Oya Temple (大谷寺, Ōyaji) is a 1200 year old Buddhist temple constructed in the volcanic, oya stone cliffs on the outskirts of Utsunomiya City. The temple is said to have been established in 810 by Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism and one of Japan's most important religious personalities. He is believed to have shaped the temple's main image of worship, the nearly four meter high Oya Kannon relief carving of the thousand-armed Buddhist goddess of mercy, which is chiseled directly into the face of the cliff.
Nine other Buddha carvings, representing the Three Buddhas of Shaka, the Three Buddhas of Yakushi, and the Three Buddhas of Amida, join the Oya Kannon on the cliff face inside the temple's main hall. These carvings are considered to represent some of the highest skills among stone sculpture in Japan, and they are protected as National Important Cultural Properties.
The rest of the temple grounds include a small garden that visitors can walk around, and a treasure hall. The treasure hall includes relics dating back from the Jomon to the Kamakura periods of Japanese history, which were discovered in the caves during archeological excavations in 1965.
Across the street from the temple you will find the towering Peace Kannon Statue overlooking a public park. The 27 meter high stone statue was carved directly out of the surrounding cliffs and stands in tribute to those who died during WW2 and for the promotion of world peace. Visitors can climb up a to an observatory on the cliff behind the Kannon from where they can inspect the statue from closer up as well as look out over the surrounding countryside.
From JR Utsunomiya Station (West Exit), take bus number 45 bound for Tateiwa (立岩) and get off at the Oya Kannon-mae bus stop (大谷観音前, 25 minutes, 460 yen one way, 1-3 buses/hour). The temple is a two minute walk from the bus stop. The bus also stops in front of Tobu Utsunomiya Station along the way (20 minutes, 460 yen one way).
9:00 to 16:30 (October to March)
Admission ends 20 minutes before closing