The area around Noboribetsu is best known for its mineral-rich hot spring area. But there are other attractions in the region as well such as an Ainu village and the beautiful Lake Toya. Find out why Noboribetsu and its surroundings should definitely feature on your itinerary if you come to Hokkaido!
Noboribetsu Onsen is one of Hokkaido’s most well-known hot spring resort areas. It offers over 10 different kinds of natural spring water containing minerals. For example, hydrogen sulfide, salt, and iron are all beneficial to our health. Most people stay overnight in one of the onsen hotels but day guests can also enter many of the onsen if they pay a fee.
Noboribetsu is part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park. The most magnificent scene at the hot spring is the Jigoku Valley (hell valley), where yellowy gray volcanic gas seeps from the surface of the rocks. This makes the whole place smell strongly of sulfur and makes it look and feel like hell. The valley is a 450-meter-diameter mouth of a volcano, which produces 3,000 liters of hot water every day.
There are some great hiking trails in the area, and you can take a rest on the side of a warm river footbath. Autumn is by far the best time to go as the area will be decked out in wonderful colors.
Shiraoi is a small town with a population of around 20,000 with part of the town within the borders of Shikotsu-Toya National Park. The town is best-known for U-popo-y, the Ainu museum that reopened in July 2020. Here you can learn more about Ainu culture and lifestyle, as the exhibition shows an outdoor reproduction of a small Ainu village. Several performances, such as traditional Ainu dances, are held throughout the day and there are hands-on activities.
Please note that for many activities you need to make a reservation that can currently only be done in Japanese on this website. If you book at least one tour or service through us we are happy to assist you with your preparation for your visit to U-popo-y.
Lake Toya & Toya Onsen
Around Lake Toya, you can find Toya Onsen. This is a hot spring village that is popular with Japanese tourists from the city looking for a relaxing escape. The area is known for its many outdoor activities like hiking, several water sports, fishing, and outdoor bathing. There are also camping sites including facilities at the lakeside.
Lake Toya is the 3rd largest crater lake in the country, and it was formed over 100.000 years ago after a large eruption. Four small islands in the middle of the lake were formed by volcanic activity on the bottom of the lake 50.000 years ago. These islands can be seen from nearby if you take a sightseeing cruise. Lake Toya is seen as one of the 3 great landscapes in Hokkaido because of the ever-changing nice views. The hot spring is also one of the best on the island.
The Volcano Science Museum is also worth a visit, especially the images of the 1977 eruption are fascinating to watch. Toya came to the attention of the world in 2008, which is when Japan hosted the G8 Summit. Japan’s natural beauty was showcased to the world, which boosted tourism to the area.
Mt. Showa (Showa Shin-Zan) is one of the latest mountains that was formed in Japan in 1944-1945. And it is aptly named after the era during which it appeared. There were a number of large earthquakes in the area and farmland was very suddenly and quickly raised. Then lava flowed from the surface, and this is how what is now the peak was created. Currently, the peak is still smoking and nearly 400 meters high. From the Usuzan Ropeway, you can get a nice view of the active young volcano.
Lake Shikotsu, or Shikotsu-ko, is located in southwestern Hokkaido. This crater lake does not freeze over most of the time because it is very deep with a maximum depth of more than 350 meters, making it the most northern lake in Japan that doesn’t freeze over. Because the lake is very clean you can see the bottom down to around 25 meters.
During summertime, you will see many boats on the lake, and people will also fish for trout or scuba dive here. In the winter, the Ice Waterfall festival brings the area ice sculptures that are lit up at night to create a beautiful wintry scene.
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