Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Hiking Thru Hell in Noboribetsu

Though there is a local train (2 hours, 2240 yen) from Sapporo to Noboribetsu, I took the limited express (1 hour and 10 minutes, 3960 yen) because money was no object: I had blown a chunk of it on the Hokkaido Rail Pass!!! Which is what I used for this ride, of course.

 Noboribetsu Station

From a ticket machine at Noboribetsu Station, I bought a roundtrip bus ticket (620 yen roundtrip; 340 yen one way) for Noboribetsu Onsen. I got off at Noboribetsu Onsen Bus Terminal (stop N11) where there is a small information center, several chairs, and vending machines.

 A chubby devil and a cute lamp post in Noboribetsu Onsen

If the previous day was spent hiking in the fog at heavenly heights in Asahidake, then this day was spent hiking in the hells of Noboribetsu Onsen: Jigokudani 地獄谷, or Hell Valley in English.

Jigokudani is a short walk from the bus terminal. Though one can actually get off at the last stop (N15) near the footbath, which is the last (or first, depending where you start) stop of the trail, I decided to start my walk from the bus terminal in order to see a bit of the onsen town.

In the onsen town, aside from onsens and hotels, were souvenir shops, restaurants, convenience stores, and tree-trunk shaped lamp posts. And, in random spots along the road, some cute little devils and huge scary ones. These devils sure were letting me know I was about to enter their territory.

I also passed by Enma Shrine, where Enma, the hell king, comes to life at scheduled times of the day. Unfortunately, my timing was off and visited when he was as still as a stone.

Enma Shrine

It was a 10-minute slightly uphill walk from the bus terminal to the bare and smokey Jigokudani. From the observatory, I could see billows of steam down in Hell Valley. A little too far to see. So I made my way to another lookout for a closer look. That lookout brought a clearer view of billowing smoke behind mounds of dry soil, but, still, I wanted a more closer look (where I could feel the heat from the bowels of the earth and not just the sun).

Jigokudani or Hell Valley

Down the stairs to another lookout

When, at last, I found a boardwalk leading to where the steaming action was. It was the Tessen Pond Lookout, but I couldn't see any pond—was it behind the mountains of dry soil, where all the steam was coming from? I could see a stream coming from that direction. Hmmm...Or maybe it was that teeny tiny body of 80°C water in the middle of the observation deck?! It had a sign that this small body of water is an "intermittent spring/geyser".

Boardwalk to Tessen Ike Lookout

Getting steamy here

Feels like a demon could appear behind the rocks at any moment

I did not want to stay too long lest the geyser explode in my face and I made my way back to the shady hiking path which led me to Oku-no-yu, a small black sulfur spring with an inviting color and an uninviting temperature (85°C), and then to Oyunuma, a pond with a surface temperature of 50°C (the bottom may be a boiling 130°C). Behind Oyunuma was Mount Hiyori silently expelling smoke from its top.

Shady hiking path


Mount Hiyori and Oyunuma

Steaming Oyunuma

Oyunuma feeds its hot waters to Oyunuma Brook which leads to the last stop of my hike: Oyunuma Footbath, where I rested my weary feet in its warm, healing water.

Oyunuma Footbath

Good way to end a hike

Welcome Demons near the footbath

The journey through hell took me about two hours and it wasn't all that hellish. As Winston Churchill would say: "If you're going through hell, keep going."

Japanese Summer 2018
Otaru on Foot
Asahikawa Accommodation: Asahikawa Ride
Beautiful Nature in Biei Town
Lavender Fields in Nakafurano
Daisetsuzan National Park: A Short Hike in Asahidake
Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Hiking Thru Hell in Noboribetsu (you're here!)
Six Short Hours in Hakodate
Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Walking Through Abandoned Places in Toya
Hokkaido Rail Pass
Itinerary and Expenses: 9D/9N Hokkaido and Sawara Town

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