Hokkaido Day 7 (Noboribetsu) (20 Feb 17) – Journey to the West of Hokkaido: From Abashiri to Noboribetsu Onsen

Flying from Memanbetsu to New Chitose Airport

Abashiri to Noboribetsu Onsen is about 420km apart. The 2 primary options that we had when planning for this trip was to either fly and transfer to a shuttle bus, or take the JR and transfer to a local bus at Noboribetsu JR Station. We opt to fly for our westerly journey to Noboribetsu Onsen, Flying domestic when booked at least 75 days before departure on domestic airlines costs ¥10,200 per pax. Taking into consideration the bus fare to the nearest Memanbetsu airport from Abashiri (¥910) and the shuttle bus fare from New Chitose Airport to Noboribetsu Onsen (¥1,370). The total cost for the flight option is ¥12,480 per pax and the journey can be completed under 3 hours. Comparing the JR option, which takes more than 6 hours and costs ¥13,940 (including the ¥340 per pax for Noboribetsu JR Station to Noboribetsu Onsen), the choice is obvious.
We were able to gain half a day in Noboribetsu Onsen by choosing the domestic flight option over the JR option when travelling from Abashiri to Noboribetsu Onsen
After checking out of the hotel, we took the local bus from Abashiri JR Station to Memanbetsu Airport. The buses bound for Memanbetsu Airport are timed according to the flight departures from the airport. We took the 9.40am bus in time to catch our 10.40am flight to New Chitose Aiport. The local bus plies through Abashiri City and the City of Memanbetsu before terminating at Memanbestu Airport.
Waiting for the bus to take us to Memanbetsu Airport
The bus to Memanbetsu Airport is timed to the outbound flight from the airport. Despite being winter, the bus is still a very reliable mode of transportation
The bus to Memanbetsu Airport is a normal local bus, there are no luggage racks and we dragged our luggage to the seat 
Zooming past Abashiri Prison when we were heading towards Memanbetsu Airport 
Bye-bye Abashiri
Frozen Lake Abashiri
It took us 30 mins to travel from Abashiri to Memanbetsu Airport by bus
Wefie at Memanbetsu Airport
Welcome to Memanbetsu Airport
Taking a wefie in Memanbetsu Airport
We are boarding the ANA Domestic flight to New Chitose Airport
The ground is covered with snow. What a magnificent sight.
Flying across Hokkaido from Memanbetsu to New Chitose Airport
Hokkaido is covered in a blanket of snow 
Taking a selfie on board the ANA flight
We covered 420km within 50min by flight

Doraemon Sky Park in New Chitose Airport

The flight took around 50 mins, after collecting our luggage, we headed for the bus ticketing counter to get our tickets for Noboribetsu Onsen. There are only 2 timings for the bus heading to Noboribetsu Onsen, 12 noon and 1.15pm. We took the 1.15pm bus as we wanted to visit Doraemon Sky Park, which is located on the 3rd floor of  New Chitose Airport.
This is the bus ticket counter that we bought our bus ticket from New Chitose Airport to Noboribetsu Onsen from. It is located next to the information counter on the arrival hall of the domestic side of the airport


Doraemon Sky Park has seven zones. There is a cafe, a kids play area, a library, a shop and an amusement zone on top of the Park Zone. Doraemon is a Japanese cartoon character who has travelled through time to help a boy to woo the girl of his dream. The Park Zone as a paid area where scenes from the cartoon series are replicated in life-size forms, making use of optical illusion to allow guests to interact in each scene. This is a great place for photography for Doraemon fans. My friend and I took pictures of the scene, which took us around 45 mins. There is a Doraemon mini-skit performance at the end of the Park Zone, to entertain mainly the children visitors. After the short 10 min skit, visitors can take pictures with Doraemon. However, only 1 picture limited to 1 device will be used by the staff for photo taking. We exited the Doraemon Sky Park and headed for bus stop 29, near the ticketing counter where we bought our bus tickets, to board a bus to Noboribetsu Onsen. The bus ride from New Chitose Airport to Noboribetsu Onsen takes around 1 hour. The bus
The Smile Road is located on the 3rd floor of New Chitose Airport between the domestic and international terminals
The entrance of the Park Zone of Doraemon Sky Park in New Chitose Airport
Me with Doraemon Statue at the entrance to Doraemon Sky Park
Ticketing vending machine for Doraemon Sky Park
Ticket to Doraemon Sky Park
Some of the gadgets that were in Doraemon’s front pocket depicted in the comics
More gadgets that were in Doraemon’s front pocket depicted in the comics
More gadgets that were in Doraemon’s front pocket depicted in the comics
Lifesize Nobita’s room with Doraemon and his sister Doraemi
My friend playing on the interactive game in the Park Zone of Doraemon Sky Park
The main characters in Doraemon comics
The “What if” Telephone booth, a gadget in Doraemon’s front pocket
A very big Doraemon
This is the street where Nobita’s house is in
The opening to the purse is too small for me to squeeze through
My friend with one of the displays in Park Zone of Doraemon Sky Park
One of the displays in Doraemon Sky Park
The door that allows users to go anywhere is also one of the gadgets in Doraemon’s pocket
Me posing with Shizuk in front of the tunnel that shrinks people
Look who we found got shrink by the tunnel
My friend in the mouth of a rat, a nemesis of Doraemon
Time-travelling on Doraemon’s time machine
The use of optical illusion makes me feel shrunk
And I got enlarged
My friend posing with Doraemi, Doraemon’s sister
My friend with Doraemon in Nobita’s room
Nobita seem surprised to see me going up to his room
Doraemon performance in Park Zone of Doraemon Sky Park. Too bad we couldn’t understand as it is in Japanese
My friend and I posing with Doraemon at the end of the show

