Japan The Road

Hot Springs and the Snow in Central Hokkaido

Left by a driver, we scanned the parking area. It’s not easy to exit the highway without a car in Hokkaido. Tall, endless fence is there for a reason – we observed a lot of fauna everywhere, both from roads and railway. The crossing attempt was interrupted by a station worker, he called us and opened the only gate. After a short walk we reached our airbnb in a village of Hagino, what a place it was! Except for a traditional style bedroom, there was a real hot spring in the… bathroom! We spent quite some time in it, surrounded by steam, listening to the burbling sound of the stream. Thermal water is common in this area and people use it mainly for the house heating. Our next destination is very much connected to this glorious land’s feature.

Noboribetsu is a popular hot spring resort, so its famous attraction, Hell Valley, was crowded with Chinese groups (coronavirus news were booming at that time). Nevertheless, it was impressive. We walked deeper in the canyon filled with the intense smell of sulfur from craters full of boiling water. Sunlight was cut off by the steam clouds above our heads making the place much darker. Plants hanging from the cliff seemed to enjoy the warmth, if that’s how hell looks like, it’s not bad at all! Soon we decided to escape the crowds with a small forest path, blocked by a sign ROAD CLOSED. This not always wise move, can be oftentimes rewarding in Japan – we literally had all the next places to ourselves.

Strolling alone between the viewpoints of the valley, in front of us emerged the most amazing sight. We could gaze at the steaming Oyunuma Pond for hours, it looked otherworldly with its black shores, surrounded by forested hills. The bubbling sound was coming from its invisible center, covered with white dense clouds. Next in our plan was crater lake – Kuttara. Despite the deep snow crunching under feet, it was a steady, easy 4km climb topped out with an amazing view of a perfectly round body of water. The last part of the trip we spent in a small forest gorge, ankle deep in natural footbath. Sitting there we wondered how everywhere in Hokkaido, natural wonders are just a few steps outside of the cities.

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