Uji is a small town in Kyoto Prefecture known for its green tea production, UNESCO World Heritage temples, and Tale of Genji, the world’s first novel. It is only 18km south of Kyoto, which makes Uji the perfect day trip destination.
I thoroughly enjoyed my Uji day trip from Kyoto because it was easy to get to, and the town felt very laidback and relaxing. 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!
So, if you also love matcha desserts as much as I do and want to spend the day temple-hopping and hiking to a viewpoint, then follow my full-day itinerary and see all the best things to do in Uji in one day.
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What you need to know before planning your Uji itinerary
Before visiting Uji in Kyoto Prefecture, 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 a few additional travel tips that you may find useful for your Uji day trip:
- ICOCA is the prepaid IC card for the Kansai Region. It is a rechargeable smartcard where you can take public transportation, including bus, train etc. Use the IC card when you take the train from Kyoto to Uji and back.
- If you want to maximize your time in Uji, aim to be in Uji by 9:30am so you can comfortably see everything on this itinerary.
- Uji is a safe city for solo female travellers.
- Plan your day trip to Uji with the following festivals and events:
- Hydrangea Season in Uji (early June to early July) – see over 20,000 hydrangeas in 50 varieties at Mimuroto-ji Temple
- Uji Tea Festival (first Sunday in October) – see the ritual of tea making and the traditional tea-jar opening ceremony at Koshoji Temple
How to travel 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.
Choose one of the two options below, depending on where you are in Kyoto. Check Hyperdia for the exact schedule and fares.
Kyoto to Uji Train: 2 options
If you are going to Uji from Kyoto Station, Japan Railways is a better option because a direct train goes into Uji.
- Kyoto Station to JR Uji Station – 22 minutes, ¥240 (covered by JR Pass)
Keihan Electric Railway
If you are staying in the Kawaramachi area, Keihan Electric Railway is a better option because you can take the same railway, change trains once and get to Uji in half an hour.
- Gion-Shijo Station to Keihan Uji Station – 30 minutes, ¥320 (change trains at Chushojima Station)
Map: Best things to do in Uji in 1 day
There are many things to do in Uji, and you can comfortably see everything in one day. Between temples and 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.
I pinned all the top things to do in Uji on the interactive map. Red pins are all the must-see attractions on the Uji day trip, blue pins are other things to do in Uji, and yellow pins are Uji accommodations if you decide to stay overnight.
Uji Day Trip: 1-day Itinerary
1. Walk across Byōdō-in Omotesando Road towards Byōdō-in Temple
If you are taking the JR train and arriving at JR Uji Station, walk towards Byōdō-in Temple via Ujibashi Road. When you exit the station, cross the main road, and the next road parallel to the main road is Ujibashi Road.
Continue walking northeast until you arrive at Byōdō-in Omotesando Road, the main walking street leading up to Byōdō-in Temple.
If you arrive in Uji via Keihan Railway, the Keihan Uji Station is at the north end of Uji-bashi Bridge. Cross the bridge, and Byōdō-in Omotesando Road is immediately south of the bridge.
2. See the Statue of Murasaki Shikibu
Before you walk straight to the temple, see the Statue of Murasaki Shikibu first.
Murasaki Shikibu is a Japanese writer and the world’s first novelist. She is the author of The Tale of Genji, a romantic novel set in Uji. The novel is from the 11th century and is an essential part of the Japanese literary world.
A stone statue commemorating her is located at the west end of Uji-bashi Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in Japan.
3. Wander around Byōdō-in Temple
Byōdō-in Temple is a 10th-century Buddhist temple and is a beautiful example of Japanese Buddhist architecture. The temple may look familiar to you; it is the temple on the ¥10 coin.
When you visit this UNESCO World Heritage site, you can roam around the garden and see the exterior of the Phoenix Hall and visit other Buddhist temples like Jodo-in Temple, Fudo-do Hall and Saisho-in Temple. Plus, the entrance fee includes Byōdō-in Hoshokan Museum (which is next on the itinerary).
For an additional ¥300, you can walk through Phoenix Hall and see the Amidanyarai Buddha statue and the colourful and elegant interior through a guided tour (in Japanese). But taking photos is not allowed inside.
Address: Renge-116 Uji, Kyoto | Hours: 8:30am-5:30pm | Admission: ￥600 and ￥300 for Pheonix Hall
4. See exhibits in Byōdō-in Hoshokan Museum
As mentioned, the Byōdō-in Hoshokan Museum is included in the entrance fee.
