After lunch we boarded the bus for our next destination - the hot springs town of Noboribetsu. This time we stayed in a Japanese style hotel. Along the way, Keiko enlightened us as to the behavior expected of us in such an establishment. In our room we would find a Japanese robe and slippers which we could wear any place in the hotel. She hoped that we would come to dinner in this attire. She told us what our room would look like and how to prepare for the hot springs bath.

The room was quite amazing. There were tatami mats on the floor; a low table and chairs; a Japanese scroll on the wall. Walt had to duck to enter the room. We donned our one-size-fits-some robes. Very comfortable, but I felt like I had joined a cult. We wore them to dinner, but passed on the hot springs bath. When we returned to our room, the table and chairs had been moved to one side and our sleeping mats had been laid out on the floor. It was more comfortable than I expected, but the pillows (which appeared to be filled with small rocks) left a lot to be desired.

After dinner, we walked through the rainy streets of the town and discovered that many people also wore the robes outside the hotel. Walt saw a fox run across the road.

The next day we walked up to Hell Valley - a stream surrounded by clouds of smoke emerging from the rocks. There was also a geyser from which water would boil up periodically.

Then we boarded our bus again and waved good-bye to the hotel staff. Yes, they actually did come outside and they bowed and waved to us as we departed.

We drove to a replica of an Ainu village. The Ainu are the indigenous people of Hokkaido. We were ushered into a replica of an Ainu house along with 3 other groups of people. Several women and a man in Ainu clothing sang and danced and talked about their culture. It was kind of like the Polynesian Cultural Center.