Utsunomiya is the capital city of Tochigi Prefecture, and it takes fewer than 50 minutes from Tokyo to the city by the Shinkansen.
I enjoyed a short trip to Utsunomiya in late June.
This is my second visit to the city although I was born and bred in its neighboring prefecture.
The town of Utsunomiya has developed around Futaarayama Shrine, the ichinomiya of the former Shimotsuke province, founded in the 4th century. Ichinomiya literally means the highest ranked Shinto shrine in a province or prefecture, and Utsunomiya was named after it.
The Utsunomiya area prospered during the Edo period because of its location at the junction of two of the five major routes.
Utsunomiya has been more famous for gyoza or Japanese dumplings for several decades, and there are so many restaurants for you to eat and take away gyoza.
Its annual consumption of gyoza is said to be the highest in Japan, but there is always a struggle between Utsunomiya and Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture in central Japan, for the first place of dumpling consumption.
I tasted 6 different plates of gyoza in a day!!
I mean no disrespect but many people might think that Utsunomiya is a capital city with nothing but gyoza.
Of course, that’s not right!!
I visited Oya Stone Museum before trying out gyoza at some restaurants.
Oya Stone is so light, soft, easy to process, and highly resistant to fire, earthquake and moisture that it has been mined and utilized since ancient times.
The museum is surrounded by beautiful national sceneries with many steep cliffs.
The mining site has long been used for building materials, and at the museum, you can tour through a huge underground space of 20,000㎡, with a depth of 30m and a deepest part of 60m underground.
You might feel being in a large refrigerator because the average temperature inside the remains of the underground quarry is around 8℃!!
The total number of stones cut out is about 10 million.
The space is best described as a huge underground building.
The underground room covered with mysterious atmosphere, so the museum is used as a location for various movies and TV dramas, as well as at reception venues for new product announcements and concert venues.
Many Visual-kei bands such as X Japan and LUNA SEA also took their music videos on the “fascinating stage set”.
Oya-ji Temple, located near the museum, is famous for Japan’s oldest cliff Buddha and a 27-meter-high peace Kannon Bodhisattva statue.
It’s a waste to visit Utsunomiya just to eat gyoza, isn’t it?
It takes about 40 minutes from Utsunomiya to Nikko, a World Heritage site by train, so I also recommend you will take a detour to Utsunomiya.