Uji, Japan is a famous city near Kyoto renowned for its beautiful scenery, the Uji River, and Uji Tea. It also has ties to The Tale of Genji, a classic in Japanese literature. Especially for green tea lovers, Uji is definitely worth visiting. Conveniently, Uji is just a 20-minute train ride away from JR Kyoto Station.
Here, we will introduce World Cultural Heritage sites, Uji tea shops, and temples where you can experience zazen and sutra copying. All of the places introduced here are well-equipped with measures against coronavirus so that you can feel at ease during your visit.
Top Photo: ©Byodoin
- Table of Contents
- 1. See the National Treasures of Byodoin Temple
- 2. Experience Zazen and Sutra-copying at Zen Buddhist Temple Koshoji
- 3. Enjoy Uji Tea, Meals, and Experiences at Fukujuen Uji Tea Factory
- 4. Check Out Ujigami Shrine, the Oldest Existing Shrine in Japan!
- 5. Enjoy Delicious Matcha Sweets at Nakamura Tokichi Honten
11. See the National Treasures of Byodoin Temple
22. Experience Zazen and Sutra-copying at Zen Buddhist Temple Koshoji
33. Enjoy Uji Tea, Meals, and Experiences at Fukujuen Uji Tea Factory
44. Check Out Ujigami Shrine, the Oldest Existing Shrine in Japan!
55. Enjoy Delicious Matcha Sweets at Nakamura Tokichi Honten
1. See the National Treasures of Byodoin Temple
At the top of our list of things to do in Uji is Byodoin Temple, a 10-minute walk from JR Uji Station. Byodoin Temple was the center of Uji in the latter half of the Heian Period. It flourished as an aristocratic villa around 1000 AD.
It was originally the villa of Minamoto no Toru, the person on whom Hikaru Genji, the main character of The Tale of Genji, was based. However, in 1052, it was taken over by the Emperor's advisor, Fujiwara no Michinaga, and his son Yorimichi. He turned it into a temple, known as Byodoin.
The following year, in 1053, the Phoenix Hall, a national treasure, was completed. The beautiful statue of Amida Buddha (Amida Nyorai), sculpted by Jocho, the Heian period's greatest Buddhist priest, is enshrined inside the hall. The buildings of Byodoin Temple were said to embody the Buddhist Pure Land of Sukhavati. Today, they look just as impressive as they did when they were first built.
Visitors can enter Phoenix Hall between 9:30AM to 4:10PM on a first-come, first-served basis at a capacity of 20 people at a time. We recommended purchasing your admission ticket (300 yen) before heading to the other spots.
A staff member will guide you inside. Beautiful, historical artifacts decorate the hall, including the 2.8-meter high Amida Buddha (Amida Nyorai), the Pure Land image behind the statue, and the Praying Bodhisattva (Buddhist Saints) on Clouds.
Byodoin Museum Hoshokan also has many great treasures to see. Get a close-up look at the Phoenix Statue, a national treasure, and the 26 Praying Bodhisattva on Clouds through the glass. The Bodhisattvas on Clouds each have different musical instruments and their own unique expressions and poses. There is also a colorful CG exhibit showing the phoenix hall at the time of its construction.
Byodoin Temple's museum shop includes a lineup of original goods featuring designs of Phoenix Hall, the Phoenix Statue, and the Bodhisattva on Clouds. There are so many souvenirs to choose from! The Origami Sets and Handkerchiefs are decorated with patterns of the pillars and beams of Phoenix Hall. The towels are also decorated with images of Phoenix Hall.
Measures Against Coronavirus:
Staff required to wear masks and use hand sanitizer. Visitors also recommended to use masks and sanitizer. Partitions and acrylic plates are installed at reception area, and coin trays are used for money exchange. Museum building is well-ventilated, handrails are regularly disinfected, and temperature checks are conducted before entering Phoenix Hall.
