Noboribetsu Onsen is one of Hokkaido’s most popular hot spring towns, less than 2 hours away from Sapporo. You can come just for the day, or, to get the full relaxing experience I would recommend at least a one-night stay. If you want to stay the night then there is a range of options for accommodation. Many of those have their own onsen, for you to enjoy at your leisure. Noboribetsu Onsen also has lots of other things that make it a great place to explore, here I will list some of them!
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Jigokudani, or Hell Valley, is a beautiful valley that is said to be the gateway to hell. This is possibly because of all the bubbling steam vents and sulpherous streams that are dotting the valley. If visiting in summer, try to plan your visit to be there on a Thursday or Friday night so you can experience the Demon’s Fireworks, which is an amazing show complete with dancing Yukijin demons holding cannons of fireworks along the edge of the valley. The pathway into the valley is also lit up every night, so it’s worth a little stroll in the evening to experience what the valley is like in the dark. Jigokudani is found at just a 5-10 minute walk north from the main street of Noboribetsu Onsen.
From Jigokudani you can access a network of trails that take you through some beautiful forests, and pass a geothermal crater lake and other beautiful places of interest. About 20-30 minutes from Jigokudani you follow the path next to the Oyunumagawa River, which eventually leads to a brook where you can stop to soothe your achy feet. The water is warm without being scalding, and it is a very unique experience to be able to sit by this beautiful geothermal warmed river and be surrounded by the forest. I would recommend to take a towel with you so you can dry your feet after you are done, and take something to sit on just in case all the foam pads are already in use.
Daiichi Takimotokan is considered one of the best indoor hot springs in Japan. Day visitors are allowed to enter this onsen until 6 pm, or if you are a guest of the hotel or the neighbouring Takimoto Inn, you will get 24 hour access. What makes this Onsen so amazing is the number of different baths, which is said to be up to 30 across the different gender areas. Apparently there are also 7 different types of water pumped into the baths which are said to have different effects on you, and you also get access to the (bathing suit required) swimming pool complete with a water slide.
This was my first experience with an onsen, and it is truly a relaxing place to spend some time, testing all the different baths and steam rooms. If you want a cheaper option, you can consider a visit to the Sagiriyu Public Bath, which is the only public bathhouse in town and is mainly popular with locals.
In nearby Noboribetsu town there is Noboribetsu Date Jidai Mura, an Edo Period theme park which has a range of different shows and performances, as well as many replica buildings and shops. It is an interesting way to learn about Japan during the Edo period.
We stayed at the Takimoto Inn, which was one of the cheaper options in Noboribetsu Onsen. It was a fairly typical Japanese budget hotel with clean rooms that do look a bit old. You can also get breakfast and dinner included at the hotel’s restaurant. The best part of staying here is that you get complimentary access to the onsen at Daiichi Takimotokan mentioned above.
You can get to Noboribetsu Onsen via bus, train, or car, depending on where you are leaving from. To get here from Sapporo you need to catch a JR Train that takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes from Sapporo to Noboribetsu Station, and then catch a connecting bus to Noboribetsu Onsen. From New Chitose Airport you can also catch a train and change trains at Minami-Chitose Station, or you can catch a highway bus. Some hotels in Noboribetsu Onsen also offer their own reduced price shuttle buses from Sapporo that you need to reserve ahead.
For further information you can visit the onsen’s homepage.