Translated by Hilary Keyes
Uji Complete Guide - Travel To The Phoenix Hall In Kyoto's Town Of Tea
Written by Denis Ishino
Uji, located south of Kyoto City, is famous for the Phoenix Hall of Byodoin Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Uji is also well-known for its production of green tea. Read more to learn how to get to Uji, things to do, and where to drink delicious tea in this charming town just south of Kyoto.
Uji - Kyoto's Town of Tea, Home to the Phoenix Hall
Uji, located south of Kyoto in Kyoto Prefecture, is home to Byodoin Temple and its famous Phoenix Hall, a World Heritage site. The city boasts beautiful museums, historic buildings, as well as delicious matcha and green tea. Conveniently accessible from Kyoto via train or taxi, this nature-filled area is a must-visit day trip when traveling in Kyoto.
This article covers details on how to get to Uji, points of interest, where to shop for and enjoy tea in Uji, and other travel tips.
Table of Contents:
1. How to Reach Uji from Kyoto Station
2. Uji Tourist Information Center
3. Recommended Spots And Activities in Uji
4. Trip Itinerary for Uji
5. Souvenir Shopping in Uji
6. Where to Enjoy Uji Tea and Matcha
How to Reach Uji from Kyoto Station
JR Uji Station
Uji is located just to the south of Kyoto City. Below are suggested routes to get to Uji from Kyoto.
Traveling from Kyoto Station to Uji Station By Train
From Kyoto Station, you will want to take the JR Nara line. Transfer-free, a one-way trip to Uji takes roughly 30 minutes (if you take the Miyakoji Rapid train it takes only 17 minutes), and costs 240 yen.
Traveling from Kyoto to Uji by Taxi
As Uji is relatively close to Kyoto, it's also possible to take a taxi from Kyoto Station to Uji as well. On average, it will cost about 4,500 to 5,000 yen to take a cab to Uji. If you are traveling with family, group, or have a lot of luggage, this is a comfortable method to take. A conservative estimate of the travel time is about 30 minutes, but it depends on traffic conditions.
Regarding Traveling from Kyoto to Uji by Bus
Unfortunately, there are no buses traveling from Kyoto city to Uji. If you want to travel via public transportation, then the above-mentioned train route is your only option.
Uji Tourist Information Center
There are two convenient locations offering travel advice for Uji: the Uji City Tourism Association (Sightseeing Center) and the JR Uji Station Building Yumeria Uji Tourist Information Center.
Places to Visit and Activities in Uji
1. Byodoin Temple and the Phoenix Hall
Byodoin Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage-designated temple, thought to be first established in 1052. The gorgeous vermillion and white Phoenix Hall is the temple's main hall, which many may recognize as being the motif of the Japanese 10-yen coin.
Byodoin Temple is a must-see when traveling to Uji and is filled with things to explore. There is a the Hoshokan Museum, which contains numerous national treasures, including sculptures and ancient artifacts. The garden on the temple grounds is also stunning, and there is also a teahouse where you can enjoy high-grade matcha.
2. Ujigami Shrine
Ujigami Shrine is another UNESCO recognized site. It is located close to Byodoin Temple, making it convenient to go to after you visit. The shrine is thought to have around one thousand of years of history, and is surrounded by greenery, adding to a mystical, otherworldly atmosphere.
After viewing Byodoin Temple, a walk around the serene shrine grounds is sure to be even more peaceful.
3. Manpukuji Temple
Photo courtesy of pixta
Manpukuji Temple is associated with a type of Buddhism practiced in China, and is the head temple of the Obaku school of Zen Buddhism. The atmosphere of this temple is distinct from others due to its Chinese influence.
Take your time to explore the temple gardens, which contain a pond and beautiful pathways and gardens. Zen meditation and sutra copying classes are offered here, too.
4. Uji Shrine
Uji Shrine, another prominent shrine in Uji, is known for its enshrining of a deity of studies. This results in many students and people visiting, wishing for academic success and passing exams. Who knows, you might gain some good fortune by visiting here too.
