Utsunomiya is considered the “gyoza capital” of Japan.
In this city of roughly 500,000 residents, hundreds of restaurants sell some variation on the dumplings, which typically consist of a mixture of pork, cabbage, Chinese chive, and seasoning (usually garlic) that’s wrapped in thin dough, then fried or boiled. Considered to be Japan’s leading consumer and pioneer of gyoza dumplings, Utsunomiya boasts a gyoza association, a gyoza festival, and the “Venus of Gyoza,” a statue paying tribute to the city’s beloved food.
Located on the pedway of Utsunomiya Station, the Venus of Gyoza is essentially half-dumpling, half goddess. The distinct crescent shape of the gyoza makes up the statue’s center, complete with its trademark rippled edge. Emerging from the dumpling are the goddess’s face, arms, and breasts, with two legs extending to the statue’s base.
This fascinating statue was designed by sculptor Kōji Nishimatsu and created in 1994 as part of a reality show. Made from the locally produced green tuff known as Ōya stone, it’s roughly 5 feet and 2 inches tall and weighs over 1.7 tons.
Originally, it stood on the ground-floor plaza outside the station’s east exit but was relocated to the west exit in 2008 at a cost. The crane car’s wire snapped as it carried the statue, breaking its legs and dropping the body to the ground, where it smashed in half. It was quickly restored using putty, but the scar is still visible on its back. In 2014, the Venus was relocated again to the pedway to make it easier to find.
The origins of Utsunomiya’s gyoza date back to World War II, when Japanese soldiers who fought in Manchuria returned to the city with a taste—and, more importantly, recipes—for the dumplings. Previously an upper-clash cuisine, it soon gained popularity across Japan. Today, there are countless styles available throughout Utsunomiya and greater Japan, ranging from spicy to savory to sweet.