And when you tour inside the modern museum, you can see original artefacts found in Byōdō-in Temple, including the praying Bodhisattva Buddhist Saints, the Temple Bell and other excavated items. Plus, you can see the recreation of the colourful interiors of Phoenix Hall.
Even though only a few exhibits has English explanation, the museum was quite interesting. And photography is prohibited inside.
5 or 6. Try green tea soba noodles for lunch
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 cookies, etc. And they even have green tea curry!
For lunch, visit one of the restaurants in Uji and try green tea soba noodles. Here are some options:
- Fukujuen Cafe Uji – enjoy cold or hot soba noodles in this casual restaurant in front of Uji River.
- Nakamura Tokichi Byodo-in – try soba noodles at this popular teashop. They also have many matcha green tea desserts.
- Many cafes and restaurants on Byōdō-in Omotesando Road.
7 & 8. Walk across To-no-shima Island and Tachibana Island
Continue the full-day itinerary by crossing the two small inlets in the Uji River. First, cross the Kisen-bashi Bridge to To-no-shima Island, the southern and smaller inlet.
There is the Jusanju-sekito Stone Stupa, a 13-tiered stone pagoda in the centre and a caged area for the cormorants. These cormorants are part of the summer evening boat tour. I didn’t include it in this itinerary as it is a seasonal event, but I included some info near the end of this post.
Then, keep walking north until you reach Tachibana Island, the larger inlet. There’s not much to see here, so continue forward by crossing the Asagiri-bashi Bridge to the city’s north side.
9. See the Statue of the Ten Uji Chapters
At the other end of Asagiri-bashi Bridge, there is another statue, and this one is called the Statue of the Ten Uji Chapters. It is a monument of Ukifune and Niou-no-Miya (two characters in The Tale of Genji) rowing a small boat in the Uji River.
The style of the monument is quite similar to the one you saw earlier, don’t you think?
10. Wander around Koshoji Temple
Koshoji Temple was the first Soto Zen monastery founded in 1233. It was later rebuilt in 1649, and now it is the first monastery among the 14,000 Soto Zen temples where monks pray every day for the peace of every being.
Beyond the Chinese-style gate and pristine white walls are many temples, pagodas, and manicured trees. When you follow the guided path, you can see the Shakyamuni Buddha statue in the Hatto main hall, the Sodo (the monks hall) and the three-faced Daikokuten statue nearby.
Address: Yamada-27-1 Uji, Kyoto | Hours: 5am-5pm | Admission: ￥500
11. Visit Uji Shrine
Walk back to the north end of Asagiribashi Bridge and towards Uji Shrine.
Uji-no-wakei-iratsuko, who is the founder of education and academic achievement, is the enshrined deity at Uji Shrine. That is why many people visit the shrine before an exam to pray for good luck and pass their tests and exams.
Also, there are many rabbit motifs around the Uji Shrine. Legend has it that a divine rabbit guided the enshrined deity when he got lost on the way to Uji from Kawachi, which is why the bunny symbolizes good luck. And you can even buy a rabbit figurine as a lucky charm at Ujigami Shrine, your next destination.
Address: Yamada−１Uji, Kyoto | Hours: 9am-4:30pm | Admission: free
12. Wander around Ujigami Shrine
Behind the Uji Shrine is the Ujigami Shrine. Both shrines were connected before, where Uji Shrine was the lower shrine and Ujigami Shrine was the upper shrine. But they have been separated since the Meiji Period.
Even though there aren’t any official records of when the shrine was built, the study of tree rings to determine age was applied, and it proved that the Ujigami Shrine is Japan’s oldest Shinto shrine. It is one of two UNESCO World Heritage sites in Uji.
When wandering around Ujigami Shrine, check out the Prayer Hall at the front of the property and look for the Main Hall at the back, built in a classic Shinto architectural style.
Also, look for Kiriharasui, which was once a freshwater spring used for purification rituals. You can still do that today with the ladles provided inside.
Address: Yamada-59 Uji, Kyoto | Hours: 9am-4:30pm | Admission: free
13. See exhibits at The Tale of Genji Museum
When Japanese people think of Uji, they think of the Tale of Genji, the world’s first novel where most scenes are found in Uji. It is a classic novel by Murasaki Shikibu, the world’s first novelist. And the Tale of Genji is best known in the Japanese world of literature.
