Andrew’s world in Japan 2019/May

Artist & researcher based in KL since 2009, passionately exploring the creative process & connecting with other creative people.

Prosperity From An Unlikely Source ③ – Carving Our World Castle

Here we are to explore the historic cedar filled mountainous region of Tochigi. The central part of the Kantō region considered the largest island of Japan, this is the geographical area of Honshu. Roughly 100km from Tokyo, this administrative and commercial center is famous for delicious food, historic shrines and today, fantastic jazz. The birthplace of the central town of Utsunomiya is the hilltop shrine Futaarayama. Nearby are other shrines of interest, the Sagahara, Hatsutatsuinari and Gama. Not a shrine, but a valuable historic structure in its own right is the Matsugamine Church. Many of these structures and others are built from a special material unique to this region, ōya stone. Today’s visit explores a slice of Japan’s history that has remained throughout turbulent times.
An interesting and valuable element of this region stems from the ōya stone. Born from a merging of lava and ash, this special rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava. Of a particularly high value during the Edo period for its sturdy but malleable structure helped offer this region an important source of survival. This soft by highly durable volcanic stone became many important structures. One of note beyond this region is the Imperial Hotel of Tokyo designed by the now famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Its versatility stems from a warm texture that is easily carved. Also of great value during this period as well as today is that it is naturally fireproof.

The region, like most of our planet, has been altered by human activities. Mining in particular. Today, your visit can include the Ōya History Museum (Oyā Shiryōkan), built inside a former quarry. Here you can see many historic artifacts and explore tunnels of these extensively excavated areas. Although the outside surrounding area can be brisk, it is recommended you bring a jacket or hoodie for exploring these tunnels as the temperature inside can go as low as 10° Celcius. You could potentially spend the day exploring what adds up to over 20,000 square meters. Some even go as far as to lease tunnels here for special events. Consider throwing your next birthday party in these well-mined tunnels. Otherwise, it is best to enter around 9 am and expect to pay an admission fee. Last updated, it was about ¥700.

Here, the obvious impact of humanity is clearly visible. Not only through the impressive structures that have been erected, but also from the sourcing of the materials to create them.