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Review: Dai-ichi Takimotokan Noboribetsu Onsen (2023) [Japan]
After my time in Sapporo and Monbetsu, I headed down to Noboribetsu to experience my first onsen hotel (ryokan). Staying in a ryokan and experiencing an onsen was one of my sought-after bucket list item to complete on my month-long trip to Japan!
Dai-ichi Takimotokan- Booking
I booked this hotel for 1 night through the Capital One Travel portal. I used my Venture X‘s $300 travel credit to help recoup the total cost of $403. The rate includes a Superior room in the South Building. It’s a Japanese-style room with a futon bed and tatami flooring. The package comes with breakfast and a Kaiseki dinner. You may choose a Western-style room with a bed on a frame, but the occasion called for something different.
Dai-ichi Takimotokan- Location
The hotel is located in Noboribetsu and is also right next to Jigokudani or Hell Valley. This Jigokudani is not to be confused with the monkey park down in Nagano. The ones in Noboribetsu are valleys that produce the hot springs water for the resorts. To live up with the “Hell Valley” name, you’d see demon (oni) statues spread around the area. It’s worth a hike to explore the area, and Dai-ichi Takimotokan provide easy access.
To get here, there’s a bus from Sapporo and CTS airport that will take you directly to the hotel! Alternatively, you can use the JR line and stop at Noboribetsu Station and then take the shuttle to the hotel from there. I overall recommend the direct bus from Sapporo or CTS as they take similar amount of time to get there, plus the bus is cheaper.
You may need to reserve a ticket, which I used Willer Express as a service to get to the hotel from Sapporo Station (eki mae). Simply show the e-mail to the bus driver to get in.
Dai-ichi Takimotokan- Check-in
I arrived to the hotel from Sapporo at 3:30PM, and it rained throughout the 2-hour bus journey, and I quickly headed into the hotel after getting off in the station in front of the property.
The process was quick and efficient.
I was given a map of the resort. The South Building I was assigned to is the closest to the reception, which is where the Superior rooms are located in. West Building is the closest to the Grand Bath where the onsens are, but have the base rooms only. Frankly, it didn’t take much time to get to the Grand Bath from the South Building, so pick anywhere you’d like!
I was informed that checkout would be too crowded at 10-11am. I checked out at 8am, and it wasn’t crowded at all. You can keep your things behind in the hotel and pick them up later, in which I did to explore the Jigokudani area.
An oni mascot will ocassionally be in the lobby area.
Dai-ichi Takimotokan- Superior Room
The first thing I noticed when entering the room is the shoe storage to the right of the entrance. Here, you’ll be presented with the sandals and slippers. You can use the tan and red slippers inside the hotel, but you may use the leather sandals outside while exploring Noboribetsu town. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to do exploring as it was heavily raining on the day of my stay.
The Superior Room, Japanese-style is clean and open with light green decor that’s easy on the eyes. There are the more conventional chairs by the window.
In the middle of the room lays a zataku (low table) with a small piece of bun with red bean paste filling.
The closet contains the futon beds, in which a housekeeper would come set up during my dinner time.
The futon bed will be laid in the middle of the room, and the zataku will be moved away from the center. It was an adjustment sleeping on a futon when I’ve been used to regular beds. But, it’s still more comfortable than camping.
Behind the taller chairs is a closet filled with yukatas. I highly recommend wearing them as they’re very stylish and comfortable. If the size doesn’t fit you, there are more options you can pick in the lobby.
Hilariously, I noticed a lot of people didn’t know how to properly knot the obi (sash) belt (including myself). So if you’re panicking about it, don’t worry, nobody knew how to either.
The view is sadly not too good from my assigned room.
Moving back to the front of the entrance is where the tea sets are. There’s an instruction on how to make matcha tea.
Bathroom is to the right of the entrance next to the shoe storage. It’s quite small like the ones from Sapporo’s Holiday Inn, but used space efficiently for everything needed.
Dai-ichi Takimotokan- The Grand Bath
The onsen bath is the main attraction of the hotel. It’s located on the northern end of the resort. It’s gender separated and open 24/7 for indoor baths. The open air baths open starting from 5am until midnight.
If you’ve never been to a Japanese onsen before, then you’ll have to know that you must go in fully nude. It’s also courteous to wash yourself off before jumping into the baths. There will be rows of showers inside the bath facilities. The bath offers an upfront view of Jigokudan. I had a really nice time in the hot springs bath, and even unbothered by the sulfur smell of once I’m in the open air bath area. It was even more pleasant with the rain pouring down.
Guests will be charged a 300 yen bath tax per night, even if they’re not bathing. You’d be making a grave mistake if you’re staying here without at least bathing once!
Dai-ichi Takimotokan- Kaiseki Dinner
My rate comes with an included kaiseki dinner, and it was my first time experiencing it. The restaurant is called Yunosato on the 5th floorKaiseki is a multi-course meal where each dishes came one by one in colorful plates and presented beautifully. The menu is seasonal, and the restaurant provides a list of items you’d expect to get.
The drinks are charged separately, but they were very reasonable! I had an iced tea and Hokkaido melon juice. The melon juice was delightful!
The abalone side dish had a cute carrot shaped like kanabo, the weapon that the demons carry.
I enjoyed everything that was offered, and I was glad to finally experience what kaiseki was like. My favorite item overall was the beef nabe hot pot. The broth especially, was very savory!
Dai-ichi Takimotokan- Breakfast
The breakfast next day is on the 3rd floor restaurant. I headed down there during its opening at 6am. It was very packed! Once I got to the entrance, there were already lots of people lining up waiting for the restaurant to open. Breakfast is buffet style.
The spread is huge, and is filled with items from places I wouldn’t expect like Myanmar and a few other Southeast Asian countries.
The breakfast was tasty, but admittedly I couldn’t spend much time on it while still feeling full from last night’s kaiseki dinner.
Dai-ichi Takimotokan- Gift Shop
The hotel has a gift shop where you could buy souvenirs or regular groceries to bring inside your room. One interesting souvenir they sell is the Hokkaido king crab rice crackers. I wish I tried a sample of one of those, but they were quite pricy.
I used the opportunity to buy some interesting Japanese drinks, some of them are Hokkaido exclusive. I particularly enjoyed the banana milk coffee by Georgia.
Dai-ichi Takimotokan- Game Plaza
Down the escalator in front of the gift shop is the Game Plaza. There’s a giant golden kanabo statue that looked mighty impressive.
In the Game Plaza, you’ll find a typical Japanese game center experience with arcade games and crane games.
Some of the machines are very vintage, like this One Piece machine.
Supposedly, there’s a karaoke room as well, but I did not take a picture of it. These pretty much what I could cover in this resort for 1 night!
Dai-ichi Takimotokan made an excellent impression of my first-time experience in a Japanese ryokan. The onsen was a special experience and it was a great moment to try something out of my comfort zone. It felt like everyone was on equal footing when we stripped ourselves of our covers, and there was a sense of liberation from that.
The food was great, and I thoroughly enjoyed the kaiseki dinner! The gift shop options were also interesting as well with drinks and snacks only sold in Hokkaido that you can buy. My only complaint is possibly the breakfast situation can be chaotic.
I wished I stayed for one more night to explore the Noboribetsu town since it looked lovely to walk on in the morning, and to also visit the Upopoy Ainu Museum that’s accessible by bus from the resort. I’d definitely return here again, and hopefully bring someone along one day to share the experience!