Noboribetsu Onsen is a hot springs village in southwestern Hokkaido’s Shikotsu-Toya National Park. There are several attractive hot spring hotels in town, but the most fascinating local sight lies a 10-minute walk north from the Noboribetsu Onsen bus stop: Jigokudani.
Also known as “Hell Valley”, Jigokudani offers an impressive view over the source of Noboribetsu’s hot springs’ water. Marvel at bubbling sulfur springs, steaming hot (and very smelly) colorful streams and volcanic vents breathing sulfurous steam. A wooden footbridge enables visitors to get up close with the spectacular nature, walking over a landscape that feels like being transported to another planet.
From the valley, walking trails lead into the wooded hills up to Taisho Jigoku, a boiling hot pond surrounding a geyser that is known to change color - from grey and green to blue and yellow. Descending the mountain, the forest opens up to the much larger, steaming sulfurous Oyunuma pond, where the water’s surface temperature is still as hot as 50°C.
Following the Oyunuma River through the forest, you reach the Oyunumagawa foot bath, where the river’s mist imbues the forest with a magical atmosphere. Relax tired feet in the (still very warm) water of the stream before heading back to Noboribetsu Onsen.
The hike through the forest is short and suitable for children used to a little hiking, especially since a number of nature-related questions and riddles placed along the path keep up motivation to reach the next checkpoint, where the answer to the previous questions awaits and a new one is posed (in English).
Noboribetsu Onsen can be reached by bus from Noboribetsu’s JR train station and makes for a very nice stop on the train route from Hakodate to Sapporo. Taxis are also available at the train station. As the smell of sulfur can be quite strong in Jigokudani, it is not advised to wear fancy clothes. While the short walk into the valley itself does not require any sort of hiking gear, the paths into the forest can be slippery and might be dangerous without sturdy shoes. Entry to the valley and Oyunumagawa foot bath is free.