Explore Underground Quarry at Oya History Museum

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  • Learn all about the unique Oya stone and its history at Oya History Museum and explore the incredible cavernous underground quarry.

    art exhibits inside underground quarry - Oya History Museum | www.justonecookbook.com

    Oya History Museum is a museum dedicated to the history of Oya Stone located not too far from Nikko. If you are driving to Nikko from Tokyo, we recommend stopping by to check out this unique museum and explore its cavernous underground mine.

    Where Is Oya History Museum

    Oya History Museum is a short 30 min drive from Nikko but could be a bit tricky to get to by public transportation. If you take the Utsunomiya Station route from Tokyo to Nikko, it’s only a 30 min bus ride from Utsunomiya Station to the museum.

    What is Oya Stone

    Oya stone is a volcanic rock unique to the Oyamachi area near Utsunomiya. It is a light porous rock formed by volcanic ash from an eruption 20 million years ago. Oya stone has been mined in the area since the Edo period in the 1600s. At its peak, there were over 250 quarries in the area.

    beef steamed in oya stone - Oya History Museum | www.justonecookbook.com
    Wagyu steamed in Oya stone box

    When we stayed at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko, the main wagyu main course was steamed in a box made of Oya stone and so was the drink coaster. The most famous use of Oya stone is by Frank Lloyd Wright during the construction of the old Imperial Hotel in Tokyo (it’s now been moved to Museum Meiji-Mura).

    beer coaster made from Oya stone - Oya History Museum | www.justonecookbook.com
    Drink coaster made from Oya stone

    Oya History Museum

    When you get to the museum, you can already see the on the nearby hillside evidence of mining in the past.

    quarried mountain near Oya history museum - Oya History Museum | www.justonecookbook.com
    Oya stone hill that was mined

    The exterior of the museum resembles a simple one-floor shop. On the main floor of the museum are the ticket booth and exhibits on the history of the Oya stone. The exhibits are on the history of Oya stone mining and the tools that were used for excavation.

    Oya History Museum building exterior - Oya History Museum | www.justonecookbook.com
    Oya History Museum

    Oya History Museum Underground Quarry

    There’s a staircase from the museum that leads downward and at the end of the staircase is the entrance to the unbelievable underground world. As soon as visitors get to the underground entrance, they are greeted by a massive hall. When we went to the museum it was a hot summer day around 95 F (35 C) and inside the save it was around 50 F (10 C). It felt like we walked into a freezer. Not only were we surprised by the enormous cave our body also experienced a very sudden drop in temperature.

    inside underground quarry - Oya History Museum | www.justonecookbook.com

    We followed the metal staircase that leads down into the quarry and started walking along the roped path. Looking carefully at the walls we could see the entire cave manmade.

    two children inside the underground quarry - Oya History Museum | www.justonecookbook.com

    Inside the cave, there’s the main pathway for visitors to follow and also some areas for visitors to explore freely. The underground quarry is about 5 acres (20,000 sq meters) so imagine its size! Off the entrance cave, the paths lead deeper and at some points, we were close to 100 feet below ground (30 meters). In many of the larger rooms, there are art exhibits on display.

    art exhibits in underground quarry - Oya History Museum | www.justonecookbook.com
    Art exhibits inside the underground quarry

    It’s difficult to describe how large the rooms are, but the ceilings are easily 30 feet high (10 meters) in the images below. The mine closed down in 1986 and before then it was in operation for over 70 years. What’s mind-boggling is until 1959, Oya stone was excavated by hand and the hand tool marks can still be seen on the walls.

    long hallway inside underground quarry - Oya History Museum | www.justonecookbook.com

    In 1960 the excavation was mechanized and patterns can be seen from the machine engraving.

    evidence of machine engraving - Oya History Museum | www.justonecookbook.com
    Evidence of machine engraving

    family standing inside underground quarry - Oya History Museum | www.justonecookbook.com

    long hallways inside underground quarry - Oya History Museum | www.justonecookbook.com

    Current Uses for Underground Quarry

    Today, besides being a museum is it also used as an event hall, concert hall, and wine storage among other uses. Many companies including Dom Perignon, BMW and Mazda had their new products and cars revealed inside the underground quarry.

    temperature inside underground quarry - Oya History Museum | www.justonecookbook.com
    The average temperature over the past 10 years by month
    Dom Perignon on display - Oya History Museum | www.justonecookbook.com
    Dom Perignon on display
    event photos on display - Oya History Museum | www.justonecookbook.com
    Photos of past events inside the quarry

    We spent about 45 minutes walking around the various rooms and exploring the quarry before we got too chilly and started heading back up.

    machines used for cutting stone - Oya History Museum | www.justonecookbook.com
    Tools for cutting Oya stone
    oya stone blocks inside quarry - Oya History Museum | www.justonecookbook.com
    Stacks of Oya stone

    Our family had a blast at Oya History Museum and it’s something we’ve never seen before. It’s hard to believe that it exists until you’ve experienced it yourself so we highly recommend checking it out. Just remember to dress warm!

    As always, thank you for reading our Nikko Travel Guides and we’ll see you soon in Hakone, one of our favorite hot springs areas in Japan.

    Nikko Travel Guide

    1. Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura 日光江戸村
    2. Kinugawa Onsen 鬼怒川温泉
    3. Tobu World Square 東武ワールドスクウェア
    4. Nikko Tosho-gu 日光東照宮
    5. Places to visit in Nikko 日光
    6. Kegon Falls 華厳の滝
    7. Lake Chuzenji 中禅寺湖
    8. Oya History Museum 大谷資料館

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