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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

Culture

Uji 宇治

The town where the tea ceremony flourished and its romantic riverside district

The picturesque town of Uji is known as a prime setting in the 11th-century literary masterpiece The Tale of Genji. The tea fields, myriad tea shops, and sacred sites make this town a popular day-trip destination close to Kyoto.

Uji also has a river by the same name that you can walk alongside or cruise down, and there are plenty of restaurants and shops to stop in along the way. Uji Bridge is considered one of the most romantic spots in Kyoto because of its prominence in Genji's story. The town also lays claim to Japan's oldest tea shop and oldest Shinto shrine building.

Don't Miss

  • Sampling locally grown green tea to your heart's content
  • Enjoying a stroll along the Uji River and watch the cormorant fishing after dusk
  • Ujigami, thought to be Japan's oldest extant shrine building
  • Marveling at the ancient treasures of Byodoin Temple, a World Heritage Site

How to Get There

Uji is served by two stations on the JR and Keihan lines, respectively, and can be reached in well under an hour from Kyoto.

From Kyoto Station, take the Nara Line to JR Uji Station. The journey takes just under 25 minutes. From Demachiyanagi Station, the terminus of the Keihan Line in north-central Kyoto, it takes about 40 minutes to reach Keihan Uji Station.

The origins of green tea

Buddhist monks brought green tea to Japan from China in the 7th century. It was consumed in powdered form as a digestive and as a caffeine booster during long hours of meditation. It was not until the Kamakura period, 1192-1333, that it was enjoyed as a beverage. This powdered green tea, called matcha, became enshrined in what is now the tea ceremony, which exploded in popularity among the noble classes.

Eisai (1141-1215), the priest credited with bringing Zen Buddhism to Japan, wrote of the benefits of green tea and taught Uji priests how to grow it. Since Uji was one of the first places to cultivate green tea, it became synonymous with the drink, and its reputation for producing high-quality green tea is known throughout Japan.

Stroll down the restaurant-lined street of Byodoin Omotesando and you can find the distinctive umami flavors of green and roasted tea in an array of delectable ice creams and desserts, and even soba noodles.

Uji Tea Festival

The Uji Tea Festival is held at Koshoji Temple on the first Sunday of October. During the festival, priests make offerings of ceremonial bowls of tea in front of statues of the figures who helped establish Uji as a tea mecca.

Japan's oldest tea shop

The oldest tea shop in Japan is right here in Uji. Tsuen has been in business since 1160 and is now run by the 24th head of the same family. The shop serves mouthwatering green tea parfaits and rice dumplings, and its prime location by the Uji River makes it an excellent rest stop.

Sample some premium tea, and buy some for later

Byodoin Omotesando, leading up to Byodoin Temple itself, is Uji's bustling 300-meter-long street lined with stores selling tea-related souvenirs and tasty bites. Visit the popular tea shop Taihoan, where you can participate in a traditional tea ceremony for a mere 500 yen, which includes a bowl of matcha and accompanying Japanese sweet.

Take a class in tea or pottery

For a hands-on experience, take a workshop at Fukujuen Ujicha Kobo to learn about tea processing and how to grind matcha to the perfect consistency, with the chance to taste different brews. On the same side of the river is the recently reopened Asahiyaki Pottery Center, where you can try your hand at the potter's wheel.

Uji's romantic riverside

The Uji River bisects the town and most shops, including its teahouses and restaurants, run along the streets immediately parallel. These are also the most popular for their stunning views of the surrounding landscape. You can find leisurely river cruises being offered by day and evening cormorant fishing displays by night.

First built around 646, Uji Bridge features in several works of Japanese art and literature, most famously The Tale of Genji. This famous novel details the antics of the fictitious Prince Genji and his many lovers and offers valuable insights into the life of the noble classes during the 11th century. There is no location in Uji more romantic.

Japan's oldest Shinto shrine building

Through extensive analysis of its timber, scientists have found that the oldest structures of Ujigami have existed since 1060, making it the oldest original Shinto shrine building in Japan. It was originally built to serve as a guardian shrine for Byodo-in Temple, a short walk away.

You may notice the roof of its main hall has a distinct curvature, built in the so-called nagare-zukuri style of architecture.

The jewel in Uji's crown

Founded in 1052, Byodoin Temple enshrines the Amida Buddha, whose statue is covered in gold leaf. The temple's Phoenix Hall is topped with twin phoenixes symbolizing protection, and remarkably you can still see the faint remains of elaborate wall paintings on its interior walls.

The guided tour takes you to the hall and also the accompanying museum, which contains replicas of its wall paintings as they would have originally looked in vibrant color. The 52 bodhisattva statues wielding musical instruments are believed to be the work of master sculptor Jocho.