Oya History Museum & Oya Kannon

We were in town to see 3.5 million lights at Ashikaga Flower Park so decided to stick around for one night to eat gyoza (apparently the thing to do in Utsunomiya for some reason) and mainly to visit the Oya History Museum 大谷資料館 the next day, a cool underground quarry.

Even though many Japanese people made a very amusing why-the-heck-would-you-be-going-there face when I mentioned I was going to Utsunomiya for New Year's, I thought it was a good choice since it's not too far from Tokyo (under 2 hours) and has inexpensive business hotels near the station. Not the most exciting place on earth for sure, but interesting enough especially if you combine the sights. It could definitely be done as a day trip too.
Utsunomiya gyoza
many types of dumplings in Utsunomiya
Oya History Museum Oya Stone Museum Oya Museum

Oya History Museum is a 30-minute 450-yen ride on Bus # 45 大谷経由・立岩 from Bus Stop 6 outside of Utsunomiya Station's West Exit 宇都宮駅西口 - only one or two buses per hour.

It's closed for a few days for year-end/New Year's holiday but opens again on January 2nd, not at 9 am but a bit later than usual. Get off at 資料館入口, cross the street then follow the white on green sign for 5 minutes to the 30-meter underground wonderland.

With changing color lights and music, Oya History Museum is magical! Apparently it's the set of lots of music videos and films. It's quite a bit larger and nicer than I imagined. It took us 30 minutes to walk through. A very cool place.

Utsunomiya underground cave Oya History Museum
Oya Stone Museum Utsunomiya Stone Museum

Oya Temple Walk back 200 meters to where the bus came, you'll find Oya Temple 大谷寺 which houses the oldest stone Kanon in Japan called Oya Kannon 大谷観音 (Buddhist deity of compassion) from the Heian Period 平安時代 (810 AD). This very small temple is 400 yen to enter and no photos of the stone Buddha/Kannon rock wall carvings are allowed. There's also a tiny shrine with (fake) white snakes to pray for money.

Right behind is the 27-meter tall stone statue of Heiwa Kannon 平和観音 . You probably won't need more than half an hour here.

There's a one-day ticket 大谷観光一日乗車券 including buses and entrance to both the museum and the temple for 1600 yen that can be bought at 関東自動車 宇都宮駅前定期券センター which is a minute from Utsunomiya Station's West Exit, between Chisun Hotel チサンホテル and Richmond Hotel

Heiwa Kannon
Oya Temple 大谷寺
Heiwa Kannon
Heiwa Kannon 平和観音
Heiwa Kannon
view from top of Heiwa Kannon

white snake money shrine
Oya Heiwa Kannon
closer to the 27 m Kannon