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Day Trip To Uji: The Heart Of Japanese Green Tea

Day Trip To Uji | The Story

Sandwiched between Japan’s two ancient capitals, Kyoto and Nara, Uji has a fittingly rich history. The region served as an important political and cultural backdrop for princes, nobles, samurai, and artists since as early as the 4th century.

Around 1191, a Japanese Zen priest traveled to China and returned with tea seeds. Although the origins of tea in Japan are debatable, many historians agree that this is the earliest record of tea seeds in Japan. Shortly after, tea plantations began in Uji. Uji tea was widely known as the best in Japan for the following centuries.

Flowers floating in a chozuya

At the entrance to Kōshō-ji Temple in Uji, Japan


Today, Uji is still highly regarded for its tea production. Although most of the tea is farmed in the surrounding countryside, the city of Uji has many historical attractions and can be visited as an easy day trip from Kyoto.

In Uji, you’ll find ancient and secluded temples, some of the finest quality tea in Japan, and modernized tea-infused foods and products. Uji is one of the most easily accessible yet often overlooked day trips from Kyoto.

Day Trip To Uji | The Details

Arrive

Statue of Murasaki Shikibu in Uji, Japan

Statue of Murasaki Shikibu


The easiest way to reach Uji is by train. From Kyoto Station, take the Nara Line south to Uji Station.

The walk from Uji Station to the main downtown area (near Uji River) takes 5-10 minutes. If you’d like to traverse to the other side of the river and visit Kōshō-ji Temple or Amagase Forest Park, the walk is another 15-20 minutes.

Eat

Matcha Roastery (IG: @matcharoastery)


For a matcha-packed breakfast or pick-me-up, visit Matcha Roastery. This peaceful cafe tucked in the back of a multi-business complex offers a gorgeous view onto a small Japanese garden.

The cafe serves modern matcha products like matcha lattes, muffins, cakes, and more. You can select the strength of the matcha flavor you’d like in your beverages.

Explore

Byodo-in Temple

Byodo-in reflected over water in Uji, Japan

Hoodo (Phoenix Hall)


Byodo-in Temple is Uji’s most visited landmark. The building was built in 998 as a countryside villa for a prominent politician and was later converted to a temple.

For an extra few hundred yen, you can enter Hoodo (Phoenix Hall), the hall now featured on the back of the ten yen coin. Note that guided tours of the hall are in Japanese.

This temple is a popular school trip destination for Japanese children. While you won’t see too many foreign tourists exploring the area, during weekdays you may encounter flocks of school kids.

Kōshō-ji Temple

The interior of Kōshō-ji Temple in Uji, Japan

Kōshō-ji Temple’s inner courtyard


Step into the quiet, spiritual complex of Kōshō-ji Temple. As you enter, remove your shoes and slide on a pair of slippers as you walk along the hallway. The hallway wraps around the central courtyard and connects the temple’s various buildings together.

The temple was originally built in 1233 in Kyoto, then moved to its current location in Uji in 1648. Kōshō-ji Temple is still a working Buddhist temple, so you’ll occasionally see monks navigating through the complex.

Kōshō-ji Temple seen through the paneled walls of a hallway

Peering through the paneled hallways walls to the entrance of Kōshō-ji Temple


While the temple’s garden and surrounding landscape is beautiful year round, the most striking time of year to visit is in the autumn. The walkway leading to the temple is flanked by maple trees that turn brilliant hues of orange in the fall.

Admission to the temple costs ¥500 (cash only).

Amagase Forest Park

The view from Amagase Forest Park in Uji, Japan at the Makiozan Observation Deck

The view of Uji from Makiozan Observation Deck


The trail in Amagase Forest Park

The trail in Amagase Forest Park leading up to Makiozan Observation Deck


Just north of Uji River lies Amagase Forest Park, a serene section of woods that you can explore for an easy hike.

Hike about 15-20 minutes up a stone and dirt trail to reach Makiozan Observation Deck. The trail is well-groomed and mild enough to navigate in normal attire. From the observation deck, you’ll see expansive views of Uji.

Since the park’s entrance is about a 20-30 minute walk from Uji’s main downtown area, the park is quiet and largely free of visitors.

Green Tea

Close-up of green tea leaves

Most of the region’s tea is produced in Wazuka.


The Uji region is famous for the quality of its tea leaves, particularly for Matcha, Sencha, and Gyokuro. While you won’t find many tea fields actually in the city of Uji, you’ll find dozens of shops in Uji selling tea-related products, including matcha-infused soba, ice cream, and beauty products.

Japan’s oldest tea shop, Tsuen Tea, sits on the eastern end of Uji Bridge. The shop has run continuously since 1160 by the Tsuen family.

Byodo-in Omotesando (Uji’s main shopping street) is lined with many small cafes and boutiques that sell tea products.

Interested in seeing vast tea fields? Head south to the neighboring area of Wazuka.

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