Inside the Tale of Genji Museum (Ujishi Genjimonogatari Museum), see the recreation of certain scenes from the classic novel. Pay attention to the type of clothing and other items used around the 11th century. And there is a movie room (but it is in Japanese). But you can listen to the English audio and get caught up.
If the exhibits are not of interest to you, there is an on-site cafe called Unjosaryo that serves Instagram-worthy matcha desserts. Perhaps that will pique your interest?
Address: Higashiuchi-45-26 Uji, Kyoto | Hours: 9am-5pm (closed Mondays) | Admission: ￥500
14. See a panoramic view of Uji from the Daikichiyama Observation Deck
The entrance to the trail leading to the Daikichiyama Observation Deck is not far from the Tale of Genji Museum. And the hike through Daikichiyama Fuchi Park is pretty easy. All you have to do is follow the path and zig-zag your way up the mountain.
It takes between 20 to 30 minutes to get to the observation deck. At the top, you can see a panoramic view of Uji.
And it looks like the trail continues to other parts of the park. But for now, retrace your way down back to the entrance and continue your itinerary.
15. Have matcha dessert at Tusen Tea Shop
After a long day of wandering around Uji, you have to get at least one matcha dessert. Many dessert shops are on the pedestrian street, but there is a special one you should check out.
Tsuen Tea Shop is on the north side of Uji-bashi Bridge and has been around since 1160, making it Japan’s oldest teashop.
They have many matcha desserts and savoury food like soba noodles. I couldn’t make up my mind, so I ended up getting a matcha parfait, matcha dango and matcha tea. So good!
16. Buy matcha souvenirs from stores on Byōdō-in Omotesando Road
Before you leave Uji, pick up some matcha food souvenirs from stores on Byōdō-in Omotesando Road. You walked through this street earlier, so hopefully, you saw some places where you want to pick up some matcha goodies.
There are quite a bit of options when it comes to matcha desserts. I saw cheesecakes, mochi, ice cream and other sweet treats. Plus, they have savoury products like soba noodles and somen noodles. And many shops are selling green tea; you can sample it before you buy.
When you are ready to go back to Kyoto, walk back to either Uji Station and catch the next train back to Kyoto.
Other things to do in Uji in Kyoto Prefecture
There are a few other things to do in Uji if you quickly go through the one-day itinerary or decide to stay overnight.
- Mimuroto-ji Temple – also known as the “flower temple,” follow the path around Mimuroto-ji to see the temple, three-tiered pagoda and garden. Cherry blossom is in full bloom in early April, azaleas in May, hydrangeas in June and lotuses between July and August.
- Manpuku-ji Temple – visit the Buddhist temple founded in 1661 by a Chinese monk. Wander around the garden and the teak temple and see the statue of Hotei and the wooden fish board.
- Cormorant fishing – watch cormorants catch fish in their beaks during evening tours between July to September.
- Tea preparation class at Takumi-no Yakata – learn how to make Uji tea in a traditional tea room
Where to stay in Uji, Japan
Staying overnight in Uji is unnecessary, but if you like the small-town feel and want to explore more of the countryside, stay overnight in Uji.
Below are a few accommodation suggestions if you decide to stay in Uji. There are limited options, but these look quite nice and are close to the centre of Uji.
- Kyoto Uji Cha-gan-ju-tei House ($) – located south of Uji Station (JR), you can get a bed in a dorm or Japanese-style room.
- Kyoto Uji Hanayashiki Ukifune-en ($$$) – splurge 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.
Day trip to Uji from Kyoto: Is Uji worth visiting?
Absolutely! Uji is one of the best places to visit from Kyoto, where you can get away from the busy city and enjoy a bit of small-town scenery. And while you are spending time in nature, you can also enjoy an abundance of matcha green tea food and dessert. What could be better?
And taking a day trip to Uji in Kyoto Prefecture is easy peasy, especially when you take one of the Kyoto to Uji trains. You can get to Uji from Kyoto in less than half an hour!
I hope you enjoyed reading my post about Uji, Japan. It is one of the best off-the-beaten-path cities in Japan. Let me know in the comments if you are visiting Uji and what you will include in the Uji itinerary.
Thank you for reading my Uji itinerary
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