Noboribetsu Onsen – The Town of Hell

Noboribetsu Onsen is a small town with a handful of shops. We covered the whole town on foot within 20 mins. There are numerous demon statues scattered around Noboribetsu Onsen, each has its prosperity symbols. Due to the volcanic eruption on the nearby Mt Hiyoriyama some 20,000 years ago, a volcanic caldera was formed. Along with it the formation of blowholes that constantly emitting powerful jets of steam, resembling the scenes of Hell. The mascot of Noboribetsu Onsen is demons. The locals believed that not all demons are evil, those that were represented in Noboribetsu Onsen are actually good demons, who prays for the fortune for people and takes away their bad luck.

Onboard the bus heading towards Noboribetsu Onsen from New Chitose Airport
Everything covered in snow is just beautiful
It was snowing when we arrived at Noboribetsu Onsen Bus Terminal
View of Noboribetsu Onsen from our room

After settling our luggage in our room, my friend and I explored Noboribetsu Onsen at the same time look for lunch. It started to snow as we made our way into the town. The snow was a welcomed sight to us and did not bother us much. As we were walking along Gokuraku Shopping Street, the main street of Noboribetsu Onsen, there seem to be only a handful of restaurants for our choice for lunch. We settled lunch at a restaurant that seems open. As we were making our way to Jigokudani after lunch, we passed the Enma-Do shrine, a temple with a huge statue of the King of Hell (Enma) with animated performances at fixed timings located near to the entrance of Jigokudani affectionately known as Hell Valley. We managed to catch the animated performance where Enma come to live, after chanting some phrases in Japanese, the statue changed face from the kind-look to the angry red face.

Me posing in front of the hotel – Daiichi Takimotokan we are staying for the next 2 nights. Just love the snow
Gokuraku Shopping Street, the main street in Noboribetsu Onsen from the entrance of Daiichi Takimotokan
My friend and I taking a wefie in the snow outside the hotel in Noboribetsu Onsen
Snow-covered Gokuraku Shopping Street in Noboribetsu Onsen
We found a couple of owl statues sitting quietly in the snow on Gokuraku Shopping Street in Noboribetsu Onsen
And a couple of horse statues too
We ride on the horse in the snow
My friend posing with a huge demon mace on Gokuraku Shopping Street in Noboribetsu Onsen
These are the Romance Demons, who are believed to bless the relationships for couples
The study demon, who is believed to bring good luck to those who need to pass exams
My friend and I posing with the study demon
King Enma, the King of Hell in this kinder face sitting inside his shrine. The snow is starting to get heavier
King Enma changed to his red fierce face during the scheduled performance. We were lucky to have seen the performance without waiting
The demon of Business Prosperity who is believed to bring good luck for business owners
Sengen Park opposite the hotel we were staying. The highlight of this park is the geysers, which constantly emitting steam. It looks extra charming in the snowy conditions
My friend ordered the Abalone Sashimi rice set for lunch. The Abalone is so fresh that there is a small worm wriggling on it
I got the Uni (Sea Urchin) Rice Set with Egg. There is a generous serving of Unis on a bed of egg. It tasted very fresh and yummy

