Noboribetsu in south-western Hokkaido is the location of the Noboribetsu-onsen, Karurusu-onsen, and Noboritbetsu-rinkai-onsen hot springs, and has a rich variety of scenery including forests, lakes and marshes. It has been designated a part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park.

The Noboribetsu-onsen is one of Hokkaido's best-known hot springs, and is surrounded by a virgin forest 200 metres above sea level. It has over 10 different kinds of water, containing minerals such as hydrogen sulphide, salt, and iron. The quality of these minerals results in the spa being ranked among the world's most exceptional hot springs.

The most impressive scene at the hot spring is the Jigoku Valley (hell valley), where yellowy grey volcanic gas seeps from the surface of the rocks. This makes the whole place smell strongly of sulphur, and gives it an image like that of hell. The valley is a 450-metre-diametre mouth of a volcano, which produces 3,000 litres of hot water a day.

Date jidaimura

In the north-eastern part of the hot spring grow many sorts of broad-leafed trees, including oaks, and a bamboo grass called 'kumai-zasa.' The area is called Noboribetsu Primeval Forest, and has been designated as a natural monument. To the west is Shiho Peak, from which you can view Lake Kuttara, with its clear water said to be the second most transparent in Japan.

Access: 1hr 30mins from Tokyo's Haneda Airport to Shin-Chitose Airport.

Further information: Noboribetsu Guide