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A Tranquil Journey: A Day Trip to Uji from Kyoto

Where is Uji and what to see

· 5 min read

If you are touring the Kansai region in Japan and want to explore beyond just the popular destinations of Kyoto and Osaka, Uji is a great option. Way less crowded than the cities of Kyoto and Osaka, the historic town of Uji is a delightful respite from the bustling tourist attractions. Enjoy a dtrip filled with cultural wonders, scening beauty, and high quality matcha as you embark on a day trip to Uji.


Where is Uji?

Uji is a southeast suburb of Kyoto, and is a short train ride away from central Kyoto, making it a great option for a day trip out from Kyoto or Osaka.

Uji has two main stations, JR Uji and Keihan Uji. Most visitors to Uji will choose to use the Keihan line, as it is closer to most of the major attractions of Uji. However, take note that the Keihan line is not included in the JR Pass.

What is Uji known for?

Uji is known for many things, but Uji Matcha is probably what first comes to mind to many people. If you are a fan of all things matcha, or if you have visited a good Japanese restaurant, you probably wouldn't be unfamiliar with Uji Matcha.

Originating from the town of Uji, Uji Matcha is known to be the highest grade of matcha in Japan.

Source: Byodo-in Temple

But, Uji is more than just about Uji Matcha.

This historic town, nestled just a short train ride away from Kyoto (or Osaka), is also home to a number of historic sites. Of which, the most iconic one would likely be the Byodo-in Temple, one of two UNESCO World Heritage sites in Uji.

Uji is also known for its association with The Tale of Genji, Japan's first novel and a classic of Japanese literature.

Key Sights in Uji

Uji has many temples and shrines that you can visit. You can spend a day just wandering through the town and visiting all the different temples, but if you prefer just picking a few key sights to visit and spend the rest of your time enjoying the matcha and tea houses, these are the ones that you should consider.

Omotesando Street

Source: bethom33

Omotesando Street is a small street that leads to the iconic Byodo-in Temple. Its location in front of the temple - the main attraction of Uji - also means that most visitors to Uji will probably stop by this street.

This street is lined with shops selling Uji matcha and matcha-flavoured snacks, food, and souvenirs. From green-tea infused food items to matcha flavoured drinks and desserts, it is a paradise for matcha lovers. There are also many tea shops along the street where you can purchase high grade matcha powder, as well as gift shops where you can pick up some souvenirs.

Byodo-in Temple

Byodo-in Temple is the one of the most iconic attractions in Uji. One of the most famous highlights of the Byodo-in Temple is the Phoenix Hall, which is also what is depicted at the back of a 10-yen coin — check it out if you happen to have a 10-yen coin with you!

Source: Byodo-in Temple

You will need to buy an entrance ticket to the Byodo-in Temple, where you are free to explore the temple grounds and admire the exterior of the Phoenix Hall. However, this entrance ticket does not give you access to the interior of the Phoenix Hall, where the 3-meter high Amida Buddha statue is seated. To visit the interior of the Phoenix Hall, you will have to join the guided tour.

The Phoenix Hall tour is only offered in Japanese, but English, Chinese, and Korean brochures are available in case you need them. Photography is not allowed in the Phoenix Hall. Note that each time slot has a maximum of 20 people, so you might want to consider booking your tour before exploring the rest of the temple grounds.

Tickets for the Byodo-in Temple are currently priced at 600 JPY, but with effect from 1 April 2024, prices will be increased to 700 JPY. Entrance to the Phoenix Hall is 300 JPY.

Ujigami-jinja Shrine

The Ujigami-jinja shrine is the second UNESCO World Heritage Site in Uji. While the shrine is rather small and not as impressive, it is a one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan, and is a good stop for those who are interested in Japanese history and Shinto.

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Source: 663highland

The main hall at the rear of the Ujigami-jinja shrine dates back a thousand years and is the oldest Shinto building of its kind in Japan. Similarly, the worship hall is also the oldest Shinto worship hall in Japan.

As you make your way to the Ujigami-jinja shrine, you might see motifs of rabbits along the way. Legend has it that the rabbit is a guardian spirit of the shrine, and if you pray to it, it will show you the right way to live your lives.

The Tale of Genji Museum

Uji is very closely associated with The Tale of Genji, as the last part of the novel is set in Uji. All throughout the town, you will be able to see statues related to the classic novel, though you might not necessarily identify with it if you are not familiar with the novel.

Source: Kyoto Tourism

But, even if you are not familiar with this classic piece of literature, a visit to The Tale of Genji Museum is a rather good eye-opener. Get insights to the world of Heian court literature and see models and dioramas of scenes from the novel. The museum also has a short film that retells the Uji chapters.

Do I need a tour to visit Uji?

You don't actually need one. It is easy to navigate and get around the town of Uji by yourself. Most of the major attractions also offer brochures that you can refer to if you were interested to find out more about the place.

That said, if you wanted to have a more immersive matcha experience and have a go at matcha making, or if you wanted to learn more about the history and culture of the town, then joining a tour could be beneficial.

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Source: Viator

Here are some tours that you might be interested in:

  1. Kyoto Matcha Green Tea Tour (GetYourGuide), from USD162 per person: Includes matcha tasting, matcha making, and a visit to the outer grounds of Byodoin Temple. Minimum 2 pax.
  2. Matcha Green Tea Tour in Uji, Kyoto (Klook), from USD193 per person: Includes matcha tasting, matcha making, and a visit to the outer grounds of Byodoin Temple. Minimum 2 pax. Minimum 2 pax.
  3. Kyoto Matcha Green Tea Tour (Viator), from USD236 per person: Includes matcha tasting and tea experience, and a visit to the outer grounds of Byodin Temple. Minimum 2 pax.
  4. Uplifting Uji: Kyoto's Tea, Shrines, and Natural Spirituality (Viator), from USD235 per person: Includes visit to Ujigami Shrine and Byodo-in temple. Includes a tea house experience. Prices become USD125 per person for groups of at least 2 pax.