Kyoto’s Matcha Green Tea
Kyoto is famous for many things but without a doubt, at least to this author, the most delicious of those things is Matcha (抹茶). Matcha is a strong, bitter type of green tea that is traditionally used in the Japanese tea ceremony. It is made from immature green tea leaves, giving it a higher caffeine content and stronger taste. Matcha is traditionally prepared by whisking it in a small bowl from a powder. In modern Japan, you can find Matcha in all things, from Kit Kat bars to ice cream to meat flavouring.
Uji City: Home of Matcha, Byodoin Temple, and So Much More
The town of Uji in Kyoto is said to be the home of Matcha, and is the origin of the most top shelf varieties. A trip to Uji will give you many chances to experience and taste Matcha in a variety of meals. But don’t think Uji only has Matcha on offer. Uji is also the home to the famous Byodoin temple, which can be found on the 10 yen coin. Uji also hosts a variety of activities and museums.
How to Get to Uji
To reach Uji from Kyoto take the JR Nara line for Nara, and get off at Uji station. The trip costs 240 yen.
To reach Uji from Osaka either go via Kyoto, or take the Keihan line to Keihan Uji. The Keihan line is a little slower, but cheaper than going via Kyoto, at only 410 yen.
Once getting off at the train station, head towards the Uji River (Ujigawa), and cross the bridge to the other side.
“Tale of Genji”: Visit the Museum Celebrating this Famous Piece of Literature
Uji houses the “Tale of Genji” museum, which was written by Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century. It is a very important book in Japanese literature culture, and well worth a visit if you enjoy literature.
After the statue of Murasaki Shikibu, walk into the main street, which is called Omotesando. Be careful of cars here; it may look like a walking street, but cars do come down it too. Here you will find many souvenir shops, tea shops and restaurants.
Visit the Traditional Byodoin Temple
At the end of the street, you will come upon the famous Byodoin Temple. It costs 600 yen to enter the grounds and a further 300 yen to get inside the “Phoenix hall” inside the building, where photos are not allowed to be taken. It is a little expensive, but worth the visit. The guide will give a history about the insides but it is only given in Japanese.
Inside the grounds you can view the temple from the outside, and various other attractive buildings. A museum with very interesting statues, carvings and paintings is also there. After enjoying the grounds and the museum, you can exit through the gift shop.
Take Your Pick: Matcha Flavored Food and Drinks
Heading back to the street we passed through earlier, you can enjoy a Matcha-infused drink, lunch like Matcha soba or some sweets. The photo above is Matcha shaved ice. I highly recommend trying the traditional drink from a traditional looking café, as it really adds to the atmosphere. If you want to go all out, you can even partake in a tea ceremony at a teahouse called Taihoan, and drink it there. The location is included on the map at the end of this article. However, the tea ceremony requires you to remove your shoes and sit on your knees (or if you can’t do it, cross-legged), so please be aware if this is tricky for you. It’s a nice memorable experience, and the tea master will tell you various things about tea and her school, but they usually don’t know much English.
Watch the Traditional Ukai Fishing Technique
Another interesting activity in Uji is to experience a display of the traditional fishing technique known as cormorant fishing (ukai) used in the area. The technique involves using restrained birds to catch fish, and then having them throw it back up into a net! Head over to the boarding area marked on the map well ahead of time, so you can buy a ticket earlier. The boat will head out at the departure time, so please be on time! From the boat you can get an up-close view of the fishing, and also see the river bank light up at night, which is quite beautiful.
There are many things you can see and enjoy in Kyoto’s Uji, so please check out the places listed below and have fun in the home town of Matcha!
Entry: 600 yen (+300 yen for Phoenix hall)
Cormorant Fishing Boat Ride
Season: Mid-June to late September
Hours: Boarding starts at 18:30
Price: 2000 yen
Tale of Genji Museum
Holidays: Mondays (Tuesdays if Monday is a holiday)
Price: 500 yen
Taihoan Tea House
Holidays: December 21 to January 9
Price: 500 yen