5. Mimurotoji Temple
Mimurotoji Temple is a Buddhist temple known for its azaleas, which bloom in June and July, earning it the nickname "Azalea Temple." Its current temple buildings were mostly constructed during the Edo period (1603 -1868) and are simply gorgeous.
When wandering around the temple grounds, you can enjoy a landscaped garden and viewing a three-story pagoda. Fall is another popular time to visit, when the golden and red leaves contrast beautifully with the temple structures.
6. The Tale of Genji Museum
Thought to be the first full-length novel in the world, "The Tale of Genji" is perhaps the best-known work of Japanese literature in the world. Written by Murasaki Shikibu, the tales describe the main character's love affairs during Japan's Heian era (794 - 1185), this tale is still read and loved by people today. At Tale of Genji Museum in Uji, visitors can learn all about this literary and historical masterpiece.
Plan to spend a couple of hours looking at the art, videos, and related literature to enter the world of Genji and life in ancient Japan.
7. Uji Bridge
The Uji Bridge spans the Uji River, and is located a 5 minute walk from JR Uji Station. If you want to head from Uji Station to Ujigami Shrine, Uji Shrine, or the The Tale of Genji Museum, then you will have to cross this bridge.tt
The river looks very beautiful here, making this the ideal location for taking pictures.
Recommended Uji Trip Itinerary
As Uji is so close to Kyoto, those planning on traveling to Kyoto with extra time should include a day in Uji in their travel plans. The major sites in Uji are located nearby one another, making it easy to access each one of the spots.
Morning: Leave from Kyoto Station
Mid-morning: Travel to Byodoin Temple and stroll through the grounds
Lunch: Enjoy local cuisine for lunch
Afternoon: See Ujigami Shrine, Manpukuji Shrine, and The Tale of Genji Museum
Evening: Stop at a tea shop for a break to enjoy some delicious Uji tea before heading back to Kyoto
Souvenir Shopping in Uji
The most popular souvenir and gift in Uji is Uji green tea, or Uji-cha, and matcha. There are many shops offering delicious green tea, matcha, and tea-related products, so you may find it difficult to choose where to visit. Visitors will also find numerous tea-related sweets and snacks that make great souvenirs to bring home, such as Uji matcha dango (rice dumplings) and other traditional Japanese sweets.
And if you are looking for non-food gifts or keepsakes, stores also sell cute key chains, plush dolls, and small trinkets that are easy to transport. You can also find unique tea-related mascot character goods and green tea-themed items.
Where to Enjoy Uji Tea and Matcha
Uji tea is, along with Shizuoka and Sayama teas, one of the three most highly-regarded green teas in Japan. Teas made from leaves harvested in Uji or surrounding prefectures of Nara, Shiga, and Mie are considered Uji tea. The leaves are made into tea in Kyoto itself. Visitors should be sure to try at least one cup of this premium green tea, which has a full-bodied aroma and flavor. It makes a thoughtful souvenir, too.
Next is a list of recommended tea shops and cafes in Uji. Not only do these shops sell tea, but they also have seasonal treats like matcha shaved ice and soft serve ice cream, and sell sweets made with green tea too. Some shops will have an eat-in space where you can enjoy teatime.
Itokyoemon Uji is a small chain of tea shops specializing in matcha, tea, and sweets in Kyoto. In addition to selling items souvenirs and gifts, there is also a cafe, ideal for a break in between sightseeing or before heading back to Kyoto. There a few locations, but the one in front of JR Uji Station is particularly convenient to get to.
Nakamura Tokichi Main Shop is another highly-reputed tea shop chain in Kyoto. The shops offer a tea ceremony experience you can take part in.
If you are looking to enjoy an adult beverage, several restaurants in the area even sell matcha-flavored beer, which even has a deep green color. Try Akamon Chaya, located close to Byodoin Temple, for a refreshing beer fitting of a tea capital of Japan.
Take a Trip to Uji
Uji is an ideal day trip from Kyoto and even other areas in Kansai, like Osaka, Kobe, and Nara. With its many World Heritage-designated sites and historic facilities, gardens, and world-famous tea, this is a must-visit destination in western Japan.
We hope this article is useful when planning your trip to Uji.