Photo/IllutrationA wedding ceremony is held in the former quarry, part of the Oya History Museum in Utsunomiya. (Provided by Rise)

  • Photo/Illustraion

UTSUNOMIYA--The “chapel” section of a cavernous quarry is open to the public for only the fifth time, giving couples a chance to decide whether they want to hold an atmospheric wedding here deep underground.

The section will be off-limits again from Feb. 1.

At least 200 couples have exchanged vows at the former mining site, part of the Oya History Museum, over the past 25 years.

Under the theme of “a chapel in the forest,” thick moss and piled-up fallen leaves are illuminated to create a soft ambience at the site.

After checking out the site, clients can change the layout to suit their preferences.

The venue is popular among people seeking a “unique” wedding ceremony, museum officials said.

In 1993, part of the former mining site was opened for full-fledged use as a wedding venue after museum officials learned about people wanting to hold their ceremonies there. The old quarry won a favorable response after it was used on a trial basis.

However, the quarry was initially little known even in the prefecture, and only one or two weddings a year were held.

The quarry saw a sudden rise in popularity after Hiroo Suzuki, 65, a former member of the Utsunomiya Film Commission, became director of the museum in 2014.

Suzuki started a media campaign to encourage people to visit the museum and use the underground mining site for weddings.

The officials saw a sudden increase in applications from outside the prefecture, and about 20 couples now hold their weddings there each year, they said.

The main appeal is the ambience created by sunlight entering the dimly lit venue while candles illuminate the ground.

Music echoing through the underground site adds to the extraordinary feel.

“We hope you make the best use of the fantastical space and have a memorable wedding like no other,” Suzuki said.

A minimum fee of about 400,000 yen ($3,630) is charged for the use of the chapel section as a wedding venue.

Weddings are held only on Saturday mornings when there are fewer sightseers. Applications are accepted mainly for winter weddings because many people visit the site between June and October.

For inquiries, visit the official website of bridal company Rise at (https://wedding-rise.com/).