2. Experience Zazen and Sutra-copying at Zen Buddhist Temple Koshoji
Koshoji was the first Soto Zen temple founded by Dogen Zenji in Fukakusa in 1233. Koshoji is about a 13-minute walk from Byodoin Temple across the Uji River.
Zazen meditation should among your list of things to do in Japan, and you can do it here in Uji, too! In addition to regular Sunday meditations, you can also practice zazen meditation with a monk and learn more about Zen's teachings. If you are new to zazen, there are easy-to-understand lectures that even foreign visitors can enjoy. Lectures are about 60-90 minutes long, but if you're short on time, you can experience it for 10 to 20 minutes on your own.
You can also try the Sutra Copying Experience. Attain peace of mind as you slowly draw the brush strokes one by one.
Oshoin is a large, welcoming tatami room with tables and chairs on the veranda. Here, you can enjoy matcha green tea and sweets in silence. Look out over the beautiful garden as you listen to the murmuring of water and the chirping of birds.
The approach leading to the temple from the road along the Uji River is called Kotozaka. It gets its name from the sound of the water flowing, which resembles the sound of a Japanese koto. Kotozaka is exceptionally beautiful in the spring with its cherry blossoms, and in the fall with its colorful foliage. Many visitors come to see the seasonal sights!
Measures Against Coronavirus:
Alcohol disinfectant installed at entrance. Visitors required to wear masks and use sanitizer.
- Address 27-1 Uji Yamada, Uji City, Kyoto 611-0021
Access: 20 minutes walk from JR Uji Station, 13 minutes walk from Keihan Uji Station
- Phone Number 0774-21-2040
Hours: Open from dawn to sunset (around 5:00AM-5:00PM)
Admission: 500 yen; 1,000 yen for zazen experience (reservation required); 1,000 yen for sutra-copying experience
3. Enjoy Uji Tea, Meals, and Experiences at Fukujuen Uji Tea Factory
Tea is on any list of things to do in Uji, and this is the spot to dip into matcha culture! When you leave Koshoji Temple, go down Kotozaka to Fukujuen Uji Tea Factory. Fukujuen is a long-established Uji matcha tea shop, founded in 1790. At Uji Tea Factory, you can experience, learn about, and enjoy traditional Uji tea culture.
There are a variety of shops and museums where you can buy original Uji tea and tea supplies, including a workshop where you can try different kinds of Uji teas, Fukuju Saryo, where you can enjoy dishes and sweets made with Uji tea, and Gyokuro-Tei, a thatched-roof tea house specializing in Uji Gyokuro tea.
First, head to the Fukuju Saryo on the 2nd floor. Here, you can enjoy seasonal dishes and sweets made with Uji tea. The photo shows the special set menu, Asahi Gozen, where tea soba is the main dish. The warm tea soba, manju buns, matcha ankake, seasonal vegetables, gyokuro rice balls, and pickles are all dishes made using Uji tea.
You can also partake in the popular stone mill matcha-making experience (1,200 yen, tax not included). Use the stone mill to grind tencha, the raw ingredient matcha is made from.
Grind the matcha counterclockwise at a speed of 3 seconds per rotation for about 15 minutes. Turn the stone mill slowly and evenly and do not apply too much force. Finally, brew some tea with your freshly ground matcha, and enjoy it with sweets.
There are about 25 different experiences, including hojicha making, tea hand-rolling, teacup making, cafe experience, and a course on matcha etiquette.
Measures Against Coronavirus:
Alcohol disinfectant installed at entrance. Partitions and acrylic plates installed at cash register. Use of masks and disinfectant required. Reduced capacity at restaurants to increase space between seats.
Fukujuen Uji Tea Factory福寿園宇治茶工房
- Address 10 Uji Yamada, Uji City, Kyoto 611-0021
Access: 15 min walk from JR Uji Station, 8 min walk from Keihan Uji Station
Hours: 10:00AM-5:00PM (Fukuju Saryo L.O. 4:00PM)
Fee: Stone-mill Matcha Making Experience: 1,200 yen (includes material costs; tax not included)
Closed: Mondays (the following day in case of public holiday)
4. Check Out Ujigami Shrine, the Oldest Existing Shrine in Japan!
After eating, head to Ujigami Shrine, another world heritage site in Uji. Exactly when the shrine was built remains unknown.
