Tuesday 13 February 2018

Noboribetsu, Hokkaido: Pt 2 Jigokudani And Showa Shinzan Bear Range

Jigokudani (Hell Valley)
In the vicinity of the hot spring town of Noboribetsu (Noboribetsu Onsen) lies  a volcanic crater that was caused by the eruption of Mount Kuttara some 20,000 years ago. This place which is named Jigokudani, meaning the Valley of Hell, is now a tourist hotspot attracting visitors who have come to see the largest source of hot spring in Noboribetsu Onsen. Measuring about 450 meters in diameter, this area is home to sulphurous streams and countless hot spring vents and holes actively spouting hot water and steam. The stench of sulphur is so strong, I believe you won't be able to find a single snake anywhere in the forest nearby.

The heat, steam, stench and ambiance of the place probably conjure up the image of hell for it to called a Hell Valley. Scattered around the town are many statues resembling demons which are erected, supposedly to 'safeguard' the hot spring.

Many hiking trails are prepared for visitors who wish to explore the area. The trails range from a couple hundreds of meters to a few kilometers. We had wanted to take the trail to Oyunuma pond and follow the river to view the foot bath but the weather has turned very cold and the path was slippery so we abandoned the idea.

Showa Shinzan Bear Range
Showa Shinzan Bear Range is considered one of Noboribetsu's attractions but if you are not a fan of animals especially those encaged, you can just skip this place. Anyway it is always good to know what the range is all about. 
Directly opposite the bear range stands a new volcano called Showa Shinzan after which the bear range is named. Its formation is an interesting geographical phenomenon worth noting. It was formed from year 1943 to 1945 by the uplifting of a wheat field due to earthquakes. Lava started to spew out creating a peak and that was how Showa Shinzan came into existence. It stands at 1306 feet tall today and it is still actively emitting smoke.

The entrance into the bear range is through this shop that sells a diverse range of merchandise. The bear range is located at the back of this shop and it does not require any entrance fees. The proprietors of the shop are apparently enjoying very brisk sales from bus loads of tourists and I think entrance fees are but a pittance to them.
At the entrance of the shops are two preserved bears. I am not sure whether they are mummified or just statues with real bear skins. 

The shop sells very interesting stuff but they are all very expensive. The horse oil was selling like hotcakes here.

There are a number of bears in this small range. They are mostly in concrete enclosures while some are being caged. The bears are trained to stand up and wave at onlookers, expecting food to be thrown to them. They look cute but are actually quite pathetic. Visitors can buy apples and biscuits from the range to feed these bears.

Hokkaido Pt 7: Otaru Canal And Sakaimachi Street
Hokkaido Pt 9: Sapporo Sightseeing I
Hokkaido Pt 10: Sapporo Sightseeing II
Hokkaido Pt 11: Hokkaido Historical Village


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