Uji travel guide
Uji lies just 20 minutes from Kyoto – the perfect place to spend a couple of hours. The city is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site, Byodoin Temple and is widely considered paradise for any self-respecting matcha enthusiast.
Yes, you heard that right. Matcha lovers, this one’s for you!
Uji can be easily reached via the JR train along the JR Nara Line. You can take either the rapid or local train from Kyoto station. The one way trip will take 20 minutes by rapid train and 30 minutes by local train.
Besides the JR Uji Station, the Uji area is also serviced by the Keihan Uji Station. You can also take the Keihan Electric Railway to get to Uji. Both the JR and Keihan Uji stations are a 10 minutes walk from Uji River.
FIVE MATCHA DESSERT STORES THAT WILL HIT YOUR SWEET SPOT
Ito-Kyuemon is one of the more famous matcha shops around. It carries an extensive variety of matcha tea and sweets to sake and even matcha curry for the adventurous! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, my top picks are the Langue de Chat ‘Hagoromo (pictured below) which are matcha biscuits filled with matcha cream and the Jyujyo set with two servings of ten different tea samples.
Address: 19-3 Todouaramaki Uji City Kyoto Prefecture 611-0013 (>>Map)
Hours of Operation：10:00AM – 5:00Pm
2. Nakamura Tokichi (Byodoin store)
Nakamura Tokichi serves excellent tea and an array of tea-flavoured desserts, and overlooks the iconic Uji river. Make a reservation at the Byodoin store for the view (and food of course) to avoid disappointment, as the store is popular with both locals and tourists. You can also check out the main store on Uji Hoten for your green tea fix!
Get the matcha and Tea Jelly(¥740). You can choose from three different grades of matcha while you savour glossy matcha jelly cubes, matcha ice-cream, sweet red bean and shiratama served in a cool bamboo container.
Address: 5-1 Ujirenge, Uji City, Kyoto
Opening Hours: 10:30-17:00 (Weekdays) 10:30-17:30 (Weekends)
3. Mitsuboshien Kanbayashisannyu Honten
Mitsuboshein Kanbayashisannyu has served 16 generations of the shogun family since it was established 500 years ago. The shop is spilt into two different spaces with the shopfront selling tea-related items and a small seating area is tucked at the corner for desserts. The other half of the shop is reserved for tea ceremonies.
Despite a limited menu, the green tea desserts will not disappoint. I ordered the Warabimochi Matcha Set (of course) with Saijo Hatsumukashi, a higher grade matcha (¥1100 excluding tax). The mochi were like tender and delectable clouds infused with matcha.
Address: 27-2 Ujirenge,Uji-city,Kyoto
Opening Hours: 9:00-18:00
4. Chaganju Cafe
Okinawan for “always feeling great”, Chaganju endeavours to make all visitors feel great with free samples and dishes infused with organic matcha. Crepes are its speciality. Take your pick from Matcha, Bancha (coarse tea), or Hojicha (roasted green tea) batter and add your preferred fillings. The latter ranges from your standard banana and chocolate to more exotic options like sweet potato and acerola (a type of berry).
Address: 66-1 Uji Ichiban, Uji, Kyoto
Opening Hours: 10:00 am to 7:00 pm (Closed on Wednesdays)
5. Masuda Chaho
Head here for the best matcha ice-cream (¥390) ever! The soft serve strikes a balance between creamy sweetness and bittersweet matcha. You’ll find Masuda Chaho at the end of the street just before Byodoin Temple. The shop also sells a variety of other green tea products.
Address: 21-3 Uji Renge, Uji, Kyoto
Opening Hours: 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
FIVE ATTRACTIONS TO SEE IN UJI
Salivating yet? Uji’s not just all about matcha though, it’s also widely regarded as one of the more well-preserved historic cities in Japan. Here are five attractions to check out if you’re not into matcha and have been dragged there by your friends:
1. Uji-Bashi Bridge
One of the oldest bridges in Japan, the Uji-bashi Bridge has been celebrated in both Japanese art and literature, fought over in war and rebuilt numerous times. Look out for wooden railings with Giboshi (onion-shaped ornamental knobs) on top. This particular design was chosen to create harmony with Uji’s natural surroundings and the area’s historic heritage.
The bridge overlooks a tranquil landscape of green hills and quaint red wooden bridges so walk across Uji-bashi to its mid-way point to savour a moment of calm.
2. Murasaki Shikibu statue
Source: Richard Murdey
Murasaki Shikibu (c. 973 or 978 – c. 1014 or 1031) was a Japanese novelist, poet and lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court during the Heian period. She is often credited with writing the world’s first novel, The Tale of Genji. Her novel details the life and loves of Prince Genji during the height of the Heian period and the last ten chapters of the book takes place in Uji. As a result, many sites around town are associated with the story. There is also a museum dedicated to her work, aptly named Tale of Genji Museum.
3. Byodoin Omotesando Street
Byodoin Omotesando Street lies just around the corner of the Uji-Bashi bridge . The quaint walkway is packed with tea and dessert shops, making it the best place to purchase tea-related items and omiyage. It is worthwhile to note that Uji tea has a reputation of superior quality, should you be new or indifferent to tea.
4. Byodoin Temple
Byodoin Temple is one of two World Heritage locations in Uji. Its most famous feature is a hall nicknamed Hoodo (“Phoenix Hall”) because of its shape and the two phoenix statues on its roof. The hall is now featured on the back of the Japanese ten yen coin!
Even though Byodoin’s buildings were repeatedly destroyed in natural disasters over the centuries, Phoenix Hall remained untouched. Hence, it is one of the few original wooden structures to survive from the Heian Period. You can enter the Phoenix Hall on short guided tours (in Japanese) that start every 20 minutes and cost an additional ¥300 on top of the ¥600 entrance fee.
5. To-no-shima island
Cross the Kisen-bashi Bridge to To-no-shima, a tiny island in the middle of Uji river. You’ll see a a 13-tiered stone pagoda to the east of the bridge. It was first built in 1286 as part of prayer of compassion for animals by a monk.
At the Asagiri-bashi bridge ahead, you’ll find another memorial statue to the “Uji Chapters” of The Tale of Genji. The statue depicts the lovers Ukifune and Prince Niou-no-Miya in a boat on the Uji-gawa River.