Woke up to a sunny day with falling snow flakes. Pretty.Breakfast was back at the dining hall. The Western spread wasn’t fantastic but the Asian selection was good. There were lots of yummy dishes to eat with rice and miso soup. Right opposite our hotel was the shopping street. It was too early for anything to be opened except 7-Eleven and Seico Mart. Although we kept seeing Seico Mart wherever we drove, there wasn’t one within walking distance from all our hotels. So out of curiosity, we checked it out to see if it was any different from the other convenience stores. Except for their own range of products, the rest were similar. I couldn’t resist trying their latest pork cup noodles and of course, milk tea. Well, the noodles were good but the tea was the blandest I’ve drunk. Best to stick with Kirin’s 午後の紅茶 and Coco-Cola’s 紅茶花伝These are by far the best bottled milk tea.
We had a choice of several attractions to visit around Noboribetsu – Jigokudani Hell Valley, Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura, Bear Park and Marine Park Nixe. We took a vote and majority chose the first two places.
Date Jidaimura was a short drive out of Noboribetsu onsen town centre, back to the highway where we came from. The weather was beautiful and we were hoping it would stay that way throughout.We were one of the first to arrive and practically had the whole place to ourselves.Date Jidaimura is a theme park modeled after the Edo Period. Besides admiring the stunning architecture and breathtaking landscape, we watched performances like the Samurai Show (boring, just a number of samurai brandishing their swords) and the Ninja Show (must see, comedy with cool disappearing ninja acts).
Then there were the Ninja Maze and the House of Ghosts and Monsters (only my sister visited and she said it was good).The maze had lots of slanted walkways and trapdoors. One of my favourite sights behind the doors was …Next we visited the Katakura Residence. Inside were fully furnished rooms for filming. There was even a life size horse for photo taking.
Lunch was at one of the eateries that sold udon. You choose what you want, buy a ticket, wait for your number to be called and collect your food from the counter. Free flow of green tea at the side.The final thing to do was shopping. My sister found her lavender scented horse oil at Hokkaido Bijin 北海道美人 while I went for rice crackers at Horai-Ya 宝来屋.Just before leaving Date Jidaimura, we found the mascot stand and did our usual thing – stamp our travel journals.The weather was still holding out so we quickly drove back to Noboribetsu onsen town where Hell Valley was. Unfortunately, it started snowing quite heavily after we parked our cars, so we took shelter at the tourist information center to wait it out.
The sun finally came out after about half an hour.We followed the path and trekked towards the sulfur pools.We spotted a bird hopping around the steaming pools of water and wondered how it could take the heat. Amazing.The downside of having sun after a snowfall was that the snow on the floor would melt and make it super slippery to walk. We had to grab the railings really tight and gingerly make our way back from the sulfur pools.After all that walking, it’s time to go onsen! And Hotel Mahoroba has 4 levels and a whopping total of 31 pools! It was a wonderful onsen experience. Not only was the place spacious, the temperature of the water was just right, even the outdoor pools. They were not scalding hot like the one at Sounkyo Onsen Choyo Resort Hotel. A pity we only got to try those at B2 since everyone was too tired last night. I guess we could have gotten up early this morning if we have known that the onsen was so good. We had time before dinner so we explored the shopping street – Gokuraku-dori. I had craving for something sweet so I made a beeline for Sugi Yohoen to try the honey soft serve and their winter special, sweet potato cake. Ice-cream was good but the cake was a big disappointment. Then we went in search of souvenirs. While the rest of the group shopped at Can Do (a 100 yen chain of stores similar to Daiso),
my husband and I explored those that sold Noboribetsu realted products and found Kisendo, a one stop place that sold everything. In the end, we didn’t get anything related to the onsen town as the stuff were mostly related to the demon statues found everywhere. Instead, I bought T-shirts, one for me and one for my better half.Dinner was back at the dining hall. The spread was the same, the only difference was we had all the time in the world to enjoy our meal.For those considering Mahoroba, a note about the hotel crowd. When we were there, it was packed with tourists from Taiwan and China. Needless to say, the noise level during meal times was pretty high, so much so that we didn’t feel like we were in Japan, especially when we could hear Mandarin and Hokkien being spoken all around us. There was another area of the dining hall but it seemed to be reserved for Japanese guests. We took a peek and it was so peaceful. Everyone was eating quietly. Too bad we couldn’t sit in that section. Then again, my group of 10 would most probably disrupt the peace.