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Uji day trip from Kyoto: visit the town known for matcha green tea and UNESCO World Heritage temples

Last Updated on September 27, 2020 by queenie mak

If you are visiting Kyoto and would like to see the rural side of Japan, then you must visit Uji in Kyoto Prefecture. Uji is a small town known for the production of Uji-cha (Uji green tea) and matcha (powdered green tea). Moreover, there are UNESCO World Heritage temples where you can see the best of Japanese Buddhist architecture. And if you are familiar with the Japanese world of literature, you will know the Tale of Genji, which is a romantic novel set in Uji.

I really enjoyed my Uji day trip because the town is not over-run by tourists. And most of all, I like the slow pace in Uji compared to Kyoto. And I have to admit: I visited Uji because I love green tea matcha desserts! Ha!

If you also want to see the small town of Uji, follow my Uji Japan guide and learn how you can take a Uji day trip from Kyoto and comfortably see all the best attractions in one day.

Related Post – Japan one month itinerary: from Tokyo to Hiroshima

What you need to know before planning your Uji itinerary

Before you visit Uji, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Japan. I included a lot of information including how to get around Japan and other travel tips.

Here are additional travel tips that you may find useful for your Uji day trip:

  • ICOCA is the prepaid IC card for Kansai Region. It is a rechargeable smartcard where you can take public transportation including bus, train and etc. Use the IC card when you take the train from Kyoto to Uji in Kyoto Prefecture.
  • Walking is the best way to see Uji
  • You can see all the Uji attractions in 1 day

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Post box at Uji Station
Post box at Uji Station

How to get from Kyoto to Uji

Taking a Uji day trip from Kyoto is super easy. The small town is only 18km south of Kyoto and the most efficient transportation method is the train.

If you want to maximise your day trip to Uji, aim to be in Uji by 9:30 am.

From Kyoto to Uji

Uji-gawa River in Uji, Japan
Uji-gawa River in Uji, Japan

Where to stay in Uji, Japan

While staying overnight is not necessary to explore Uji, staying short-term or long-term will allow you to see the rural side of southern Kyoto Prefecture.

Below are a few accommodation suggestions if you do decide to stay in Uji. There are limited options, but these look quite nice and is close to Uji Station and the centre of Uji.

  • Uji Cha-gan-ju-tei House ($) – located just south of Uji Station, you can get a bed in a dorm room or a Japanese style room in this clean and basic hostel
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
  • Hanayashiki Ukifune-en Ryokan ($$$) – go all out and stay at this luxurious hotel by the Uji River. Sleep in a traditional Japanese room, soak in the hot tub and enjoy your time on the beautiful terrace
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
Certain Uji matcha products can only be found in Uji Japan. Such as this Uji matcha curry
Certain Uji matcha products can only be found in Uji Japan. Such as this Uji matcha curry

Where to eat in Uji

Uji is known for Uji matcha green tea! Matcha lovers rejoice! You can find Uji green tea ice-cream, green tea mochi, green tea pudding, green tea soba noodles, green tea cookies, etc. And they even have green tea curry! Whatever you do, make sure to visit one of the restaurants in Uji and try one (or few) of the local specialities.

  • Nakamura Tokichi Byodo-in ($$) – a favourite teashop where they have a wide variety of Uji matcha green tea desserts. They also have savoury treats like green tea soba noodles if you don’t have a sweet tooth. It is an excellent lunch spot!
  • Tsuen Tea Shop ($) – the oldest teashop in Japan is right by Uji-bashi Bridge. Grab a Uji green tea and sit on one of the benches outside the shop. It is a good spot for a bit of afternoon tea.

Things to do in Uji, Japan

There are many things to do in Uji and you can comfortably do everything in one day. Between temples, shrines, a hike up to the observation deck to see the town from above, and sampling local Uji green tea matcha desserts, you will thoroughly enjoy your day trip to Uji.

All the top activities in Uji are pinned in the interactive map. You can find more information about each attraction by clicking on the individual pin.

Visiting Byōdō-in is a must if you are touring Uji for the day
Visiting Byōdō-in is a must if you are touring Uji for the day

1. Byōdō-in

As one of the UNESCO World Heritage site in Uji, the 10th-century Buddhist temple is a beautiful example of Japanese Buddhist architecture. And you can also find the image of the temple on the ¥10 coin.

For ¥600 entrance fee, you can see all the highlights by following the guided path, including Saisyo-in Temple and other Buddhist temples, the gardens of Byōdō-in and Byōdō-in Museum Hoshokan.

For additional ¥300, you can walk through the Phoenix Hall, a stunning symmetrical building. Your fee includes a guided tour (in Japanese), and you can see the Amidanyarai Buddha statue and elegant interior of the Phoenix Hall.

Entrance to Byōdō-in Museum Hoshokan
Entrance to Byōdō-in Museum Hoshokan

2. Byōdō-in Museum Hoshokan

The Byōdō-in Museum Hoshokan is included in the entrance fee when you enter Byōdō-in. You can see original artifacts of anything relating to Byōdō-in in a modern contemporary building that compliment the traditional surrounding.

