Utsunomiya – Gyoza and the Futaarayama Shrine
Utsunomiya (宇都宮市) is the capital of Tochigi Prefecture(栃木県) and is famous for it’s delicious Gyoza (dumplings). In front of Utsunomiya Station there is even a Gyoza statue and there are about 200 specialty Gyoza shops spread throughout the city. All the Gyoza shops have their own special flavored Gyoza and they’re all competing each other to make the most tastiest dumplings.
Close to Utsunomiya Station you can find the Futaarayama Shrine(宇都宮二荒山神社). This Shrine has a rich history and was built in dedication to the spirit of Toyokirihikonomikoto, the founder of Utsunomiya. Although it’s a bit of a climb, the Futaarayama Shrine is pretty large is a great place to explore and to take photos of. Weddings take place at this Shrine as well, so if you’re lucky you can see a wedding couple in wonderful traditional clothes. The Shrine is also a place for students to pray for passing their entrance examinations and for other traditional celebrations like New Year. Free entry and opened daily.
Utsunomiya is easy to reach from Tokyo. You can take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo or Ueno Station, which will take about 50 minutes. You can also take the JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line from Shibuya, Shinjuku or Ikebukuro Station, which will take about 1 and a half hour.
Official Utsunomiya website (in English): http://www.city.utsunomiya.tochigi.jp/foreigner/index.html
Official Futaarayama Shrine website (in Japanese): http://www.futaarayamakaikan.jp/