Noboribetsu Bear Park and more …
A visit to Noboribetsu should have the itinerary planned for at least a portion to explore and enjoy the Onsens available here, that is considered the Best in Hokkaido, and rank 4th in the whole of Japan. I feel most Asians generally have a concern about nudity that is required for Onsen. Put that thought aside, you will very soon realize it’s all in your mind that’s all. Having said that, Noboribetsu is not all just about Onsen. There are other activities too 🙂One could drive to view the scenic crater-lake (caldera), Lake Kuttara located in the Shikotsu Toya National Park, famed for being one of the best lakes with crystal-clear water. Or alternatively, the short-cut manner is to go to the Noboribetsu Bear Park, and catch the panoramic but distant view from the Observatory top (above the Bear museum) which is what I did. Concurrently you also get to experience the Bear Park. Isn’t that shooting down two birds with one stone 😉
[We have reached the Bear Park]There is a nice little introduction at the entrance of this park with the duck race, where one could place the bet on which duck could potentially be the winner. The race is almost hilarious when feathers fly at the start of the race as the ducks race each other to the finish line … less than maybe 5 metres away … not that every duck would be enthusiastic about the race lol … there would always be one or two dreamers … like in a typical classroom setting haha!
The 2-3 enclosures for the bear on the other hand … looks a little overcrowded for the adult bears. I won’t say it is exactly a pleasant sight. For the baby bears, they are kept in a separate enclosure, that was fine with sufficient space and only 2 baby bears that were playing with each other. Otherwise the bears all look reasonably healthy, with giant crows snitching off feeds thrown to the bears by the park visitors and tourists.The human cage is probably a very Japanese setup preference, giving a different perspective to the same thing …. we humans are the one to be enclosed within hahah! Sounds almost similar to the Monkey Mountain at Arashiyama doesn’t it? But it’s perfectly okay actually, I would much prefer it this way than to be out in the open with the bears and become their food fodder 😕
Within the human cage, you could actually feed the bears through push holes at waist level or drop tubes at the head level. The bears actually know that too! Don’t be too surprise when you hear thumping sounds on the glass to say “Hey You Human!!! Yes, You, the one carrying the food! Get some food and feed me !!!” hahaha! I tried thumping back but barely made a sound as loud as the bears did. I can imagine either the bears are very hungry or they are really very naturally strong to thump the glass the way they did effortlessly!To get a good view of Lake Kuttara from Bear Park, one just need to proceed into the Bear Museum. Most people will miss the observatory at the top thinking that the museum is all there is to it. But one could actually make it all the way to the top of the building like what we did! Boy! Did we get a nice view of Lake Kuttara. As you could see, we are into winter, but not cold enough to see a frozen lake yet in the caldera. That should probably occur 1 month into the time that we went there in mid-Dec.
And next to the Bear Park, there is also a replica of a small Ainu village, the native inhabitants of Hokkaido. Throughout the history of Japan, whilst there were increasing contacts and trade with Japanese, Ainu had numerous serious conflicts with Japanese resulting in a significant decrease of their numbers. As Ainu were also historically marginalized, intermarriage with Japanese with common in the hope to lessen the chance of discrimination. This is quite sad actually even though the Japanese government did eventually gave Ainu people official recognition in 2008, the damage done in the years before to this group of indigenous population cannot be reversed.We were, or rather I tried to pack too much activities into a day, from going to Jigokudani (Hell Valley), the Bear Park and then this. We made it to 2, but by the time we reach the theme park, it was too late unfortunately …. My mistake that I take this learning from. Theme park like Date Jidaimura should probably be the first or the second item on the day’s itinerary. This theme park reenacts the culture and lifestyle of the Edo period of Japan between the 16th to 18th century where Japan was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and hundreds of powerful feudal lords (called daimyo) who controls vast land holdings. This period was also a time when the country had good economic growth but isolationist policies with Tokugawa having consolidated control over Japan. That’s as much as I can tell about Japan history, particularly … I am not exactly a person keen in history either hehehe….
So one gets to experience or see Samurais, Ninjas in action, as well as the beautiful Oirans (high status courtesans usually differentiated by their dressings) in a cultural setting of the Edo period. However be aware that besides the entrance fees, there are additional fees applicable as like most theme parks for games, photo shots. And the food prices within the theme park is elevated at tourist pricing. And this theme park isn’t exactly big as Universal Studio-type, so chances are good that half a day should be sufficient to have a good experience here.