However, in the Heian Period, Ujigami Shrine and Uji Shrine seem to also have gone by the names Uji Chinjugami, Rikyu Myojin, and Rikyu Shrine.
The main shrine, built in the Heian Period, is the oldest existing shrine in Japan. It's characterized by three inner shrine structures housed inside the shrine. The worship hall is a residential building featuring Shinden-zukuri architecture and is also the oldest shrine building and a national treasure.
The colorful Goshuin, or temple seal books, are the most popular gifts from Ujigami Shrine. There are 25 different patterns, including limited-edition seasonal designs such as flowers and autumn leaves, and a two-page spread with Japanese poems.
Because the shrine is a power spot for academics, there are many colorful amulets for academic achievement. There are also pastel-colored rabbit omikuji (fortunes), and kimono-patterned wish dolls based on The Tale of Genji. There are so many charms to choose from!
Measures Against Coronavirus:
Staff required to wear masks; alcohol disinfectant installed.
5. Enjoy Delicious Matcha Sweets at Nakamura Tokichi Honten
Nakamura Tokichi Honten is a 15-minute walk from Ujigami Shrine and located in a traditional Japanese building along Uji Station Shopping Street. A large black-and-white curtain with the Maruto symbol marks the entrance.
This long-established tea shop, founded in 1854, is named after the first Tokichi Nakamura, and is the essence of Kyoto's Uji no Sato tea. Long ago, the original tea house was lined with various famous teas and souvenirs, and tea leaves were sold by the measure.
Today, it has been renovated into a cafe that also sells matcha sweets, and is crowded with visitors every day.
Nama-cha Matcha Jelly is a must-try treat, only available at Uji Honten. It is served in a bamboo bowl. Packed with plump matcha jelly, chewy dango, sweet azuki beans, and mellow matcha ice cream, this is a dessert you won't want to miss out on!
The Maruto Parfait is another delicious treat that showcases the bright green color and refreshing aroma of matcha, also served in a bamboo bowl.
Inside is a matcha castella cake and a mildly-sweet parfait cream that pair perfectly well together. It includes crispy brown rice puffs, berries, lemon jam, shiratama, and Dainagon azuki beans. The bottom is filled with matcha jelly and soft-serve ice cream.
The combination of high-quality matcha and layers of flavors makes this parfait one of the most exciting treats in the shop!
There are many kinds of Uji teas, but Nakamura teas are only available here. This original brand was born in 1994 to commemorate the 1200th anniversary of when Emperor Kanmu moved the capital to Heiankyo in 794. It gets its unique and profound taste from a blend of seven types of carefully selected tea leaves. These delicious, special teas also make perfect souvenirs.
Measures Against Coronavirus:
Shop and facilities regularly cleaned and disinfected; disinfectant solution available and partitions installed; all staff required to wear masks, wash hands, use sanitizer, gargle, and take temperature; may refuse entry to customers in poor health; all customers required to wear masks and take their temperature.
Nakamura Tokichi中村藤吉本店 宇治本店
- Address 10 Uji Ichiban, Uji City, Kyoto 611-0021
Access: 1 minute walk from JR Uji Station; 10 minute walk from Keihan Uji Station
- Phone Number 0774-22-7800
Weekdays: Tea Shop 10:00AM-5:30PM, Cafe 10:00AM-5:30PM (L.O. 4:30PM)
Saturdays, Sundays, holidays: Tea Shop 10:00AM-6:00PM, Cafe 10:00AM-6:00PM (L.O. 4:30PM)
*Varies by season
As you can see, there are plenty of unique things to do in Uji, Japan, including two world heritage sites!
Experience the deliciousness of Japan's famous Uji tea. Some experiences may require advanced reservations, so please check in advance and be mindful of the time as you plan your visit to each spot.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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