Famous for its tea, Uji is an easy day trip from Osaka, Kyoto or Nara, located roughly 1 hour from each. This was another one of my new year break adventures!
Uji has the large Uji river running through town, on this day it was flowing particularly fast, probably due to all the extra water from the recent snowfall.
Crossing from the Keihan railway station leads to Uji Byōdō-in Omotesando, a shopping street full of tea shops and cute little cafes, the air was filled with the delicious smell of roasted tea!
Aside from a few piles here and there, the snow was pretty much gone, this guy was still going strong though!
I scoped out a couple of places to check out later on and headed for what is arguably Uji’s main attraction, Byōdō-in(¥600 entry).
A beautiful vermillion temple building, Byōdō-in was built in the year 988 as a villa for a powerful politician, and later converted into a temple by his son. Even if you haven’t visited, it might look familiar, that’s because the famous Phoenix Hall is on the back of the ¥10 coin.
Taking pictures was difficult, it was a really bright day and the sun was right behind the building, luckily HDR photos gave me something to work with.
The temple was subject to an extensive restoration, and the on-site museum gives you a really good explanation of the work(english info available), there are also tours inside the Phoenix Hall every 20 minutes(¥300 extra), these sell out quick so on a busy day you could have a long wait ahead of you.
After strolling around the grounds for a bit, I returned to Uji Byōdō-in Omotesando, to pick up some omiyage. You can find all sorts of tea items, tea leaves, powdered tea, traditional sweets and even beer!
Time for some tea. I chose, To dō an(とどう庵), it’s a really cute little tea house close to the temple entrance.
Tea and dango(green tea flavour) set, ¥600. Very tasty!
After relaxing in the warm I headed back out for a stroll along Uji river.
Out of season, the tour boats all sat moored up. Uji is also famous for cormorant fishing – a traditional method for catching fresh water trout using cormorant birds. It’s something I’ve wanted to see for a long time.
Despite the winter weather, I couldn’t resist a green tea ice cream cone with yatsuhashi. It was a good decision!
There’s a small island in the middle of the river, currently it’s being worked on, presumably to combat erosion but it looks like they could be widening it as well. Spring or summer time this would be a lovely spot for a picnic! I watched the world go by, finished my ice cream then headed to the far side of the river.
This side of the river has a number of shrines and tea houses, but because I visited during the new year break many places were closed.
Directly across the bridge is the entrance to Uji Shrine, a fair few people were there, presumably for Hatsumōde(first prayer of the new year). I could see a lot of people buying hamaya(破魔矢), a decorative arrow sold at shrines during new year which drives away evil. I also strolled to the nearby Ujigami shrine which is located at the base of Mt. Daikichi
Sunset approaching, the the few open stores began winding up for the day, so I took a walk through some quiet backstreets towards the station.
And that was Uji. I had a nice afternoon here, and I’ll certainly be going back when it’s warmer!