Meet the Demons (Oni) of Hell Valley in Noboribetsu Onsen (part 1)
Every year in summer, you can experience the fable of Hell Valley (Jigokudani) unfold before your eyes.
The Demon’s Fireworks (Onihanabi) burst into life at 8:30pm on Thursdays and Fridays from June 1 through to August 7 at the Hell Valley Observatory. The Yukijin (the demons who protect the hot springs in Noboribetsu) carry large burning torches in the shape of kanabo clubs shooting fireworks like volcanic eruptions along the path into Hell Valley, lighting up the night.
However, before you enjoy this exciting event, you should first meet the many legendary inhabitants of Hell Valley to help you fully appreciate the festivities.
There are 11 demon spots in Noboribetsu and each of them is unique, so this will be the first of a two part series!
Yukijin – Demon Guardian of the Hot Springs
The Yukijin are the stars of the show at the Onihanabi. At this time of the year they show up at festivals and events to drive away evil spirits and bring happiness to people. You’ll see them carrying two symbolic weapons for these dual roles: a sword to protect people from evil spirits, and kagura bells to alert everyone of their arrival as they walk through the streets and drive away bad luck. Away from the festival, most of the demons you encounter carry a large spiked club called a kanabo – making the strong even stronger – and not someone you’d like to meet on a dark night.
JR Noboribetsu Station Welcome Demon
The Welcome Demon sits in front of the JR Noboribetsu Station, and will most likely be your first demon encounter, depending on which way you choose to arrive. This statue is carried in procession at the annual Noboribetsu Hell Festival held every August. This year it is on Sunday 15th.
Noboribetsu-Higashi Interchange Demon
These friendly demons aren’t just scaring away evil spirits as they guard the entrance to Noboribetsu Onsen, they’re also helping you find your way. This welcoming demon statue is 18 meters tall and weights 18 tons. Standing at the Noboribetsu-Higashi Interchange exit on the Hokkaido Expressway, it points you in the direction of the Noboribetsu Onsen.
Praying Demon Shrine (Onizo Nembutsu)
A favourite photo spot for visitors at the entrance to Hell Valley, and just over the road from Dai-ichi Takimotokan, is this small shrine. The shrine is home to an Onizo Nembutsu (praying demon statue) that is said to date back to the Edo period (1603-1868). The two demons guarding the shrine seem more interested in photos ops – the red demon stands 3.5 meters, and the seated blue demon is 2.2 meters tall.
Parent and Child Demons
These blue demons can be found on the road to Oyunuma Brook Natural Footbath. This heart-warming scene depicts a father demon and his child standing hand in hand. Maybe they are on their way to the footbath as well!
Part two is out! You can meet the rest of the demons here!