Things to do in Noboribetsu (Hokkaido’s Onsen Town)

One of the things Japan is known for internationally is it’s Onsen. Onsen is essentially Japanese Hot Spring where the water is heated naturally from geothermal spots. These natural hot spring water can be between 50 to 80 degrees celsius and have said to contain minerals that have medical properties. While I can’t personally attest to the medical benefits, I can tell you that soaking in an onsen does help the body to feel absolutely relax after. I always have the best sleep after soaking in an onsen. If you too are a fan of onsen, then head to Noboribetsu, Hokkaido, which has been said to have one of the best onsens Japan has to offer. Thanks to Jigokudani (also known as hell’s valley), a crater that was created after a volcano imploded 10,000 years ago, the city has an ongoing abundant supply of sulphuric water. Yearly, tens of thousands of both tourist and local fly into Noboribetsu from all over the world just for an Onsen retreat at Noboribetsu. It is not uncommon to get a whiff of sulphur as you walk along the city.

Locals generally do not recommend staying in an onsen for more than 15mins per seating, so when you visit Noboribetsu, you might end up with a lot of free time on your hand. So our travel blog has managed to put together some of our recommendations of things to do in Noboribetsu.

1) Noboribetsu Bear Park

I’m generally not a fan of animals in captivity, but in the mountainous area of Noboribetsu, Bears are in fact a common sighting and are often hunted and killed due to the dangers it posses to trekkers and people. Noboribetsu Bear Park hence allows people to see these bears up close in a controlled environment and attempts to change the perception of bears to the general public.


The good thing about Noboribetsu Bear Park is that they offer free shuttle service that will pick up up from your hotel or anywhere within the city to send you the visitor centre. From there, you can purchase your ticket before taking an approximately 10mins cable car ride up the mountain. If you happen to visit in Autumn, prepare your cameras as you would be welcomed by a beautiful sea of red autumn trees that stretches out to the sea.


Upon arrival, the baby bear cubs would be to your right and I personally was amazed by how close they were to us. Like my camera barely had to zoom to take a good photo. The female and male bears are kept in separate enclosures and you can buy snacks to feed them if you wish to. The bears have also been accustomed to wave or stand to grab your attention so you would throw snacks their way. Just be wary of the hovering crows which would steal these snacks (sometimes mid air) from the bears.

Noboribetsu Bear Park – Human Cage


The most intriguing experience was probably the human cage where you get to see the gigantic male bears up close and realise just really how big they are. It was about then that I realise that I never want to meet a bear in the wild because it’s head is about the size of my torso.


Once you’re done with the bears, you can also head over to watch the duck races or head to the roof where you will get to catch a glimpse of Lake Kuttara in the distance.

2) Lake Kuttara

Lake Kuttara is essentially a gigantic pond that sits on top of the mountain. The crater at the top of the mountain holds the water and when visited at the right time, glitters and reflects the sunlight off the sky.


While you are able to see Lake Kuttara from a distance at Noboribetu Bear Park, the view up close is even more breathtaking  So if you have the time, you can also take a day trip out directly to Lake Kuttara (approximately 30mins drive) to capture beautiful instagram worthy shots.
The place itself is so serene and peaceful that you can hear the birds chirp in the distance. The water reflects the sky and the cold fresh air (if visited during the right seasons), revitalises your soul.

3) Jigokudani (Hell’s Valley)

So no trip to Noboribetsu is complete without a visit to the city’s gem, Jigokundani, also known as Hell’s Valley. As mentioned earlier, Jigokundani is the source of the city’s hot spring waters and you do not want to miss a chance to be able to see such a crater up close for free (some places in Tokyo such as Hakone charges a fee to get up to such sulphuric volcanos.


The smell of sulphur is almost instantaneous from the moment you step within the boundaries of Jigokundani. Some of these water are so hot that their surface temperature is about 50 degrees celsius and the water bubbles at the surface.

From the crater, follow the walking trails to that will guide you thorough the forested parts of the wooded hills. There, you would also be able to see a river called Oyunumagawa that runs through the forest. Be wow-ed by the beautiful autumn leaves if you visit during fall as you take the long romantic stroll with your loved ones. Follow the river for a few hundred meters and you would come across a free natural foot bath in the middle of the forest. An experience like no other.

4) Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura

Japanese history is best known for the Edo period, which is the period that was ruled by the famed Tokugawa clan. The Edo period is a highly important period in Japanese history as it saw a stop to clan wars which resulted in a surge of economic growth for Japan.


Step right back into the Edo Period today at Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura. Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura is a themed historic village that was created to share more about life and the story of the Edo period and the Tokugawa clan. The buildings and facades of the buildings were specifically reconstructed to represent the houses back then so visitors can have a taste of what Japanese life looked like back in 1603.


Learn more about the life of a samurai and visit the reconstructed home of a top ranked Samurai commander. Read more about the legendary samurai Katana swords and how they evolved over the years at the Katana museum. Understand how Ninjas used to operate and the tools they used, which were well ahead of their time,  to achieve their mission.

Watch a ninja show or throw a shuriken star! Aside from the educational bit, there are also shows and games around Niboribetsu Date Jidaimura, that one could can themselves involved with.

Bring your cameras as you can also rent and dress up as into a samurai/ninja (girls in Kimono) and take pictures around the area. The well constructed Edo look alike decor around the village gives for a realistic “back to the future” backdrop that you can’t achieve anywhere else in Japan even if you had rented your kimonos somewhere else.

Step right back into the Edo Period today at Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura. Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura is a themed historic village that was created to share more about life and the story of the Edo period and the Tokugawa clan. The buildings and facades of the buildings were specifically reconstructed to represent the houses back then so visitors can have a taste of what Japanese life looked like back in 1603.

Learn more about the life of a samurai and visit the reconstructed home of a top ranked Samurai commander. Read more about the legendary samurai Katana swords and how they evolved over the years at the Katana museum. Understand how Ninjas used to operate and the tools they used, which were well ahead of their time,  to achieve their mission.

Watch a ninja show or throw a shuriken star! Aside from the educational bit, there are also shows and games around Niboribetsu Date Jidaimura, that one could can themselves involved with.

Bring your cameras as you can also rent and dress up as into a samurai/ninja (girls in Kimono) and take pictures around the area. The well constructed Edo look alike decor around the village gives for a realistic “back to the future” backdrop that you can’t achieve anywhere else in Japan even if you had rented your kimonos somewhere else.

5) Sobadokorofukuan

Fan of Soba? This place is said to have the best soba in the city and can at times get really crowded and busy. They have limited opening hours so you have to head over early to prevent missing out on their opening times as the place is relatively small. Their delicious cold or hot soba can be enjoyed in all seasons and is best paired with their signature prawn tempura and rice. With the increase in the amount of tourist visiting the area, they also have enlist menus which make ordering a real breeze. A must try!

6) Stay in an Onsen Hotel

Last but not least, you MUST stay at one of the local onsen hotels. Whenever you are tired of exploring the city, you can always head back to your hotel for a quick dip into the onsen and that will be guaranteed to charge you up for the rest of the activities for the day. Onsen hotels offer public baths splitted by gender and is only open to hotel guests. As it is a public bath, you would have to observe onsen etiquettes such being fully naked and having no tattoos. For those who are reserved/shy, you can always opt for hotels that have a private in room onsen that you can dip in in the comforts of your own room.

Click here to find out our recommendation of the best Onsen Ryokan in Noboribetsu and how to get the best hotel rates.

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