Noboribetsu — Day 1 of a 4-Day Trip in Japan’s Hokkaido Region
Hokkaido was the last area we visited for our 14-day trip in Japan — the end to the trilogy. The climate was a huge change compared to the Kanto and Kansai Regions — snow with temperatures ranging from -5–5ºC! Vancouver, BC was warmer than Hokkaido this time of the year! Hokkaido is known for having the best seafood in Japan and after tasting their seafood, I would 100% agree. Hokkaido is also often praised as having the best snow in the world. We were a little early for ski season, but enjoyed the subtle pops of glistening snow. Sapporo, Noboribetsu, and Otaru were winter wonderlands and we had to bundle up to stay warm.
We headed straight to Noboribetsu from New Chitose Airport. There are a few options to get to Noboribetsu — train, highway bus, or car. We opted to take the highway bus directly from the airport (check the times and destinations at the airport).
Note: We landed at New Chitose in the evening, and headed directly to Noboribetsu after our flight. We returned to Sapporo in the afternoon the next day. I re-organized it as a 1-day trip instead due to itinerary. If you are heading out to Noboribetsu at the start of your day, leave early. There is not a whole lot of time options by highway bus. You will likely have to use the train if there are no highway buses available.
The highway bus took about an hour and a half to arrive at Noboribetsu Station. From Noboribetsu Station, we had to transfer to a local bus for another 10 minute ride to our hotel, Dai-ichi Takimotokan. We arrived just in time for the buffet dinner. The buffet dinner was delicious — snow crab, mantis shrimp, fresh sashimi, ramen, steak, gyoza, and much more! The hotel also offers kaiseki dinner, but I am glad we opted for the buffet dinner. After dropping our bags off in our ryokan-styled room, we headed down to the onsen. I enjoyed the onsen at Dai-ichi Takimotokan more in comparison to the one in Kawaguchiko. This onsen is larger with an increased bath selection — each containing a restorative mineral with its own benefits. My favourite was the outdoor bath. It felt so relaxing to be in a warm bath while the outdoor temperature was 0ºC.
The next morning, we enjoyed our breakfast buffet (again, such an array of food options and all very tasty) and went down for a last dip in the onsen. We checked-out of our room, left our bags at the front desk, and headed to Jigoku-dani (or Hell’s Valley).
Jigoku-dani is right behind Dai-ichi Takimotokan. The spewing hot steam is an indicator of the sulfuric hot springs and volcanic activities. Follow the wooden walkway out to the middle of the valley to get a close up of the sulphur hot springs.
From Jigoku-dani, there is a trailhead offering a pleasant stroll through the woods with a few viewpoints and a natural footbath. The trail is well maintained and not too difficult. We ventured into the forest and arrived at Oyunuma Pond and Okunoyu, two small hot springs with a strong sulphur smell. We could feel the heat radiating from the ponds. Higher up the trail, there is a viewpoint of Oyunuma Pond. This area is still very active in its volcanic activities — evidenced by the smoke rising from the small hill beside Oyunuma Pond.
We continued on the trail and arrived at Oyunuma Natural Footbath. The river leading to this footbath comes directly from Oyunuma Pond. This was amazing! We each grabbed one of the hung-up mats on the platform, removed our shoes, and dipped our feet in the water. The footbath was a perfect temperature, but it became hotter as we dug our feet deep into the black sand. The area was not busy and we were the only ones there. The footbath is definitely worth a visit!
Oyunuma Natural Footbath
We headed out of the forest to grab lunch at Tokiya, a small restaurant in the middle of the Noboribetsu Onsen area.
We ordered the miso ramen, a dish which originated in Hokkaido. The hot broth was soothing and did not disappoint.
After lunch, we started our return trip to Sapporo. From Dai-ichi Takimotan, we headed back to Noboribetsu Station by local bus and then took the JR train to Sapporo (we did not want to wait for the highway bus). The train passed by the countryside, a refreshing change from the big city. The JR train from Noboribetsu arrived at Sapporo Station, two stops from Hosuisusukino Station (the station near our airbnb). Our Airbnb was in a high-rise apartment complex with both a wonderful exterior view of the Toyohira River and a fascinating interior view of the apartment’s centre garden.
Continue to Day 4 evening for the rest of our Sapporo activities this day (i.e. dinner and dessert). Note: If you are staying in Noboribetsu for the evening, enjoy the buffet dinner and the onsen before calling it a night. Head back to Sapporo early the next day after the buffet breakfast.
Complete Day 1 Itinerary
Travel times may vary and do not include walking distances to and from train stations. Check Google Maps for most accurate travel details.
8:00am: Grab breakfast at a convenience store. Head to Noboribetsu Station (via highway bus, train, or car). Transfer for the local bus to the main onsen area of the town (10 minute bus).
10:00am: Drop bags off at hotel and head to Jigoku-dani (6 minute walk). Walk through the forest. Visit Oyunuma Pond and Oyunoku (17 minute walk). Visit Oyunuma Natural Footbath (10 minute walk). Relax at the footbath.
1:00pm: Head back to town and grab lunch at Tokiya (13 minute walk). Visit the stores in Noboribetsu.
3:00pm: Check-in at your hotel. Enjoy some tea in your room and head to the onsen.
6:00pm: Enjoy the buffet dinner.
8:00pm: Head back to the onsen for an evening bathe.
16-Day Japan Itinerary
Click “Download” below for an excel version of my 16-Day Japan Itinerary. Feel free to use the excel file as a planning template for your own trip in Japan!