Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Gates of Hell - Noboribetsu and Back

31st October 2003 - It's a 42 km drive from Touya-ko to Noboribetsu (see below)... and our plans were to get back to Sapporo by the evening. This was going to be a long day, and it had started off badly.

On our way to Noboribetsu we had faced many perils, and many demons of fear (my driving for example in the POSSESSED CAR). Still none of this prepared me for the demons that I would face in Noboribetsu... and the truly horrible things that I would see.

My God... So that's what Blue Demons wear under their dresses.... That's disgusting...!

View Larger Map

Noboribetsu is famous really for one thing. It's a Japan-wide famous Onsen (hot springs) town that has made it's fortune from (a) attracting people their to plunge themselves into very hot water, and (b) attracting people to leave said hot water and spend their money on any number of touristy things. Today we had no time for the onsen. Unfortunately we skipped straight to (b)...with a slight detour.

First stop was encouraging. Hell Valley (where above picture of the non-nuclear Oni family was taken). Hell Valley is, as far as Hellish things are concerned, a little over-rated. It's not really a valley (it's a crater), and whilst I wouldn't want to buy land here, it's not that bad.

The path work is nice... shame about the smouldering ground. Oh - did I mention the sulfurous gases (reminded me of Usu-zan)... Hmmm - bad eggs. Yumm-o.

The real estate hereabouts is a tad on the small side...

And the main attraction seems to be this large gaping hole through which you can see... one helluva HOT hot-spring. Clearly, this was not one of the ones that did the attracting of tourists... As we gazed down into the boiling hot water, a voice drifted up. "Prepare Thyselves to Meet Hell on Earth, Human Harumph - and Know Ye Had Best Boil Ye Head Now Whilst Ye Have the Chance. Harumph." Hmmm - sounded a lot like a pirate, ahoy me hearty! Either way, I wondered what could possibly be ahead of me that such a self-inflicted punishment would be better... I was about to find the true Hell-on-Earth in Noboribetsu.

It was Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura... the worst theme park in the world, based on the old Edo-period live museum concept. What should have given it away was the very large and almost completely empty car-park. T-chan assured me that we would have fun here (the Sera's evil spirit had obviously possessed her - but I had not dreamed she could be so evil).

Actually to be fair, the place looked not too bad from the outside.

Hell-oooooooo. Anybody there? Unfortunately there was someone at the ticket counter, and he was more than willing to take our 2,900 yen each (1,500 yen for children). Did I also mention they charge for parking... hmmm - because clearly you pay a premium for space. T-chan, I hope you know what you're doing... This place was largely deserted. To be fair, we were coming here during the middle of the week. In the wrong century.

Finally we found someone... they looked friendly enough. What's that... bring out ya dead? Hey, I'm feeling much better now. Actually... on second thoughts... maybe I should just let myself go peacefully. Sweet death, come to me.

We saw a Ninja show. Actually - I thought it was a show. These kind gentlemen kindly offered to show me a magic trick involving my wallet. Little did they know the man at the front gate had already shown me this trick before. 

There was definitely some colour around. Actually, my hat goes off to the workers here. I mean can you imagine having to go through all of this for a handful of people? They did put on a brave face.

Apparently this procession was just of prior visitors that were still looking for a way out. Interesting early-Harajuku style...would like to see the mobile phone strap that goes with this outfit.

They put on a show - which seemed to be largely about making bawdy jokes involving the handful of drunk ojisan (older men) salarymen that sat in the audience.

Let's go for a quick response from the critics... Hmm  - I'm sensing some discontent from the crowd...

But surely it wasn't that bad... not bad enough to lose your head over? Or was it? Right now the dunking-head-in-boiling-water was looking a good option.

Other's had a more direct display of their considered opinion.

Meanwhile T-chan was getting jiggy with it - what is it with the Japanese and their funky rooms? Is this some sort of ancient earthquake ritual or something?

Actually - I may have been a little harsh. For all of my belly-aching, the park was not quite Hell-on-Earth. It was really quite nicely done. The only problem was (a) we arrived late, and (b) guests were outnumbered by the performers by about 10:1. We could enjoy the scenery however... and I'm sure during the weekends and holidays this is a very different place.

So we left Noboribetsu... our final leg started on this two day Odessey. On the way home we passed through Tomakomai. I mentioned it earlier... and it's fitting to recall the earthquake comment. On September 25, just days before I arrived in Sapporo, there had been a major earthquake measuring 8.3 that had an epicentre just off Tomakomai. When we drove through it, you couldn't really tell, but it had hit international news with a resulting oil storage facility fire. The scary thing was that Sapporo's airport (New Chitose Airport) is not that far away. Driving through and noticing some of the local wild-life I suspect that there may have been some not-so-minor radioactive release. Why couldn't they have taken out the theme park!

Actually it was a really long day... and not even a stop at one of our favourite eating places (Bikkuri Donkey) could revive our enthusiasm. Actually I have to say their exterior looks a little strange, but their 300g beef burgers (ie a slab-o-meat in a yummy sauce) are delicious. Love em.

Driving home to Sapporo, I discovered what it's like to get in a Japanese traffic jam. You don't even know you're in it until it's too late. We were one the expressway (trying to save time as it was now getting very late), and we noticed that there was a huge bank of cars on the left hand lane - doing about 20km/hr whilst we were doing about 100km/hr. Suckers! As we drove blissfully on, we started seeing signs for T-chan's exit ahead. 5 km...4 km... 3km... 2km... 1km... hmmm... those cars may have actually been trying to get off the expressway. In a manoeuvre that would have left Michael Schumacher reaching for the paper bag, T-chan (now well and truly possessed) slammed on the brakes from 100km/hr to 20, inserting the Sera into a gap that was perhaps 10m long. Impressive.

I hope T2-chan's brother (who was going to buy the car shortly) didn't mind a slightly soiled front passenger seat.

What a day... what an adventure. Despite it all, this trip was definitely a highlight of our trip, and T-chan and I look back on it very fondly.

I still can't believe we paid nearly 3,000 yen each for that theme park!......

Posted by Picasa

No comments:

Post a Comment