We took an hour-long train ride to the small town of Shiraoi where the Ainu museum was located. The Ainu, Japan's indiginous people, had set up a reconstruction of one of their villages, and we spent a few hours walking around there and learning about their history, and watching some traditional performances.
This is a statue at the entrance to the Ainu village.
These are some of the artifacts we saw in the museum. There was also a lot of interesting clothing there; the Ainu do not believe in depicting nature realistically in art, so all of their designs are abstract. While at the museum we also watched some Ainu singing and musical demonstrations, and tried to learn how to play a tiny wooden instrument kind of like a mouth harp. For lunch we ate at a noodle shop, and I had tempura ramen - a bowl of ramen with fried batter-dipped shrimp in it. It was delicious!
After the Ainu village, we went to Noboribetsu, a tourist-y town just a few train stops away. Because of the large amount of volcanic sulfur springs in the area, the region is called Hell Valley, and there are statues of all kinds of demons and ogres all over town. There are also a plethora of onsen, or community baths where Japanese often go to relax and treat their skin with different kinds of mineral water. Above is a statue of an oni, a kind of ogre.
Here is the sulfur springs just before sunset. We hiked some trails through the springs before some of the braver group members went to try out an onsen. The scenery was beautiful, but the smell was nauseating.
This stone marker was near a volcanic cauldron-like crater on one of the trails. The posts were scatterd around the park.
This is a statue in downtown Noboribetsu. The Spiderman figure was placed there by our coach. He always takes Spidey with him when he travels, and photographs the figure in strange or famous places.