Hokkaido Trip 17th June 2010: Lake Toya(洞爺湖) – Mt. Showa Shinzan(昭和新山) – Shiraoi Ainu Village – Hell Valley(Jigokudani(地狱谷)) – Noboribetsu(定山渓).
Next we visited Shiraoi(白老町) Ainu Village, also called Porotokotan, which means a large lakeside village. “Ainu” means “human” and Ainu people are the aboriginal group of Northern Japan. Read more about the Ainu history here. Btw, Shiraoi is a neigbouring town of Noberibetsu(which we were visiting later).
The statue of Chief
We were rushed to a thatched house(cise) as there were performances scheduled to start by the time we arrived.
The guide below is Nomoto-san who briefed us through the culture and history of the Ainu people. At that time there were 3 groups of tourists(including us), one from Korea and the other from Taiwan(or China).
The Korean and Taiwanese tour guides were inside the house at that time and did the translation while Nomoto-san spoke in Japanese; our local tour guide was no where in sight. We have to rely on the translation of the Taiwanese group’s tour guide. Sigh!
A local guide who dress in the traditional Ainu clothes
This small house is built outside of the thatched house which used as a storage for food items such as dried fish, seaweed and millet.
The Hokkaido dogs that Ainu used them for hunting bears and deers.
Finally, here comes the major hiccup, the so called “Bear Ranch”(by our local tour guide), where we can see a few poor bears locked in the cages walking restlessly in a circle. Sigh!
This time, I tried to talk to our tour manager(Lai Heng) from Singapore. He told us he was in doubt too and did asked the local tour guide about this earlier, anyway he agreed to discuss with her again once we were up in the bus later.
We had no time to pop into the Ainu museum to take a look as it was already 4.15pm and we needed to proceed to one of my favorite view point in Hokkaido: Jigokudani(地狱谷), also known as "Hell Valley". The name sounds scary though. It is a valley just above the town of Noboribetsu Onsen(登別温泉) and is the main source of Noboribetsu’s hot spring waters.
Interesting view of the engraved stones.
I saw some Japanese praying here and I did the same as well.
Click onto the picture below to zoom in.
This is interesting, but I only read the content when I was back home, while writing my blog. Sigh! Missed out all the 7 questions. 😳 Click to see more in detail.
It was so tempting to go down to touch the steaming streams and the stones.👿
Look at the yellowish sulfurous hot stream.
Getting closer to the center.
Look at this geyser venting out the hot boiling water continuously, what a spectacular view!
Another interesting view: see how these stones are stacked on top of each other, by nature or man-make? Click onto the picture to have a closer look.
At this instant of writting these lines, I only realize that from the hell valley, we can follow the walking trails further and for about 30 minutes later, we can get to Oyunuma, a sulfurous pond with spectacular view again. Then followed by my favorite spot, Oyunumagawa Natural Footbath(Oyunuma river which flows out from Oyunuma pond), where visitors can enjoy a natural hot spring footbath(ashiyu).
The picture below is Oyunumagawa Natural Foot Bath, extracted from japan-guide.com.
I really wish I can go back to this place to explore again. The disadvantage of being on a tour package is always “time”. Everything is packed into a compact schedule which must be followed in order to cover all the usual tourist viewing spots.
On the way back, took the pictures of the toilet.
The picture below explains the hot water supply system by the underground hot spring. Click to zoom in.
Well, today itinerary was quite good, except we missed out the Bear Ranch, which we would be “returning” the next day. Well, I am right that it is located at the shop where we bought the horse oil, the viewing spot for Showa Shinzan. We had to get up 1 hour earlier(6am instead of 7am) in order to squeeze the Bear Ranch into the following day itinerary.
We had our night stay at Yumoto Meisuitei(汤元名水亭). This hotel has so far the most spacious room that we ever have during this tour, it has a mixed Japanese-Western style guest rooms but of course we have chosen to sleep on the futon instead, it is so comfortable.
Buffet dinner again. There are a lot of crab dishes such as freshly-boiled Horsehair Crab and Snow Crab, but I especially love their tempura(even though I am not a fan of tempura), it was so delicious that I had eaten quite a bunch of them!
This hotel has the most beautiful outdoor bath among the 4 onsen hotels that we have stayed so far. The picture below is extracted from meisuitei.com.