of which are painted either a bold blue or red and look pretty fierce.

Brandishing heavy clubs and towering over the roadsides, the two demons that are easiest to spot are the pair that stand next to the entrance to Yuzawa Shrine near the entrance to Hell Valley.

Bathe in Noboribetsu’s Hot Springs at an Onsen

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

Steam from beneath Noboribetsu pours into the night sky

Noboribetsu is by far the most popular onsen town in Hokkaido. In the centre of Noboribetsu are several large onsen hotels and hot spring resorts, all taking advantage of the town’s abundance of thermal waters.

If you’d like to stay overnight and spend some time relaxing in one of Noboribetsu’s restorative onsen then there’s certainly no shortage of options.

Many of Noboribetsu’s ryokan hotels offer a variety of different types of hot spring baths, as well as a multitude of room options and a number of excellent restaurants on site.

Where to Stay in Noboribetsu

Perhaps the best ryokan in Noboribetsu is Dai-ichi Takimotokan, a grand hotel located close to the entrance of Hell Valley.

Established in 1938, the Noboribetsu Grand Hotel is another of the town’s famous ryokans, also offering a wonderful choice of hot spring baths, including private onsens.

The smaller Takinoya Bekkan Tamanoyu is a slightly more affordable option in the centre of town with public and private onsen.

To search for more hotels in Noboribetsu click here.

How to Get to Noboribetsu and Hell Valley

It’s an hour and 20 minutes by train from Sapporo Station to Noboribetsu Station. From Noboribetsu Station it’s then a 15 minute bus ride to the Hell Valley area. 

To get to Noboribetsu-onsen and Hell Valley from Noboribetsu station, take the bus from the stop located immediately outside the station to Noboribetsu-onsen. All buses from the station will take you to Noboribetsu’s Hell Valley.

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