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Hokkaido Explorer Tour

Noboribetsu Hokkaido

Noboribetsu is the most popular onsen town in Hokkaido. It’s a good place to stay for a couple of nights in an onsen hotel and get the Japanese experience of sleeping on a futon on the tatami matting (or western beds if you’d prefer), have a few onsen soaks, and visit the modern version of an ancient Edo village.

It also seems apt to have a look at Jigokudani aka Hell Valley, which is just above the town of Noboribetsu Onsen. It is a hot pot valley where nothing grows and it’s the geothermal source of all that onsen water. In winter the scenery has the contrasting orange and yellow volcanic rocks against the snow, and the geysers and steaming vents look pretty cool, whoops I mean hot! It’s called Hell Valley because only demons (oni) could possibly live in the fiery temperatures and survive the dreadful sulphuric stench of the place.

Masked demons (yukijin) have a role of protecting the onsen in Noboribetsu, and there are various statues around that help to drive away evil spirits with their heavy clubs. Moreover, they seem to be rather Instagrammable. Noboribetsu Onsen might be a spot to visit enroute to a Hokkaido ski trip if you want to get your Japanese bearings before hitting the slopes. 

Pros and Cons of Noboribetsu Onsen

  • There are a variety of Noboribetsu activities such as strolling on the boardwalk of Hell Valley or a visit to the Edo period theme park.
  • There are lots of different onsen experiences.
  • You can have a quintessential Japanese experience at some of the hotels that have lovely onsen and kaiseki (multi-course meals).
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
  • The nearby Sunlaiva Ski Resort is ideal for confident beginners and it’s usually incredibly quiet.
  • Noboribetsu is the most well known onsen town in Hokkaido, which also means it’s often busy. It is very touristy and popular with international tour buses, which may detract from the charming tranquil Japanese experience that you may be seeking.
  • If you’re looking for a cute boutique ryokan with omotenashi, you may be hard pressed to find one, as most of the onsen hotels are large multi-storey buildings where you may just feel like a number not a treasured guest.

Where is Noboribetsu?

The urban part of Noboribetsu where the train station is, is situated on the southern coast of Hokkaido, whilst the hot spring town of Noboribetsu Onsen is 7km to the northwest. Noboribetsu is 90km southwest of New Chitose Airport, a drive that takes about 1:15 hours, and it’s 111km southwest of the city of Sapporo.

If you don’t have a car, you can get a train to JR Noboribetsu Station where you’ll be greeted by a welcome demon. It is then a 10 to 15 minute taxi ride to the onsen village and Jigokudani, or there are a couple of buses per hour.

Or if you’re travelling between Niseko and Noboribetsu, there are private transfers with Sky Station for 1 to 8 passengers.

Ski Resorts Near Noboribetsu

You could visit Noboribetsu at the start or end of your Hokkaido ski trip considering its proximity to the New Chitose Airport. Or maybe it’s a spot to visit when you’re transitioning between Hokkaido ski regions, as it’s not close to any major ski resorts.

Sanlaiva Ski Resort is 9km to the northwest of town. This little ski area has 5 courses and only 2 lifts, as the third lift may have been retired. It’s not renowned for Hokkaido-esque snow volumes and it has a southeast to east facing aspect.

Road distances from Noboribetsu Onsen:


The town has various large hot spring hotels and ryokan.

A quintessential Noboribetsu hotel is the 4 star Noboribetsu Grand Hotel. A highlight is the onsen baths, including grandiose indoor baths (that are a bit OTT) and nice outdoor baths. The hotel has western rooms or Japanese tatami rooms, and some suites have a private onsen bath.

Dai-ichi Takimotokan is a large 4 star hotel located close to the entrance of Hell Valley and has various onsen, including large indoors baths that overlook the valley and a few outdoor baths.

Noboribetsu Manseikaku is another big hotel with Japanese and western style guest rooms that are moderately priced. The onsen baths are reasonably nice and your stay can incorporate half-board with an extensive buffet menu.

For a bit more of a splurge, you could stay at Ryotei Hanayura where many of the rooms have their own open-air onsen bath.

Oyado Kiyomizuya is a smaller 3 star hotel that is more sedate. It’s located a short walk out of the hubbub of town and offers kaiseki meals.

You can see other options for Noboribetsu hotels here. Most hotels have half board packages, or if you didn’t want dinner included in your stay, there are a few restaurants in town and there is also a 7-Eleven and Seicomart.
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