Synonymous with Japan's original site for tea cultivation, Uji became famous for its superior quality green tea since the 1100s. Since I am a tea fanatic, I couldn't resist paying Uji a visit, which genuinely meant yet another dream come true. Uji was part of our 2 weeks in Japan itinerary.
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How to get to Uji
You can visit Uji as a day trip from Kyoto. Best to take the Shinkansen from Kyoto towards Nara. You will reach Uji in less than 30 minutes. The cost of a one-way ticket is 240 yen, but it's covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
There is a short walk from Uji train station to the town centre. I found Uji to be a very small city, but with enough to do to keep me alert and excited. By being in Uji, you really feel taken back in time, as you can almost soak in the city's history with every step you take.
Uji and green tea
The history of Uji tea started sometimes in the 13th century when Myoue opened a tea farm in the heart of Uji. The tea seeds were given to Myoue by Eisai, a monk who is said to have brought the first tea seeds to Japan from China.
You can imagine how exhilarating it was for me, as a tea lover, to be in a place so rich in history. I was about to drink tea made from a plant which survived on the lands of Uji for many centuries.
What type of tea to try
Gyokuro or jade dew as per its literal translation, it's Japan's most precious type of green tea. This type of tea is being grown in the shade. You can buy Gyokuro from vendors in Uji, but due to its reputation and amazing taste, it's also the most expensive tea in Japan.
Know that Uji is the oldest gyokuro producing region in Japan.
Matcha Tea - If you are in Japan then you have to learn about the real tea ceremony tradition and enjoy matcha tea in due course. Matcha Tea from Uji tastes very sweet and it is very well regarded all over the world.
Know that the authentic Matcha Tea comes from Tencha, the name used for the green tea leaves before being ground into the fine matcha powder.
What to do in Uji
Byōdō-in Temple - I loved photographing this beautiful temple. It has a wonderful garden and it is home to the Phoenix Hall.
Ujigami Shrine - You can marvel at one of Japan's oldest shrines.
Uji Shrine - Free entry shrine to commemorate the loss of Prince Uji no Wakiiratsuko, who committed suicide.
The Tale of Genji Museum - If you read the Tale of Geinji which is a Japanese classic, you are sure to appreciate this museum.
Kosho-ji Temple - Beautiful zen temple with a beautiful garden featuring bushes and pruned trees.
Mimurotoji Temple - As a nature lover, this is a great temple to visit. It's known for its magnificent flower gardens.
Amagasegawa Dam - Offers beautiful and peaceful views. I visited in December and I could still enjoy some candid foliage colours.
Tea Ceremony - Being Japan's tea capital, you can enjoy an authentic tea ceremony here, in Uji. You will have the chance to learn a lot about Japanese traditions.
Know that some locals also offer trips to the tea fields.
Tea Festival - Did somebody say free tea? At the Tea Festival in Uji, you get to sample a lot of green tea. It takes place on the first Sunday of October so make sure to be there.
Mt. Buttoko - Take a short hike on Mount Buttoko and enjoy some magical views from the observation deck.
Buy a souvenir from Raak - I couldn't resist and bought myself a gauze towel which ended up on my wall. It depicts a beautiful image of two geishas walking through Uji in the winter. I love it so much.
To me, visiting Uji was a dream come true. Being able to be in the very place where the Japanese tea tradition was born, brought me sheer joy. If you too love tea, then make sure to visit Uji when you go to Japan.