After the performance, my friend and I headed over to Jigokudani as I thought the Hell Valley would look nice bathing in night lights scattering along the walkways of Jigokudani. At this point, the snow seems to get heavier. We came across a traditional red Japanese wooden arch beneath a flight of stairs, leading to Yuzawa Shrine which sits on a flat plot of land on the side of the mountain. As we were walking up the flight of stairs leading to Yuzawa Shrine, I was mesmerised by the snowscape. The snowing weather further adds a sense of zen here. At the top of the stairs, lies a dark brown wooden building sitting on slits. This is Yuzawa Shrine. The shrine immediately stood out from the surroundings due to its colour, contrasting against the white snowy scene and a couple of beige coloured buildings. It is closed at the time of our visit, nonetheless, it made a great spot for selfies. As there wasn’t anyone else here, the grounds of Yuzawa Shrine felt especially tranquil. It is highly recommended for visitors to pop by this small shrine before heading to Jigokudani (since it is on the way).

My friend at the entrance of Yuzawa Shrine. The shrine is located opposite our hotel, Daiichi Takimotokan, at the entrance to Jigokudani
My friend and I taking a wefie on the stairs that leads to Yuzawa Shrine. The snow is getting heavier at this point
An ordinary lamp looks beautiful when covered with snow
Yuzawa Shrine is the dark brown wooden building. It looks solemn and dignified sitting in the snow
My friend and I taking a wefie in front of Yuzawa Shrine in the snow
Yuzawa Shrine up close
Me in the small compound in front of Yuzawa Shrine
Snow snow everywhere
Taking a wefie at the base of the stairs that lead to Yuzawa Shrine. The snowing was so heavy that we were covered in snow. I think if we stand still for 30 mins, we will become snowmen
No idea what this building at the base of the shrine is for. Perhaps it sells offering items for visitors to Yuzawa Shrine
My friend and I continued our walk towards Jigokudani. At the base of Yuzawa Shrine, nearer toe Jigokudani, we spotted a couple of huge statues of demons. The blue demon was seated while the red demon was standing, looking as if they are welcoming visitors to Jigokudani. As the snow was getting heavier, my friend and I gave up the idea of visiting Jigokudani and headed back to our hotel.
Entrance to Jigokudani. This signage is next to Yuzawa Shrine
The blue 2.2m tall demon at the Onizo Nembutsu (Praying Demon Statue). There is a small shrine between the 2 demons.
The 3.5m tall Red Onizo Nembutsu. These 2 demons are believed to be installed here during the Edo period (1603-1868)
My friend with the red Onizo Nembutsu
It was snowing heavily that we abandon our plans to visit Jigokudani. Instead, we found fun clearing the snow

Fatigue Reliving in the Onsen

The hotel we stayed in has the largest onsen facilities in Noboribetsu Onsen, with 5 indoor and 2 outdoor onsens. The onsen water came from the nearby Jigokudani and has sulfuric in nature (and smell too), which is touted to have healing properties for various medical conditions such as bronchitis and eczema. My friend and I headed for the onsen in the hotel after dinner. Soaking in the onsen immediately relieves the fatigue of travelling. We headed for the outdoor onsen baths after dipping in some of the indoors. My friend and I still prefer the outdoor onsens, At the outdoor pool, we could catch a glimpse of Jigokudani. The cold winter wind neutralises the heat I felt from soaking in the onsen, making the soak very comfortable and relaxing. The onsen seems to promote the quality of sleep. I seem to be able to get a great night sleep after soaking in onsens. We headed back to our room and rest for the night, as we were determined to visit Jigokudani early the next morning before busloads of tourists arrive.

The restaurant in Daiichi Takimotokan where we had our dinner (included in the price of the room)
Dinner menu
We had the set menu, which features 2 hot pots, one for the soup and one for the rice
The rice hot pot which takes 30 mins to cook. There are scallops underneath the bed of rice. It was very tasty and well worth the wait
Japanese mash sweet potato for dessert and seasonal Japanese pickles
We each have a Red snapper simmered Japanese style. The Red snapper tasted very fresh
Vinegared Snow Crab, which tasted light and fresh
Japanese pickles and miso soup
We wore Yukata to dinner and to the onsen in the hotel
Entrance to the onsen
The male onsen
My friend in the changing area of the male onsen
Map of the massive onsen in the hotel
The tap on the left dispenses hot spring water and the one of the right just regular cold water
We took a walk at the souvenir shop inside the hotel after dinner
The garden within the hotel grounds

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