Noboribetsu Onsen's most scenic area, Jigoku Valley.
It is here you can find the 450 meter wide crater made after the fiery eruption of Mt. Hyoriyama. Also to be found along the valley are countless natural hot springs and geysers, which give the valley an overall appearance of a demonic underworld. This is where the valley gets its name "Jigoku" or, in English, "Hell."
▲ The steaming and bubbling of the fiery underworld!
It is from Jigoku Valley that Noboribetsu's many hot springs receive their abundant and high quality water supply. This is also the reason that you will find many places in Noboribetsu named after various well known demons. If you ever visit the area, be sure to keep a look out for these landmarks.
▲ Even the scariest demons are considered protectors here in Noboribetsu.
▲ If you travel by car expect to be greeted by the demon of the interchange. "This way to the Underworld!"
▲ There's also a demon at the station waiting to ambush those who decide to come by train.
▲ Demons of love and fulfillment!
▲ The guardian of Noboribetsu's hot water, "Yukijin."
▲ The hot water guardians all live in Jigoku Valley. Perhaps you'll run in to them if you visit?
Also held this year in the beginning of February was the 42nd annual Noboribetsu Hot Spring Water Festival.
To give thanks to the hot springs, and in the hopes that they never run dry, this festival for prosperity and good health is held each year in the middle of the coldest month of the year. Festival goers strip down to loincloths and violently splash hot water back and forth in what is known as a "Hot Water Battle!" For more information you can check the links below.
▲ Women are also encouraged to participate!
The men wear only a single loincloth to battle, and females wear the full body loincloth which has become the trademark of a "hot spring beauty." This years festival was a particularly cold one, so the hot water splashing seemed to be a bit more welcome than usual...
■ Noboribetsu Tourist Association
■ Noboribetsu Hot Spring Water Festival
■ Noboribetsu Tourist Association on facebook
■ Noboribetsu Tourist Center's Blog
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Takako Chiba)
(Photographs provided by Noboribetsu Tourist Association and Center)