The rough, porous, grey or tan-colored rock can be seen all over Utsunomiya. It’s called Oya Ishi and it is used by builders and artisans to make garden walls, storage sheds, and yard decorations, among other things. Oya Ishi is a volcanic rock that is native to our area. I have known for many years that there was an Oya Ishi mining museum in our city, but have just never gotten around to going. The kids and I decided that it was time to go check it out so we recently visited and had a fun and informative family field trip together.
The museum has two parts. One is a small room with artifacts showing tools and other objects used by miners of the past. This area also had samples of various types of Oya Ishi for visitors to touch and look closely at to see how the types differ from one another. The other area of the museum was the most fascinating. You walk downstairs under the museum into a huge underground area that has been carved out of Oya rock. The underground cavern is 20,000 square meters and is big enough for a baseball field to fit inside of it. It is also quite cold. The day we went, it was about 50 degrees Farenheit (11 degrees Celsius), but it’s average temperature is 45 degrees (7 degrees Celsius). Over the years, this underground area has been used as a site for activities such as concerts, weddings, and the filming of TV dramas and movies. The kids and I found it fascinating to wander around and soak up the unusual atmosphere.
After touring the museum, we decided to take a short walk to see a 27 meter (88 foot) Buddhist “peace statue” made out of Oya Stone. On our way to the statue, we came across a cute little park with a gargantuan Oya Ishi rock in the middle of the grass. The kids had a super fun time climbing the rock together. The Buddhist statue itself was quite impressive as well. We enjoyed walking up stairs to the top of the statue and looking out over the surrounding area. It was a great view!
Once our touring was over, we all noticed that our stomachs were growling. So, we hopped in our car and headed to Masashi Gyoza, one of the most famous shops in Utsunomiya that specializes in Chinese dumplings. The tiny restaurant was crowded with people and even had a line out the door so we decided to get the dumplings to go and then took off for a park where we could gobble our gyoza at a picnic table.
All in all, it was an enjoyable day filled with family fun. I love going on “field trips” with the kids and I am looking forward to whatever excitement the next one may bring!