February 5, 2018
by Kensei Iizuka, Yuta Kobayashi, Takanori Tsuhako
Uji is a city located in the south part of Kyoto. There are many famous historical spots there, such as Byodoin Temple and Ujigami Shrine. That is why if you are interested in Japanese history, you can enjoy a visit to Uji. Moreover, you can also feel nature in Uji because this city has a good river running through it and it is surrounded by mountains. In addition, Uji is an attractive place for people who like eating delicious food. Uji is famous for Uji-cha, which is a kind of green tea famously known as one of the big three green teas in Japan. It has been produced since the Kamakura era (1192) and it was a very expensive tea in those days. Because of that, there are a lot of nice shops where you can drink Uji-cha or eat sweets that are made from Uji-cha.
Getting There by Train
There are two train stations in Uji: the JR Uji station and the Keihan Uji station. The JR Uji station is the most accessible station for sightseeing in the center of Uji. It is suitable for people who arrive at JR Kyoto station by Shinkansen from Tokyo or Osaka. On the other hand, the Keihan Uji station doesn’t connect to the JR Kyoto station directly, so it is good way to get from Kawaramachi after doing sightseeing at Kiyomizu temple or the Heian shrine. It takes about fifteen minutes to get to Uji from Kyoto station, so it really is a short trip.
Main Sightseeing Spots
Ujihashi is a bridge spanning the Uji river, which is a Class A river running from Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture in the northeast. Its color looks like emerald blue and makes us calm. It was built in 646, making it the oldest bridge in Japan. Its length is 155m and width is 25m.
A shady path surrounded by lively trees marks the way to the entrance of Koshou temple. It is named Koto Saka and has very moderate incline to the temple. In autumn, all the leaves turn to a vivid red, and its beauty attracts visitors every year. Unfortunately, very few leaves were red when we visited the shrine because it was still the beginning of November. We recommend you that you go there at the end of November. You will most certainly be stunned by its landscape. It is about a 15-minute walk from JR Uji station, crossing over Ujihashi.
A short walk up from Kousho temple brings you to Ujigami shrine. This shrine is one of the popular sightseeing spots for visitors to Uji. It was built at the end of the Heian era (From Wikipedia). The main shrine (in the above picture) is said to be the oldest shrine in Japan. It is also part of the Koto Kyoto-no Bunkazai, which is registered as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
There are no Japanese people who haven’t yet seen this famous structure. This is Byodoin-Hououdo, which is a kind of temple. The elegant and dignified main temple with two gold phoenixes on top appears as a reflection in the small pond in front. This always fascinates all visitors in every season. Also, this main temple can be found on the Japanese 10 yen coin. That’s why it is super famous in Japan and so recognizable to Japanese people. You must visit here when you go to Uji. It is a 15-minute walk from JR Uji station.
Delicious Food and Refreshments
Uji Cha (Green Tea)
Uji is known as the one of tea production areas in Japan. The tea produced around the area is a kind of green tea, called Uji cha. Its taste depends on how much time it is brewed and at which temperature it is made. For example, you can enjoy the real taste of green tea made with hot water. In contrast, green tea made with cold water tastes so sweet, and in this way results in reduced levels of caffeine. Green tea has been loved by all Japanese for a long time due to its good effect on our health, such as activating blood flow, preventing diabetes, and so on. The green tea in the picture is not the usual green tea. It includes plenty of sugar so that even people who don’t like the taste of green tea can still enjoy drinking it. It tastes so sweet and is easy for everybody – including foreign visitors - to enjoy.
Even in the extreme cold of winter, Japanese people are willing to buy ice cream, not to mention in the heat of summer. In Uji, you can eat locally made ice cream. It has two different flavors: macha (Green tea) or hojicha (Roasted green tea). You can often see a lot of macha flavored ice cream shops in the center of Kyoto. However, as for hojicha, it is a rare one for visitors from another country. It is a refreshing flavor compared with that of macha. Make sure you compare each taste and feel it by yourself because it is difficult to explain. Each costs approximately 300 yen. There are a many stores selling this type of ice cream, so you can find it easily.
Cha-dango are rice dumplings flavored with green tea. This is a traditional snack in Kyoto, especially in Uji. It looks so cute. The flavor spreads throughout your mouth as soon as you put it into your mouth and chew it. Its flavor and texture depends on each store. So you can enjoy a wide range of Cha-dango in Uji. One stick with three rice dumplings costs anywhere from 50 to 80 yen. It is very cheap and can satisfy your hunger. Just be careful not to eat too much. You don’t want to spoil your lunch!
Model Plan Route
After arriving at Uji station, your main way of getting around would be walking because Uji is so compact city that you can walk. Except for Koshoji Temple and Ujigami Shrine, there is not so much slope.
First, let’s go to Uji Bridge from JR Uji station. It takes about five minutes on foot. Crossing the bridge with seeing nice view. After crossed the bridge, please turn right. It leads to nice path, especially in fall, autumn leaves are beautiful. On your left side, you can see Koshoji Temple and Ujigami Shrine. The slope is a little hard but please visit there. Especially, Ujigami Shrine is a world heritage site, so you should visit there. After visiting temple and shrine, let’s across another bridge called Asagiri Bridge. This bridge is smaller than Uji Bridge, but you can walk more comfortable than Uji Bridge.
Lastly, let’s go to the main tourist attraction in Uji, called Byodoin Temple. This temple is a model of 10 yen coin. You can take out your 10 yen coin and compare them. Around Byodoin Temple, there are a lot of nice restaurants, sweets shops, and souvenir shops. You can visit there and enjoy famous food in Uji.
Kyoto Station → (20 min.) JR Uji Station
Kawaramachi Station → (40 min.) Keihan Uji Station
↓ Walk (5 min.)
Uji-hashi (Uji Bridge)
↓ Walk (10 min.)
Koshoji Temple → Ujigami Shrine
↓ Walk (10 min.)