On this edition of Journeys in Japan, we travel to Oya, an old stone town in Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture. Australian radio DJ Chris Glenn visits an ancient temple carved into a cave and featuring stone Buddhist reliefs. He goes underground into a cavernous former quarry. And in another ruin, he takes an adventure tour of a mystical underground lake. He stops by a stone artisan's workshop as well as a jazz cafe where the owner has created speakers with Oya stone. On this journey, Chris feels the deep connection between the local people and their beautiful stone.
Address: 909 Oya-machi, Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture
Tel: +81 (0) 28-652-1232
Open: 09:00 – 17:00 (Entry allowed until 16:30)
Closed: December 26 – January 1.
Tel: +81 (0) 28-5689-8782
Fax: +81 (0) 28-665-8678
Open: 10:00 – 18:00
It also operates gyoza-making classes on weekdays. Bookings must be made at least five days in advance and the fee is around 1,500 yen per person.
Address: B1 MEGA Don Quixote Utsunomiya, 2-3-12 Babadori, Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture
Tel: +81 (0) 28-614-5388
Open: 11:00 – 20:30
Address: 1198 Oya-machi, Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture
Tel: +81 (0) 28-652-0128
Admission fee: 400 yen per person
Open: 08:30 – 1 7:00 (April – September), 09:00 – 16:30 (October – March) Entry allowed until 16:10.
Closed: 2nd and 4th Thursdays (January – March), December 19 – December 31
Tel: +81 (0) 28-612-6733
Open: 11:00 – 22:00
Address: 1-1-5 Matsugamine, Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture
Open: 08:30 – 20:00 (Time may change depending on the day of the week.)
It's about 50 minutes on the Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train from JR Tokyo Station. It's also the gateway to Nikko. Change at Utsunomiya for the Nikko line.
Traveler: Chris Glenn > More Info
Occupation:Radio DJ, Writer, Historian
Length of residence in Japan:25 years
Reason:Spent a year as a Rotary Exchange Student in Japan in '85, and never got used to living in Australia again, so I came back to closer study samurai history and culture.
Stone is not something one would normally seek out on a journey in Japan. However, following this particular journey, and through discovering the fascinating history as well as multiple uses of Tochigi Prefecture's characteristic Oya-ishi stone, and meeting the people of the Utsunomiya area, are enough to change your mind.
Be amazed at the depth and scale of the old stone quarries, and unearth their modern-day uses. Marvel at the traditional and exciting modern ways the stone is used, and see the future of Utsunomiya, literally, carved in stone. Once you know what you're looking for, you'll see Oya-ishi in all the right places. We'll also check out the other popular item for which Utsunomiya is famed, and try our hand at making the crowd-pleasing dish too!
You'll be genuinely surprised to discover how something so hard, and cold as Oya-ishi stone can be so soft, warm and beautiful, and so loved by the people of Utsunomiya.