Located halfway between the two ancient capitals Kyoto and Nara, Uji is a paradise for matcha lovers. The city is also known for Genji monogatari – The Tale of Genji, considered to be the first novel in the world. In this article, I have listed a selection of my favorite places in Uji: a day trip from Kyoto for matcha lovers but also those who want to escape the overly touristy temples of the ancient capital. Apart from Byodo-in, the rest of Uji’s sights were pretty empty: surprising considering it’s a short day trip from Kyoto
Byodo-in is an established Buddhist temple dating from 1052 (late Heian period). It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994. Its architecture immediately surprised me because it looked a temple I had visited in Hawaii. As an architecture lover, I remember most of the temples I visit! A quick internet search confirmed it: a replica of the temple (on a smaller scale) was built in 1968 in the Valley of the Temples in Hawaii on the island of Oahu.
The beautiful Phoenix Hall is what made this temple so famous. Entrance costs ¥300, the visit is regulated in groups, every 20 minutes. Make sure to take your ticket before you start the garden tour so you don’t have to spend too much time waiting. Please note that it prohibited to take photos inside.
The museum presents an assortment of national treasures such as sculptures and ancient objects. Most of the museum is in the basement, not to spoil the landscape near the temple. It contains multilingual construction information on the history of the temple.
These are beautiful gardens in which you walk freely. There is also a tea room (Sabo Toka) where you can taste high quality matcha.
The entrance is 600¥ (with an extra 300¥ extra for the visit of the Phoenix hall). The site opens at 8.30am and closes at 5.30pm.
Aside from Byodo-in, the rest of Uji was pretty empty, surprising since it’s a short day trip from Kyoto
My favorite temple and I had it all to myself Having the place all to myself! What an amazing experience. The Mimurotoji temple is located in north of Uji.
It takes about 15-20 minutes to get there on foot from Uji Bridge. I chose to walk so I could discover the surroundings, the small streets and houses far from the tourist areas. The temple is busier in Spring. when the trees are blooming.
The current temple of Mimurotoji dates from the 1800s and is also known as the “temple of flowers”. Its gardens are beautiful during all seasons. Cherry blossoms in spring, hydrangeas and lotus in summer and beautiful fall colours. Even though it was overcast that day, the maple’s colours were really vivid. I sat down on a bench and enjoyed the quietness and the beautiful landscape.
Ujigami shrine (Ujigami Jinja)
Ujigami shrine is located close to the Byodoin temple. According to official sources, it was built in 1060 and is the oldest standing shrine in Japan. Like other shrines and temples in the Kyoto region, it was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1994. Here again, the site was nearly empty…
The Tale of Genji Museum
Le dit du Genji est un grand classique de la littérature japonaise. Il a été écrit autour de l’an mille par Murasaki Shikibu, dame de compagnie de l’impératrice du Japon à une époque où la cour résidait à Heian (actuelle Kyoto). Le roman raconte la vie quotidienne et sentimentale des nobles de la cour impériale. Les dix derniers chapitres se déroulent en Uji, raison pour laquelle le musée s’est implémentée dans la ville.
Le musée à recommander? oui et non. Si comme moi vous avez un grand intérêt pour la littérature japonaise alors je vous conseille de le visiter mais plutôt comme endroit symbolique car sinon il ne présente pas de véritable intérêt. Une traducteur audio est prête à l’entrée du musée pour les explications en plusieurs langues. Le musée dispose d’une salle de cinéma retraçant l’histoire de livre: Un court métrage basé sur les “chapitres Uji” et créé uniquement pour le musée. J’ai quand même trouvé le film incroyablement mielleux. Je connaissais l’histoire du livre mais comme j’avais du mal a suivre avec mon audio anglais (pas assez fort) et le film en japonais, j’ai perdu le fil de l’histoire a mi-chemin.
Visiting the museum cost ¥600 and is open from 9am to 5pm. It is closed on Mondays
Next to the river are 2 statues of interest:
-Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji’s author
-characters from The Tale of Genji
Matcha and green tea
Impossible to visit Uji without tasting its Matcha: noodle, kitkat, mochi, matcha latte but also …. beer! I was definitely matcha-ed out for the rest of the day!
A short day trip from Kyoto, Uji is easily reachable by train: from Kyoto station, take the JR Nara line. Without transfer, a one-way trip to Uji takes about 30 minutes (if you take the Miyakoji fast train, it only takes 17 minutes) and costs ¥240 or free if you have the Japan rail pass.