Noboribetsu Onsen: Hot Springs, Spirited People
Located in Hokkaido Prefecture in northern Japan is Noboribetsu, a prominent resort of hot springs, or "onsen" in Japanese. Seven spring sources produce 3,000 liters of hot water every minute at a huge explosion crater called "Jigokudani," Japanese for "Hell Valley." In this episode of Seasoning the Seasons, we invite you to Noboribetsu, a spa resort where the passion of the locals is as hot as the springs.

The Guardian of Hot Springs in "Hell Valley"

There is a hot spring inn near the spring source at Hell Valley, the birthplace of Noboribetsu spa resort. In 1858, a carpenter who moved to Noboribetsu as a pioneer built a hut for a health spa, which eventually became the inn. Today the inn has 35 baths in a huge 5,000-square-meter bathhouse, where guests can enjoy five different types of hot springs. In the mornings, a hot water manager busily goes around the different baths to measure the temperature. An important part of his job is keeping the water at the proper temperature.

The Brown Bear Vet

Besides its hot springs, another popular attraction of Noboribetsu is located up a 300m ropeway ride on a summit overlooking Lake Kuttara. It is a bear park that is home to 71 brown bears. This bear park was the world's first to successfully take care brown bears in captivity as a group. A veterinarian makes various efforts to create an environment where the bears can live comfortably.

Natto Perfected by Water

Lake Kuttara boasts one of the clearest waters in Japan. The water that flows out of this area is a key element to a certain Japanese food. That food is natto, or fermented soybeans. The fourth-generation president of one natto company always has his own brand of natto for breakfast, which also substitutes as an inspection. His natto-making starts with the highest quality soybeans grown in Hokkaido and delicious water of Noboribetsu.