Thursday, October 1, 2015

Oya Mine & Giant Kannon + Vlog!

Hello everyone!

Today I'd like to share about a really cool place I visited near Utsunomiya, Tochigi: Oya mine and Oya's giant Kannon statue! I realised I went there almost one year ago, but I never wrote a post about it.

The entrance to the mine. There's a whole different world underneath here!

I'd heard a little about Oya mine, as it's a recommended tourist destination for people who come to Utsunomiya. What's more, the stone taken from the mine is featured in a lot of interesting buildings all over Tochigi, so sometimes when I visited an interesting place, people would tell me how it was built of Oya stone. One public holiday, I didn't have many plans, so I decided to try and bike there with a few friends. The bike ride from downtown Utsunomiya to Oya mine wasn't too difficult, especially because we stopped at a lovely Italian restaurant along the way! I think the chef there was a little surprised to see four foreigners kind of in the middle of nowhere, but he was very friendly. He told us how he had worked as a chef in Italy, and the pizza he cooked was really delicious.

You come down these stairs (and more) to enter the mine.
The huge underground caverns.

You have to pay a small entrance fee to go down into the mine. As you descend deeper and deeper into the mine, the temperature gets colder and colder, so if you're going in winter, be sure to bring some warm clothes. It was a warm day when we went, so the cooler air was quite refreshing. The mine is really breathtaking. The underground space is immense, and there's a lot of dramatic lighting and some atmospheric music playing softly in the background. I can't really say that there's anything down there, but somehow, exploring the vast empty spaces was really interesting. Walking around in the dark, running my hands along the textured stone walls, hearing the occasional drip of water, I sometimes felt a little bit like a character in a video game! We took our time to fully explore the mine. 

There are a lot of nice products made from Oya stone in the gift shop.
After coming back to the surface, we spent a little time in the gift shop and mine museum. There was no information in English, but there were a lot of photos showing the history of the mine, as well as some old tools on display, and some interesting and beautiful products made with Oya stone. I found out that many musicians have performed at the mine. I could just imagine what a wonderful place it would be to see your favourite artist - the concert would feel so dramatic. At the time I wondered what it would really look like. Well, coincidentally, the band I recently became a big fan of, DaizyStripper, filmed the music video for one of their recent singles there. You can see them playing in the mine, and the effect is really cool! Here's the video:

I also watched the "making of" for this video, and the band members kept commenting on how freezing it felt down in the mine. The temperature down there really is very different from the outside temperature!

I got this picture by climbing the stairs to the top. The Kannon's face looks so peaceful.
 After visiting the mine, we decided to visit the nearby Kannon statue. Kannon is a Buddhist deity of mercy. This giant Kannon statue is really impressive. You can climb stairs to get to the top of the statue and enjoy a nice view of the surrounding area, too. As the Kannon statue is very close to the mine, I think it's really worth checking out both at the same time!

A view of Oya temple from the top of the Kannon statue. There are some really interesting cliffs around there.

There is also a very old temple nearby, Oya temple. This temple has some of Japan's oldest stone carvings inside. My friends and I have visited a lot of temples, so to be honest we didn't feel like looking inside. But if I went back again I'd visit all three things in one day, as they're very conveniently close to one another. I really recommend a trip to Oya, especially if you'd like a peaceful day away from the city. The surrounding area is really beautiful, with some lovely mountains covered in trees. It's easy to bike there, even on regular mamacharis, but you can also catch a bus in the direction of the mine from Utsunomiya station.

I took a short vlog during my trip to Oya mine. To be honest, my camera didn't work too well in the darkness of the mine, and my hands were very shaky that day, but I put it to some music anyway, and tried to cut out any parts that were too dark or boring ^^; I feel like through video, you can get more of a sense of the size of the mine, and see some of the museum, so you still might enjoy watching it!

- Anna


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I've been a high school English language teacher on the JET Programme since August 2013. Read about my experiences, advice on being accepted into the JET Programme, and travel tips around Japan on my blog:


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