3. To-no-shima Island

Next, visit To-no-shima Island, one of the small inlets between the main land in the Uji-gawa River. There is a 13-tiered stone pagoda on this inlet and an excellent spot for a short rest or a picnic.

4. Tachibanajima Island

You can reach Tachibanajima Islan, the larger inlet, by the connecting bridges from either side of Uji-gawa River or To-no-shima Island.

The statue of Murasaki Shikibu at the south end of the Uji-bashi Bridge
The statue of Murasaki Shikibu at the south end of the Uji-bashi Bridge

5. Statue of Murasaki Shikibu

The statue of Murasaki Shikibu, the world’s first novelist, sits majestically at the south end of the Uji-bashi Bridge. She wrote the Tale of Genji, a romantic novel in the 11th century and is an essential part of the Japanese literary world.

6. The Tale of Genji Museum (Ujishi Genjimonogatari Museum)

After seeing the statue, cross the Uji-bashi Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in Japan, and walk to the Tale of Genji Museum.

When Japanese people think of Uji, they think of the Tale of Genji. It is the world’s first novel where most of the scenes can be found in Uji.

It is a classic novel written by Murasaki Shikibu, the world’s first novelist. And the Tale of Genji is best known in the Japanese world of literature.

For ¥500, you can see the re-creation of certain scenes from the classic novel, depicting the type of clothing, houses and other items that were used around 11th-century. There is even a movie room (but it is in Japanese). But don’t worry, you can listen to the English audio and get caught up with all the information and exhibits in the museum.

7. Daikichiyama Observation Deck

From the Tale of Genji Museum, Daikichiyama Observation Deck is not far away.

The hike through Daikichiyama Fuchi Park is family easy. The path will lead to the observation deck. It takes about half an hour to reach the top, but it is totally worth it and not difficult at all. From the top, you can see a panoramic view of Uji.

Ujigami Shrine
Ujigami Shrine

8, & 9. Ujigami Shrine & Uji Shrine

Ujigami Shrine is at the base of Daikichiyama Fuchi Park, and it is worth visiting as it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was built around 1060, making Ujigami Shrine one of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrine.

Just south of Ujigami Shrine is Uji Shrine. People visit the Uji Shrine and wish to pass their exams. And it used to be part of Ujigami Shrine until they were separated during the Meiji Period. At that time, Ujigami Shrine was known as the upper shrine whereas Uji Shrine was known as the lower shrine.

10. Eishin-in Temple

Eshin-in Temple is a small temple and is named after a priest known as Genshin, who is modelled after a character in the Tale of Genji. A rather small temple but with significance related to the famous novel.

11. Koshoji Temple

Koshoji Temple is one of the newer temples in Uji but a beautiful one with immaculate gardens. Beyond the Chinese style gate and pristine white walls, the temples, pagodas and manicured trees look like a scene for a landscape painting. The temple is exceptionally beautiful during autumn where you can see all the colours of fall foliage.

12. Mimuroto-ji Temple

Also known as “flower temple,” Mimuroto-ji Temple is further north of Uji centre but totally worth the trek. Follow the path to see the temple, three-tiered pagoda and its garden especially when the flowers are in full bloom. Cherry blossom is in full bloom in early April, azaleas in May, hydrangea in June and lotuses between July and August.

Uji matcha desserts along Byōdō-in Omotesando Road
Uji matcha desserts along Byōdō-in Omotesando Road

13. Byōdō-in Omotesando Road

Byōdō-in Omotesando Road is the main street leading up to Byōdō-in. You may have already walked along this street at the start of your day trip in Uji.

After a full day of touring around Uji, return to the main road and try some local Uji desserts. Plus, the street is full of shops selling tea leaves, tea products and flavoured tea desserts. You can find all the matcha goodness and sample green tea in traditional teahouses here. Don’t forget to pick up some souvenirs here before you leave Uji. Pick up some unusual Uji green tea desserts that you can only find in Uji.

14. Fushimi Sake District (bonus side trip from Uji)

If you have time after a day of exploring Uji, stop by Fushimi Sake District for a quick stop-over on your way back to Kyoto.

Fushimi Sake District is a small town with traditional shops where many sake breweries operate. The quaint little village has over 40 sake breweries, and there are some exclusive sakes that you can find here and not anywhere else. You can even tour the town by a river cruise. While you are there, check out the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum as well. And most importantly, sample all 17 local sake in a sample flight!

From JR Uji Station, take the train towards Kyoto on the JR Nara Line and get off at Momoyama Station (17 minutes, ¥200) and walk 14 minutes.

Or take the train from Keihan Uji Station, take the Keihan-Uji Line to Chushojima Station (15 minutes,¥270) and walk 9 minutes.

Are you including a day trip to Uji from Kyoto?

I hope you enjoyed reading my post about Uji, Japan. It is one of the best off the beaten path cities in Japan. And taking a day trip to Uji in Kyoto Prefecture is easy peasy. It is only 19 minutes away!

Plus, if you are a fan of matcha green tea or any matcha flavoured food, then you must make your way to Uji!

Let me know in the comments if you are visiting Uji and what you will include in your Uji itinerary.

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 18+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

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