In the northern Kanto region of Japan, Utsunomiya is more or less the gyoza capital with over 200 gyoza restaurants in the city alone and is known for having one of the oldest shrines with the Utsunomiya Futarayama Shrine was founded in 353 AD.
But its history is of interest to historians as burial mounds from the Kofun period are found in the borders of the area, the area was known for the control it was under with the Utsunomiya clan (which would be destroyed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi).
July 12, 1945 was a tragic day for residents of the area when 133 B-29 Superfortresses from the USAAF 58th Bombardment Wing dropped 802.9 tons of bombs, 10,500 E46 incendiary cluster bombs and 2204 M45 napalm bombs. The location was an important garrison for the Imperial Japanese Army and would lead to additional bombings two weeks later and days after that.
Nearly 50% of the city was destroyed by the firestorm including Utsunomiya Station which had been around 1885.
In 1946, a 3rd generation of the station was built with wooden floors after the station was destroy 1958, the 4th generation station building was completed.
By 1974, the station was already planning for its fifth generation with a temporary station for the planned bullet station and by 1980, the current station that exists was completed.
Since then, there have been numerous upgrades to the buildings and various restaurants and shops have opened. Suica-enabled ticket gates would begin in 2001 and in 2008, Suica-only ticket gates were introduced.
But for Tokyoites, Utsunomiya Station is where the shinkansen ends for those wanting to go from Tokyo to Nikko via Nikko Line. The Nikko Line began operation on June 1, 1890 and the Tohoku Shinaksen began operation in June 23, 1982.
In addition to the Tohoku Shinkansen and Nikko Line, Utsunomiya Station also has the Utsunomiya Line (Tohoku Main Line), Shonan-Shinjuku Line (direct service to Zushi and Shinjuku from Utsunomiya to Omiya) and Karsuyama Line (limited direct service).
And as of 2016, Utsunomiya Station welcomes 36,584 commuters per day and 13,153 commuters via shinkansen.
My experience at Utsunomiya Station was rather interesting. When I was arriving by Tohoku shinkansen in the morning, the location was extremely foggy. It wasn’t until I was in the station and it was the first and only time where I had to wear a baclava. I thought it would be cold in Nikko but instead, the cold temperatures were more evident when waiting at Utsunomiya Station for the Nikko Line.
It was probably the only time throughout my trip where I felt happy that I packed a lot of cold weather clothing for very low temperatures. Fortunately, a train to Nikko came and although it was over a half hour of waiting inside the train, the seats were heated and it gave people a chance to get away from the cold temperatures briefly.