Saturday, July 2, 2016

Japan Travel: Visiting Uji for Its History and Tea

Uji (宇治) is a small city situated between Kyoto and Nara, two of Japan's most famous historical and cultural centers. Its proximity to these two former capitals resulted in Uji's early development as a cultural center in its own right. At the height of political power of the Fujiwara clan in the Heian Period (794 to 1192), buildings such as Byodoin Temple and Ujigami Shrine, the oldest extant shrine in Japan, were constructed in Uji.

Uji is also famous for its green tea. While Kozanji Temple in Kyoto is believed to be the original site of tea cultivation in Japan, Uji's tea became better known for its superior quality in the 1100s.


Due to its striking natural setting, Uji boasts many natural attractions, including its scenic riverside, parks, and gardens.
  • Uji River outstanding
    • The Uji River (宇治川, Ujigawa) flows through town, dividing Uji into two parts. 
    • Its prominent position shapes the beautiful landscape of the town and provides opportunities for relaxation. 
    • Most of the city's attractions are within short walks from the river.
    • Amagase Dam
      • Spans the river and day trippers can walk to its base in about an hour. 
      • The route, which begins directly across from Keihan Uji Station, is a wonderful walk along the river on a paved road 
  • Koshoji Temple (興聖寺)
    • Is well known for its impressive fall colors in the autumn
    • The approach up to Koshoji is lined with maple trees that create a tunnel of color around late November.
  • The Tale of Genji Museum
  • Mimurotoji (三室戸寺)
    • is known as the "flower temple" (see photo below)
      • As its wide temple grounds offer large gardens of some varieties of seasonal flowers. 
      • Visitors can view cherry blossoms here around early April, azalea around early May, hydrangea in June, lotuses around July and August, and autumn colors around late November.
    • Within the temple precincts are a beautiful, three tiered vermilion pagoda
  • Byodoin Temple (平等院) best of Japan
    • Phoenix Hall
      • One of the few original wooden structures to survive from the Heian Period
        • With short guided tours (in Japanese) that start every 20 minutes
      • It houses a statue of the Amida Buddha.
    • Hours
      • Phoenix Hall
        • 8:30 am to 5:30 pm (entry until 5:15 pm) 
      • Treasure house 
        • 9 am to 5 pm (entry until 4:45 pm)
    • Admission: 
      • 600 yen (additional 300 yen for a tour of the Phoenix Hall)
  • Mampukuji (萬福寺) outstanding
    • Mampukuji's temple buildings, statues and gardens are heavily influenced by the architectural style of China's contemporary Ming Dynasty and retain a much more Chinese appearance than other Buddhist temples in Japan. 
    • Although difficult to appreciate by the regular tourist, the temple grounds are laid out in the shape of a dragon when viewed from above.
    • Admission
      • 500 yen
    • Hours
      • 9 am to 5 pm (admission until 4:30 pm)
  • Ujigami Shrine (宇治上神社, Ujigami Jinja) outstanding
  • Tea house and workshop
    • Taihoan, (対鳳庵) a public tea house which offers visitors the opportunity to participate in an authentic tea ceremony at a very reasonable price. 
      • In a traditional tea house setting, guests are served matcha (powdered green tea), and the host gladly shares about the correct tea ceremony etiquette.
    • Fukujuen Ujicha Kobo
      • Is a workshop that offers various tea related hands-on activities such as matcha grinding classes, in which participants can learn how to prepare their own tea. 
        • The experience concludes with a tasting session whereby participants make and drink tea from the powdered tea leaves which they have prepared.
        • Advance reservations are not required. 
        • The building also contains a restaurant which serves tea and tea related meals and snacks.

Get There and Get Around

Uji is served by three rail companies: JR West, Keihan, and Kintetsu. The Keihan line which runs primarily between Kyoto and downtown Osaka serves the city via the branch Uji Line running from Chushojima station and ending along the river at Keihan Uji Station beside the Uji Bridge. The station is conveniently close to Uji's Tale of Genji Town, Uji Bridge, and the Byodoin. All trains on this line stop at every station.

The JR Nara Line runs between Kyoto and Nara. JR Uji station was, until a few years ago, fairly rural but was recently rebuilt to better serve the city. Architecturally it mimics the Byodo-in and is on the opposite side of the Uji river, about 10 minutes' walk from Keihan Uji Station. The clock in front of the station is of special interest and, every hour on the hour, opens to reveal an automated show that celebrates the town's heritage as a center of tea production. Like Keihan Uji Station, JR Uji has easy access to the same sites. The station is served by local and express trains.

Kintetsu serves West Uji with a line between Kyoto and Nara and does not have a station named for the town. The line is primarily used by commuters and includes Ogura, Iseda, and Okubo. No stations are close to the main tourist sites.

Photo Credit


  1. What to see in Uji
  2. Uji Travel
  3. Byodoin Temple 
  4. Uji Tea
  5. How to get to Uji
  6. JR Train (Kyoto Station ⇒ Nara)
  7. Utilizing Storage Locker
    • コイン ロッカ (coin locker) — あり (yes) or なし (no)
  8. 京都・宇治 紅葉 宇治川沿いに Uji City in the foliage season(2010-11) (video)
  9. 京都・宇治 紅葉 興聖寺 Uji City in the foliage season(2010-11)  (video)
  10. [Begin Japanology] Season 1 Ep 19 : Matcha 2008-09-07  (video)
  11. Restaurants in Uji (Japanese only)
  12. Sightseeing in Uji (pdf)
  13. Tourist's Map (pdf)
  14. Uji City Tourist Information Center

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