Matcha is a popular and well-loved green tea powder, which can be found everywhere in Japan. It is widely praised for its warming taste, health benefits, and glorious color. Matcha has now become popular in western countries, and you will likely find it in many coffee shops and cafes if you look for it!
Uji (宇治) is a picturesque city situated in Kyoto Prefecture. The town is widely known for its matcha, and it is a major grower of the green tea leaves used for making it. However, if you expect that you’ll just see tea plantations everywhere, you are wrong! Uji has many other interesting attractions too! Check out the places that you can visit in this article.
The last 10 chapters of the famous work of literature, The Tale of Genji, occur in Uji. The chapters, which are also collectively known as the ‘Uji arcs’, depict many scenes in Uji. Some of the scenes include the Uji Bridge and the some of the shrines and temples in the city. There are also two The Tale of Genji related statues in Uji.
The first one is that of the author of The Tale of Genji, Shikibu Murasaki, which is located near the Uji Bridge, while the second is that of the main characters of the Uji arc themselves, Ukifune and Niou no Miya, riding a boat. This is located in front of Uji-Jinja Shrine. The Tale of Genji fans can refer to the following website here for places related to the story!
This is the street that leads all the way to Byōdō-in Temple. Your green tea shopping can be done here! There are a number of shops here with more than 100 years of history. As you walk, you can smell the strong scent of tea lingering around the streets.
On the 21st November 2001, the Japan Ministry of Environment selected this street as one of “the top 100 scenic spots with scents” and labeled it as “a scent to be known, and a scenery to be maintained”. This is a gorgeous little street and you should definitely try and check it out!
This Buddhist temple was built in the late Heian period. The most famous feature of this temple is none other than the popular Hōō-dō (Phoenix Hall), which is featured on one side of the 10 yen coin! In December 1994, Byōdō-in was listed as a World Heritage Site as part of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto” by UNESCO.
The temple consists of the main hall (Phoenix Hall), 3 smaller halls, a museum, a souvenir shop, a cafe, and gardens which are nationally designated as a Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. The entrance fee for adults is 600 yen, plus an extra 300 yen if you choose to enter the Phoenix Hall. For more information, check out their website below.
— Voyage à Kyoto (@Voyage_Kyoto) August 17, 2015
The best time to visit this popular temple is during the autumn season when the autumn leaves line the paths. The path to Koshoji Temple is also called ‘Kotozaka’ because the echo coming from the surrounding natural areas is said to sound like a harp (koto in Japanese).
The main temple is also thought to make up the remains of the old Fushimi castle. It is well worth a visit if you are in Uji.
Kōshōji Temple Website *Japanese only
Uji-Jinja (Uji Shrine) is adjacent to the Ujigami-Jinja (Ujigami Shrine) and was originally a part of it. The rabbit known as Mikaeri Usagi (Looking-Back Rabbit) is believed to be a guardian spirit of this shrine.
A popular legend about this shrine says that once upon a time, Prince Wakinoiratsuko lost his way and this rabbit guided him back to the right path! Visit this shrine to find out about this wonderful story!
Uji-Jinja Shrine Website *Japanese only
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Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is one of the oldest shrines that still exists in Japan. The shrine is famous for its freshwater spring called Kiriharamizu, which is one of the “Seven Best Waters of Uji”. The other six water sources in Uji have dried up over the years, leaving Kiriharamizu as the last spring where good Uji water is sourced from!
The water from this spring is often used for tea ceremonies. The two main buildings of this shrine (Honden and Haiden) have been designated by the Agency for Cultural Affairs as National Treasures. This is a beautiful shrine which is well worth a visit!
— Fernando Torres (@AuthorFTorres) July 28, 2017
The only museum in the world that is dedicated to The Tale of Genji, the exhibits here include replicated scenes, costumes, rooms, dioramas, and even scents found in the story itself. There is also a theatre and a movie room (which shows a 20-minute short film) for visitors to better understand the story. The museum has also set up a fun “Get to know Genji corner” and a library room!
If you are hungry, you can visit the cafe and shop in their museum. The entrance fee for the museum is 500 yen. For more information, you can visit their official website below, which is also available in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and French.
Besides being known as The 10th site of “Saigoku 33 pilgrimage sites of Kannon worship”, Mimurotoji Temple is also known as the flower temple as it is famous for its seasonal flowers. The main hall of Mimurotoji was built in the early 1800s and houses the thousand-armed Kannon Bodhisattva. The temple also consists of a three-tiered vermilion pagoda, an Amida Buddha hall, and a statue of Ukajin. Ukajin is a local deity with the head of an old man and the body of a snake.
It is recommended for visitors to stroke the statue of Ukajin when visiting this temple as it is believed to bring fortune and good luck! The admission fee is 500 yen and the site is reachable by local buses. Visit their website below for more information!
Mimurotoji Temple Website *Japanese only
Ukai (cormorant fishing) is a traditional method of catching fish in Japan and China and has been since about 960 AD. The only tools involved are cormorants and a torch or fire. Yes, you read it right!
This special event takes place only in the summer and in the late evening at a number of rivers across Japan, with Uji river being one of them. If you are in Uji during the non-summer seasons, you can still see cormorants up close in their cage at various places along the Uji River. While walking along the river, you can also cross the beautiful bridges scattered around and access some of the sights mentioned above easily.
Of course, a trip to Uji wouldn’t complete without a visit to their most famous product! Obubu Tea Plantations and Shohokuen are the two plantations that have recently offered field and factory tours for tourists during the tea picking season.
You can visit their respective websites below, to find out more information and book yourself onto a tour! This is a unique experience and one which will leave you wanting a nice cup of tea!
Most of the places recommended here are free of charge and are within an easy walking distance of each other. Uji is definitely worth at least a day trip in your itinerary, as there are so many interesting places to see and much to learn about the culture and history of Japan. Plan your trip wisely and enjoy your Uji matcha trip!