You’re looking at your Kyoto travel itinerary and you're wondering what other wonders Kyoto has to offer. You hope to find a place that is a little more local, perhaps with less crowded sightseeing areas, and a place where you can stroll around leisurely at your own pace. You stumble across the name of a city "Uji" on Google, and decide to look up more about the southern city of Kyoto. The information on Uji is a bit scattered and you're unsure of what to do. But no worries, this article will give you a guide to Uji. If you're short on time, sightseeing in Uji can be limited to about half a day, as it is only about a thirty-minute train ride from Kyoto Station and central Kyoto.
Sample Itinerary: Matcha Soba/Ramen - Byodo-in Temple - Matcha Soft-Serve - Walk along the Uji River - Taiho-an Teahouse
Uji is famous for its matcha, so each meal you have in Uji, should most definitely include some kind of matcha product, whether it be a sample of hot tea, a flavored main dish, or a dessert. Byodo-in Omotesando or Byodo-in street has a lot of shops that sell a variety of matcha dishes and products. Try some matcha noodles - soba or ramen or both! - at one of the stores for lunch. The taste and texture of the matcha noodles will definitely be one of the most unique of all noodles you will ever try.
Byodo-in Temple is a must-visit if you are visiting Uji. The Buddhist temple was built in the late Heian period, and is most famous for its image on the 10 yen coin. The entrance fee is 600 yen, and includes admission to the Byodo-in Garden and Hoshokan (the Byodo-in museum). Admission into the interior of the Phoenix Hall is an extra 300 yen. Byodo-in is truly a remarkable and historical mark of architecture that is worthy of a visit when in Uji.
Matcha soft serve ice-cream is one of the most popular treats for foreign tourists in all of Japan, especially during the summer. Why not try matcha ice-cream in the city where tea cultivation was thought to have started? Masuda, a matcha product store, has splendid matcha green tea ice-cream, and it's located right by Byodo-in temple, so extra points for supreme convenience!
And now you may ask, what is so special about a walk along the Uji River? If you take a more detoured walk towards Byodo-in, passing the Municipal Tourist Center, you will be greeted by mesmerizing red bridges that lead to various temples and shrines along your walk. The view is one that you will not one to miss - reflections on the water of these bridges, of the lush greenery that reminds you of the countryside-feeling that Uji has, and of the Cormorant fishing boats that Uji is also known for. You may even stop by the Municipal Tourist Center to cool off and read a bit about Uji's history while sampling some of their complimentary green tea.
After enjoying the complimentary tea at the Municipal Tourist Center, you can approach the counter in the center to buy an entrance ticket (500 yen) to Taiho-an, an authentic tea house dedicated to sharing knowledge about the tea ceremony and about matcha. Why not learn about the tea ceremony in the supposed birthplace and origin of the tea ceremony?
To sum it up, Uji should not be missed if you plan to take a trip to Kyoto! Uji can be done in half a day, in about roughly five to six hours, and it is such an affordable place that there is no reason to hesitate! Indulge yourself in the rich history of Uji, the tastefulness of matcha, the peaceful scenery and change of pace, and most of all, a different and authentic taste of Japan.