For a small town, Uji offers visitors much to see and do less than an hour from Kyoto.
When you mention Uji to Japanese people, their first response is “Green tea!” There’s a good reason for this: Uji produces among the highest quality green tea in Japan and has done so for over 600 years. Uji’s tea was embraced by Sen-no-Rikyu who revolutionized the tea ceremony in the late 16th century, and it continues to be a favorite among tea lovers today.
As a result, Uji is a perfect spot to experience tea ceremony and offers up several traditional old tea houses ready to welcome visitors. The most famous is Taiho-an, situated along the gentle Uji River and designated as a World Heritage site.
Nearby, visitors can tour Asahiyaki Hall, home to a 400-year-old pottery factory still making everything by hand including the beautiful “chawan” or tea bowls used in local tea ceremonies.
Down the street, literature lovers may enjoy visiting the Genji Museum, dedicated to the ‘Tale of Genji,’ considered by many to be the world’s first novel.
Finally, stop by Byodoin, a 10th century temple originally built as a private villa for a local noble believed to have been the model for the character of Genji. It was converted into a temple in 1052 and given its present name meaning “Pure Land.” It’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is also featured on the ¥10 coin.
And if you’re lucky enough to visit Uji in the summer, don’t miss the “ukai” or cormorant fishing up and down the river. Practiced in just a few spots around Japan, this centuries old technique remains as effective today as ever.
All in all, Uji is well worth a visit!
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