The entrance is guarded by Oni. This word can mean demon, ogre or any other fierce looking large colorful being. Boy Oni are mostly blue. Girl Oni are mostly red -- though a statue of a red boy Oni is below. Don't ask me why.
Hell Valley is preceded by a cute little town that hosts many hotels and many shops featuring Oni-EVERYTHING. That grey shop in the photo below is a specialty shop offering pet toys, mostly Oni.
Here are some Oni. They range from the fierce to the cute, the scowling to the smiling, and sometimes, as mascots, they are almost unbearably cute, lovable and happy.
Besides the Oni, I found a statue of one Hokkaido version of Little People, koropokkuru.
Oni are absolutely everywhere. Every school's mascot, every factory's signature image, every restaurant's sign. This goes right along with the expanded role of Oni in Japanese folklore: some are evil, some are good. Some protect humans, but some eat them. They protect specific villages -- or attack them. At Setsubon (see previous post) the Oni invade towns, sometimes scattering goodies, and sometimes conspiring with parents to tell children they'd better behave, or the Oni will come back for them and GET them (whatever that means to the imagination of the child in question.) This is usually seen as a fun festival, with local people dressing in the traditional Oni costumes, which are often quite intricate and beautiful, for their annual invasion!
At the park office, there is this shelf of boots, for those who have come ill-prepared to walk to the viewpoints. When I was there, many tourists from warmer climes were in evidence. But don't worry! There are these very good quality boots you can borrow! Just change into them and leave your own shoes behind while you explore. Change back when you're ready to leave.
I can't imagine another country being so thoughtful, or assuming such honesty on the part of their visitors. These are NICE boots! Only in Japan!
Many of the trails were closed due to the season, but the roads were open. This park, and Hokkaido in general, is surprisingly car friendly, but similarly deficit in public transportation. As usual, there's too much to recount, especially since I managed to get on the wrong bus and was treated to a comprehensive tour of this largely industrial region. I stayed in Noboribetsu proper, at a very pleasant onsen hotel with a view of the sea. If you get the right bus, it's quite close to Noboribetsu Onsen, where most of the tourist action is. The nice driver of the wrong bus managed to get me onto the right bus, which took me back where I started by a different route and then become the quick and direct bus to Noboribetsu Onsen and Hell Valley!
This was the view from my room, on a lovely day with calm seas, and the fishing boats were out. Later, the winds picked up and there was snow. I do love snow.
And there is so much more to come.