Noboribetsu is about 1 hour by train from Sapporo, or about 2 hours from Hakodate. You can take the special tourist line from the train station to Noboribetsu Onsen, the hot springs area. On the way, you can stop at the Edo Village where you can see a recreated edo period town complete with ninjas. (We skipped this due to time and costs.)
The hot springs area is unabashedly a tourist town full of kitschy souvenirs, which are completely at their own level of awesome. I'm a sap when it comes to souvenirs, like the cute hell demon lucky cats. Even the supposedly scary statues all around town seem to have some cuteness to them. It's very odd, so just take it in. There are more shops than restaurants, but then again, most hotels in the area seem to be ryokan that includes dinner and breakfast, so there isn't as much need, I guess.
Once you get out of the onsen street, you will reach the Jigokudani park (Hell Valley), where you can see geysers, thermal pools, and slightly unworldly landscape. There is a foot path that lets you walk pretty close to the smoking geysers. The main area takes about 1-2 hours to walk through, although you can take much longer hikes to explore the surrounding regions. There is also a natural foot bath near the end of the trail (or the beginning depending on where you start). The water is not too hot but is a nice rest for the tired legs.
We went to this ramen restaurant called Tenhou. They offer some gamey alternatives like bear and deer ramen in addition to more normal stuff like pork or crab meat ramen. The food was OK, but there aren't too many choices in the area.
Just a small warning - the area has a somewhat overpowering sulfuric smell, due to the proximity of the volcano and thermal pools. You do get used to this after a while.
If you are visiting Noboribetsu as a stopover betwen Hakodate to Sapporo, there are lockers in the train station. Also, the tourist buses run close to the train times, so if you missed the buses you'll need to get more detailed directions from the station agent on how to take the local buses. I heard that there is a combo ticket for the bear park, edo village, and the marine park, but you'll need to ask to buy it. We did not get to any of them due to costs & time constraints.
Imagine going to hell in Hokkaido? Hell Valley (Jigokudani) is so named because of the spewing sulphurous streams, sulphur fumes and other volcanic activity. I was particularly intrigued by a signboard which said that the water from Hell Valley is good for curing eye diseases!!
Maintain approx 160 bears into 2 confined areas, one is for the adult bear and the other is the young bear. You can buy bear snack from the farm to feed them, they will display all sorts of action (waving, standing on one foot, rolling, etc) to get your attention and food.
To get to the farm, you take a ropeway near the Jigokudani bus-stop (there was a mini-bus send us to the ropeway station during our visit).
The 7 mins ride gives a good overview of the entire Noboribetsu town. The biggest attraction is the winter scene around the bear farm, it is pictureque and tranquil.
Also known as Hell Vally, strong sulfurous streams venting out from the earth. It forms a interesting sight during winter when hottest area cover with steam and the further area covers with snow
Before the road into the helly vally, there is a local guide office, you can obtain a walking map to move around the area
Jigokudani or "Hell Valley" is a spectacular, appropriately named valley, which displays hot steam vents, sulfurous streams and other volcanic activities. It is one source of Noboribetsu's hot spring waters.
From the valley, there are attractive hiking trails through the densely forested hills around Noboribetsu. If you follow them for about 20-30 minutes, you will get to Oyunuma, a sulfurous pond with a surface temperature of 50 degrees Celsius and a smaller, even hotter mud pond nearby.
The Jigokudai is located in Noboribetsu's hot spring area, a 15 minute bus ride from Noboribetsu Station.
You may think that bears are wild. They could be cute as well. In the bear farm, you could feed them with food (some cookies or carrots, 100 yen/bag). They return you by some funny gestures. Yes, all bear may have different funny actions.
There is a bear museum in this farm. The roof top is the best place to have a whole view of Noboribetsu.
Don't miss the bear show and duck race held in the farm.
There are many souvenir shops in the street.
Information centre can be found in the street. Of course, hotels are there, too. The street is not so long. Don't worry.
From the street, you could go to bear farm and hell valley easily. Therefore, I recommend you to have a night stay in the hotels situated in this street. Have a japanese dinner and bath. Relax and have a good sleep. zzzzZZZZ
Go to Hell. You may find this offensive. Let me explain this.
In general, hot springs in Japan are divided into 2 kinds. One is for bath and called "bath". Another is for watch and called "hell". There are quite a number of hotels around Hell Valley in Noboribetsu. Don't forget to take a bath in Japanese "bath" after watching "hell". It is good to health.
Jigoxudani is an volcano that has been exploded 10,000 years ago. The size is over 450 meter wide. There are still lot of steam coming out. Tourist can freely visit there 30 years ago but fence was built and only design route for tourist becasue of the safy reason.
Observe the main hot spring area of Noboribetsu. There is a spoon where you can actually sample the bubbling groundwater on the edge of the hot spring area. A souvenir shop at the entrance sells various unique items including volcanic ash soap, shampoo and spa water.
It is a recreated ancient Japanese village with a main theme on ninjas. A must-see attraction is a live-action show on ninjas. Unfortunately, the narration is in Japanese.