Demon Fireworks of Noboribetsu
Is the path to hell paved with good intentions, or fireworks?
Located in Hokkaido, Noboribetsu is home of the famous Jigokudani or “Hell Valley,” a volcanic crater said to resemble hell on earth. But it’s just as scenic as it is hellish, and after you’ve enjoyed a hike during summer, the fiery devils appear at night for the Demon Fireworks of Noboribetsu.
With swirling steam wafting upwards to the heaves, one wouldn’t be surprised to find a few demons hiding in the rugged terrain or enjoying the naturally occurring hot springs and footbaths.
In fact, there are a total of 11 demon statues hidden throughout the volcanic landscape in Noboribetsu. You can even find blue demons near the path to the Oyunuma Natural Footbath, a steamy onsen babbling brook to rest your tired feet in. However, if these statues start to move, you’ve probably inhaled too much sulfur. But come summer, the real demons do come out to play.
There are 11 demon statues hidden throughout the volcanic landscape in Noboribetsu.
Known as Yukijin, these demons are the guardians of the Noboribetsu hot springs. Their role is to fight off bad spirits and bring happiness to people. When they’re not banishing evil with swords, or giant spiked batons, they’re doing so through summer fireworks display. To the sounds of drums, the Yukijin hold huge, gunpowder-loaded fireworks, and work in synchronisation to fight evil by moonlight. With the fiery rain falling around them against the backdrop of hell, it’s no wonder the Yukijin are good at their jobs.
This hot display is known as oni hanabi, or demon fireworks, and is only held in summer at the Hell Valley Observatory in Noboribetsu. In an artistic display, six demons launch 24 fireworks per day while and three demons ritualistically beat drums and the demon “leader” orchestrates it all, according to the Noboribetsu International Tourism and Convention Association. To witness this spectacle for yourself head to Hell Valley on a Thursday or Friday night in June through July.
Know before you go
If you want to get up close and personal with the Yukijin, head to the main shopping street after the show. The demons return down this street and they are quite happy to pose for photos. They’ll even photobomb you (if given the chance.)
Stay at a ryokan (traditional inn) near Hell Valley for the best experience. Watch the fireworks and then jump in the onsen for the perfect night.