Besides being home to the Byodoin temple, Uji city is also the perfect spot to enjoy a relaxing day away from the busy tourist spots in the Kansai area with its quaint atmosphere, friendly locals, and bountiful nature. One of the great thing about Uji is that it is located approximately 30 minutes outside of Kyoto, and is easily accessible by one train, the Nara Line.
When I was there in September of 2014, it became one of my favorite spots to visit, despite it not being a famous place to travel to for foreign tourists. Due to this, the city was free to wander without the hustle and bustle of tourist crowds. In addition, I would consider Uji to be more of a suburban city, which gave a great contrast to the busy urban cities, and it also provided me with a real Japanese experience.
Although I have said that the city is in the suburbs and has few foreign tourists, Uji is actual a famous place to visit for Japanese tourists. Therefore, it has a lot to offer in regards of things to see and do.
Here are some focal points in Uji:
The main attraction of Uji city. Surprisingly unknown to a lot of foreigners, Uji is home to this famous temple, which is the temple that you can find plastered on all the 10 yen coins in Japan.
Uji city: a visit to the Byodoin temple on the 10 yen coin.
Byodoin is a pretty large temple, with various activities to see and do. The main attractions are the building itself, as well as the museum they have set up inside with historic items. Even if you do not know much about the building, the landscape of the temple is pretty impressive and worth the trip.
Agata shrine does not have all that much to offer, but it does have a certain charm and is withing walking distance from Byodoin Temple. Rather than going to a shrine that is crowded with tourists, Agata shrine allows you to fully experience a Japanese shrine without the exhaustion of having to deal with crowds, therefore allowing you to take in the peaceful and spiritual atmosphere of the shrine. If you are looking for a real Japanese experience, then this shrine has much to offer.
However, the main point of interest at this shrine is not the atmosphere. Rather, I would claim that it is the fountain that is used for spiritual cleansing that Japanese use before giving offerings. Most places for the spiritual cleaning at shrines are simple, but the fountain here is shaped like a dragon, with the water pouring from its mouth. Although it is not the only shrine to use a cool design for the spring, it is rather uncommon, making this shrine a little more unique than most.
In addition to the various sightseeing spots, Uji city is also famous for its matcha. Matcha is what they use to make traditional green tea, and they therefore offer real Japanese green tea at the many cafes that line the streets. They also offer the unique Japanese flavor in a variety of forms, such as dango (Japanese sweet dumpling) and Ujikintoki (a shaved ice dessert that Uji is famous for).
If just getting a normal tea or matcha flavored sweet is not enough, Uji also has traditional tea houses where you can go and have tea served the traditional way. Taihoan Teahouse is the one I visited and from the moment you step through the gate, you step into a traditional Japanese house setting. It is a traditional experience that you would not want to miss.
You can find more information on Taihoan Teahouse here: Uji Tourist Information
The Tale of Genji
‘The Tale of Genji’ is a famous historical story written in Japan. For those of you who have read it or know of it, then Uji offers more interest. Not only do the last 10 chapters of ‘The Tale of Genji’ take place in Uji, it is said that the book itself was written in Uji city during the Heian period.
The Tale of Genji Statue in Uji.
As a result of this, near one of the bridges to cross the river, a monument to commemorate the ‘The Tale of Genji’ was constructed. Not far from the statue, a ‘The Tale of Genji’ museum is open to the public. If you are interested in going, make sure you check their schedule. I went to Uji with the museum being one of my focal points, and it ended up being closed in the middle of the week.
Other Points of Interest
One of Uji’s highlights was the atmosphere of the city that came from being surrounded by nature. A large river runs through the city, and in addition to this there are a lot of trees and a small mountain that has a hiking trail up to the top for an observation spot. If you are into nature, then Uji certainly does not disappoint.
In addition to the above mentioned temple and shrine, Uji city also has a few other shrines and temples to visit that are smaller and less well-known. In particular, I made the confusing and long hike to a temple called Mimurotoji temple, which was worth the trouble to get to. Within the temple gate, there is a lovely garden that you can walk around in addition to the temple area. The temple area itself is decorated with various statues and fountains, offering a lot of attractive points.
Mimurotoji temple garden
Although Uji is not a spot that is well-known to many foreign tourists, it is a fascinating and peaceful place. With its various temples and shrines, nature, historic significance, and close distance to Kyoto, be sure to add this spectacular location to your bucket list.
|Address||116 Ujirenge, Uji 611-0021, Kyoto Prefecture|
|Access||[map]116 Ujirenge, Uji 611-0021, Kyoto Prefecture[/map]|
|Opening Hours||Garden opens from 08:30 to 17:30. Museum opens from 09:00 to 17:00|
|Price Range||Adults: 600 yen|