From Muroran, Noboribetsu is an easy day trip, which is just as well as I didn’t fancy moving everything again so soon.
Noboribetsu is a great place – steaming pools of bubbling ooze and muck abound, the landscape looks martian at times with scorched earth and bizarre rock formations, they have a mini-geyser and one can even bathe their feet next to some small yet picturesque waterfalls in a naturally hot stream. Very pleasant. I buried my feet in the river bed, but the earth underneath was very hot indeed.
I was lucky to be there when I was according to one of the park guides as come May it’s swarming with people. I was, however, disappointed that I was there before the sakura (cherry blossom) arrived, as the valley is filled with 10,000 cherry trees. It would be a spectacular sight, even alongside the fugly concrete blocks which pass as hotels.
Unfortunately I had neglected to bring a hat or suntan lotion as the weather in Muroran had been cold and foggy, but Noboribetsu was seemingly above that in beautiful sunshine. The trail, whilst forested at times, was quite exposed at others, and I developed a headache and mild paranoia about sunburn. Luckily I escaped pretty much unscathed, although the headache persisted until I went to sleep. It would also have been helpful to have sunglasses, but I destroyed them in a particularly spectacular snowboarding crash when I was still landing on my face whenever I tried a 360.
Noboribetsu is also apparently the biggest onsen town in Japan. The particular onsen I visited has twenty different kinds of bath inside, which I thought was a bit over the top, but the scale of the place was certainly impressive. Sadly the atmosphere of tranquility was ruined somewhat by construction works going on inside the onsen. Yes, construction workers crashing and banging and walking amongst the naked folk. No discount offered. I at least paddled in all of the baths except the bubble bath, because it was a bubble bath, which is a bit gay really.
Dinner was a rip off in a crappy yakitori restaurant in Higashi-Muroran. Serves me right for diving into the first place I saw after deciding it was cold. No value in spontaneity eh. The town was, incidentally, still covered with freezing fog, which necessitated a warm jacket even though it had been sweltering in Noboribetsu. At least I felt less irate at having carried it around all day.