I decided to dedicate an individual post to Uji since I really like this area. One day after work, all my coworkers were eager to explore a new place. I got inspired and decided I should be proactive and explore somewhere new in Kyoto as well. I flipped open the Kyoto paper map and had my mind set on Uji. Little did I know that the town was known for their green tea. I was initially interested in going because it is the home of the UNESCO Heritage Site, the Byodoin Temple.
Leaving in the early evening didn’t really give me much time to explore Uji since most sites and shops close around 5 to 6 PM. It was not until I walked down the roads leading to the Byodoin Temple did I realize this is the matcha town of Japan. I instantly became more excited, but I did not have much time to explore the tea shops during my first visit. There was a shop right by the temple in which I’ve tried their matcha ice cream. It was the best I ever had. The texture was very unique. I probably would not use “creamy” to describe the texture, but instead, it was almost sticky.
I had arrived too late to go on the special tour to see the inside of the temple so I only explored the exterior. When I entered the temple’s surrounding, the hanging wisteria immediately caught my attention. The beautiful purple petals hung from the rack captivating both humans and bees. The weather was excellent for photos. The temple itself is surrounded by a calm body of water giving it a beautiful reflection of the temple’s architecture. An added bonus was the museum visit that was also included in the entrance price. The museum had a very modern Japanese touch to it. The museum was larger than I had expected and was very informative. The walk all around the temple was simply gorgeous. Since I arrived close to closing time, there was not a lot of people there to disrupt the peaceful atmosphere.
Beyond the temple was a small river with several bridges connecting the two sides. This part of Uji reminded me of the area by Kamo River in Kyoto. Crossing over to the other side is other temples, shrines, and the Museum of Genji. Unfortunately, everything was closed by the time I got there. The walk along the river was nice nonetheless. I sat by one of the steps to the river and read a book.
Another time when I visited, I discovered a spot where I can see the sunset. Up the Daikichiyama Park was a lookout spot to enjoy the view of Uji. There were paths leading beyond the summit, but there were no signs which explained where each path led to so I went back to the summit to wait for the sun to set. It was not the best view during this time of year since the sun was tucked away to the far right which was easily covered the trees. I still remember the sunset that day where the sky reflected an array of pastel colors from soft pink to purple.
On another visit, I dedicated my time to visiting the tea shops and trying to determine which one to buy matcha from. Not knowing much about matcha, I settled with a popular choice – Nakamura Tokichi. Each shop sold different grades of matcha. The less bitter and more refined matcha powder, the more expensive it costs. I bought something in between. I got to Nakamura just before the café opened so I put my name down to dine there. Many of these shops also serve food with matcha infused items such as matcha soba, matcha tea, and matcha desserts. I opted for the dessert and tea. I only had a short wait before getting served which was fantastic since the wait could be up to an hour or more sometimes. The dessert was nice and light, but nothing about the taste really stood out for me to comment more other than to say that they looked visually appealing.
In total, I visited Uji three times during my stay in Kyoto. This was mainly due to the fact that the first two times when I visited many places were closing since I visited later in the evening after work. I would recommend Uji to anyone who likes matcha and has extra days when visiting Kyoto or Osaka. It’s a small town, but there is enough to see and do for a short half day trip.