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If you are visiting Kyoto and would like to see the rural side of Kyoto Prefecture, then you must visit Uji. 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.
While travelling solo through Japan, I knew I wanted to see big cities like Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. And small towns like Uji. And I have to say that my Uji day trip was simply amazing! I loved spending the day in Uji 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!
Keep reading my travel blog and learn how you can have the best day trip in Uji too!
Why Uji is great for a solo female traveller
Japan is one of the best countries for solo female travellers. It is a country where female travellers can feel safe. Whether you are travelling through big cities or visit rural towns like Uji, you will feel safe at all times.
And with the efficient train systems in Japan, you can easily navigate your way to Uji even if you don’t speak or read Japanese. And if you are ever in doubt, you can use Google Maps and find your way around Uji and the rest of the country even if you do not have data on your smartphone.
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How to get to Uji
Uji is only 18km south of Kyoto, and the most efficient transportation method is the train.
Make sure you have an IC card, a rechargeable card for public transportation (including train, subway and bus). You can get Icoca, which is the IC card for the Kansai region, at any JR train station.
From Kyoto to Uji
- JR Nara Line
- from Kyoto Station to JR Uji Station
- JR Trains runs twice every hour
- time: 18 minutes
- cost: ¥240 (covered by Japan Rail Pass)
- Check Hyperdia for schedule and fare
How to get around Uji
Uji is a small town and can be explored on foot. And I’m not just saying this because I am the type who thinks everything is walkable. It really is! All the major attractions are in close vicinity. But make sure you wear comfortable shoes for walking in town and for hiking. There is a bit of a climb if you explore the temples and lookout point but the hike not strenuous at all.
Where to stay in Uji
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
Things to do in Uji
Uji is a small town but has more than enough attractions for you to see in one day. Between temples, shrines, a hike up to the observation deck to see the town from above, and sampling local green tea matcha desserts, you will thoroughly enjoy visiting Uji.
All the top things to do in Uji are pinned in the interactive map. You can find more information about each attraction by clicking on the individual pin.
Must-see attractions in Uji
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.
Byōdō-in Omotesando Road
Byōdō-in Omotesando Road is the main street leading up to Byōdō-in. The street is full of shops selling tea leaves, tea products and flavoured tea desserts. You 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.
Daikichiyama Observation Deck
Across the Uji-bashi Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in Japan, you will find an easy hike through Daikichiyama Fuchi Park where 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 Uji from above.
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 the leaves.
You can reach the island by the connecting bridges from either side of Uji-gawa River or To-no-shima Island.
A small island next to Tachibanajima Island that is great for a stroll or a picnic. There is also a 13-tiered stone pagoda on this inlet.
Other attractions in Uji
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.
Ujigami Shrine is at the base of Daikichiyama Fuchi Park, and it is worth visiting. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Japan’s oldest Shinto 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.
The small temple 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.
Also known as “flower temple,” is further north of the centre of Uji but totally worth the trek 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.
Art & culture in Uji
Byōdō-in Museum Hoshokan
The museum 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.
The Tale of Genji Museum (Ujishi Genjimonogatari 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.
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
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 (11 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.
Where to eat in Uji
Uji is known for Uji matcha green tea! Matcha lovers rejoice! You can find 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 many Uji tea shops.
Below are some budget and mid-range restaurant suggestions. You can find more information about each location in the attached google map by clicking on the individual pin (see interactive map above).
- Tsuen Tea Shop ($) – the oldest teashop in Japan is right by Uji-bashi Bridge. Grab a green tea and sit on one of the benches outside the shop
- Nakamura Tokichi Byodo-in ($$) – a favourite teashop where they have a wide variety of matcha green tea desserts. They also have savoury treats like green tea soba noodles if you don’t have a sweet tooth. My favourite is the green tea soft serve ice-cream with azuki beans. Yum!
- Cost: up to ¥4,000 per day
- If you want to experience rural Japan, Uji can be an excellent option for a long-term stay
- There are a handful of options for Airbnb private rooms in Uji. And I noticed some of the hotels listed their rooms on the Airbnb website as well
- And if you are not part of Airbnb yet, please use this code to claim your $35 Airbnb discount.
Recommended itinerary for Uji
You can do a full one day tour in Uji because there is so much to see. But if you have time, visit Fushimi Sake District on your way back to Kyoto.
How to spend one day in Uji
Take advantage of your entire day in Uji by waking up early and visit the following places:
In the morning:
- Start your day trip early from Kyoto and aim to be in Uji by 9:30 am
- Have breakfast in Kyoto or buy a snack at Kyoto Train Station
- From the train station, go directly to Byōdō-in to see the temple, gardens, and Byōdō-in Museum Hoshokan
- Then walk along Uji-gawa River and visit To-no-shima Island and Tachibanajima Island via the connecting bridges
- Hopefully, by now you will have an appetite for lunch at Nakamura Tokichi Byōdō-in
- Walk towards Uji-bashi Bridge and admire the Statue of Murasaki Shikibu before crossing the bridge
- Cross the Uji-gawa River and head directly to the Tale of Genji Museum to learn about the famous Japanese novel
- From the museum, hike up the guided path in Daikichiyama Fuchi Park until you reach Daikichiyama Observation Deck so you can take gorgeous photos of Uji from above
- Heading downhill from the observation deck, follow the trails and visit Ujigami Shrine, Uji Shrine and Eishin-in Temple
- Walk along the river and head over to Koshoji Temple to see the beautiful gardens
- Walk towards Uji-bashi Bridge and take a rest at Tseun Tea and maybe even try some green tea desserts
- Then walk over to Mimuroto-ji to see the flower temple
- Before you leave Uji, visit one of the souvenir shops on Byōdō-in Omotesando Street and purchase green tea leaves and some unusual green tea desserts that you can only find in Uji
If you still have time in the afternoon:
- Take the train to Fushimi Sake District to sample sake that you can only find in the region
- Return to your home base in Kyoto and have a later dinner in the city
As one of the best day trips from Kyoto, make sure you include Uji in your Japan itinerary. And I hope my Uji travel blog can help you with planning the best day trip!
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