Oya in Tochigi is an hour and a bit train ride from central Tokyo to Utsunomiya and then a short bus ride away.
Recently I took a trip out there on a rare day where my wife and I’s day off’s coincided.
The main reason for our visit was to go to the Oya stone museum, of which there is suprisingly little written about on them there interwebs.
Oya stone is famous as the building material Frank Llyod Wright chose for the old Imperial Hotel in Tokyo’s Hibiya district. The Great Kanto Earthquake struck on the day of the celebrations for the completion of the Imperial Hotel, but the building survived.
Oya stone is only found in an area 4 kilometers east-west by 6 kilometers north-south around Oya, but there are reserves of some 600 million tons.
During World War II, this cavern was used as a military storehouse. It was also used as a secret underground factory for Nakajima Aircraft Co. and Zero fighters were built there.
In the reconstruction period after World War II, it was used to build stone walls and housing complexes throughout Japan. In the 1970s, about 120 companies mined nearly 900,000 tons a year. But demand plummeted when concrete became popular. Now 12 companies mine only about 24,000 tons a year.
It is now used for concerts and for making films due to its excellent acoustics. It is also a popular place for storing fruit and ham and for aging sake and wine.
The museum is located in the remains of the underground mine where Oya stone was cut.
It’s impressively cavernous and is cold (its a big cave-of course it’s cold-the average temperature is 8 degrees) and, even with the lighting put up for the tourists, Dark – most of the photos I shot were at 3200iso and a second or more exposure.
It’s well worth a visit if you find yourself in Utsunomiya.
Thanks to the Asahi Shimbun (you won’t hear me say that often;-) for information on Oya stone museum.
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