Who loves eating matcha desserts and matcha green tea everything?! We do!!
We love Uji matcha as this unique green tea flavor is in our favorite Japanese snacks – Kit Kat, Pocky, and waffles at Manneken Belgium Waffle shop (especially when they are piping hot from the oven).
Where can you find this delicious Uji tea? Head to Uji (宇治), located south of Kyoto and close to Nara. Uji is the perfect place to go on a day trip from Kyoto. With historical shrines, UNESCO World Heritage recognized temples, and a famous location for Uji green tea, it’s a fabulous addition to your Kyoto itinerary.
In this post, we’re sharing the top things to do in Uji on your Uji day trip, how to get to Uji and other helpful tips. We’ll definitely provide some places on where to get some delicious matcha desserts too. That is why we’re here, right?!
What we enjoy about Uji is that it isn’t as crowded compared to other attractions in Kyoto such as Fushimi Inari Shrine and Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. Since Uji is a smaller city, the environment feels more intimate and peaceful. You’ll need about half a day up to a full day to browse around the major Uji attractions.
Now let’s head to Uji for your day trip!
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How to Get to Uji from Kyoto
The route from Kyoto to Uji is easy as we’re utilizing the train system. From the Kyoto Station (京都駅), take the JR line to Uji Station (宇治駅) via the JR Nara Local Line. The train runs several times an hour and it’ll take 30 minutes to arrive by train. The one-way cost is 240 yen ($2.30 USD).
Another route is from Kyoto Station to Kintetsu-Tambabashi Station (近鉄丹波橋駅) via Kitetsu Limited Express, transfer to Tambabashi Station (丹波橋駅) to Chushojima Station (中書島駅) via Keihan Main Line, and then to Uji Station via Local Uji Line. This route will take 35-40 minutes but require more transfers.
Tip: Plan your schedule by using Google Maps. You’ll see the real-time train schedule.
If you plan to extend your stay in Japan, consider getting the Japan Rail (JR) pass. It’s a convenient pass that allows you all access to the JR train and shinkansen lines without having to pay an additional fee for the tickets. It can also save you money depending on your Japan itinerary whether you’re staying for 7, 14, or longer days.
How to Travel Around Uji
The best thing about visiting Uji in one day is that it’s a walkable city. It’s very small and many of the attractions are close together. All you need is a good pair of walking shoes and you’re ready to explore the Uji attractions.
Top Things to Do on Your Uji Day Trip
Here is our recommendation on what to do in Uji during your trip. We suggest that you stop by the Tourist Information Office at the Uji Station to receive a complimentary map of Uji city.
1. Shop and eat along the Byodoin Omotesando Street.
Before you head to the famous Byodoin Temple, you’ll walk along the Byodoin Omotesando Street (表参道). It’s a small road with traditional houses that has restaurants, dessert shops, and shops selling everything matcha and green tea-related.
For the green tea lovers, it’s pretty much heaven since green tea products and food is everywhere! Try green tea ramen, dumplings, pancakes, pudding, mochi, soft-serve ice cream, and more. We suggest that you don’t go overboard with eating all of these delicious foods as there are other places to eat to try. We’ll mention more below.
Since we’re huge tea drinkers, this is a good street to buy matcha, sencha, hojicha, and other teas. Many of the tea shop owners will invite you into their store so you can try various teas before purchasing. You can smell the leaves and ask questions about the products. We bought a few packages of sencha and hojicha at different stores.
Address: Uji, Kyoto 611-0021, Japan (〒611-0021 京都府宇治市)
2. Visit the historical Byodoin Temple.
Byodoin Temple (平等院) is a top attraction to visit in Uji. Recognized as a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site and on the back of the 10 yen coin, it’s a beautiful Buddhist temple area that was built in 1052. While the temple area isn’t large, it’s well worth the time to spend at least an hour here.
The general admission includes access to the on-site grounds, Hoshokan Museum, and the garden areas. The Hoshokan Museum provides the history of the temple area and showcases many national treasures. You’ll see the phoenix statues (you’ll see these gold mythological birds on the roofs of the buildings), 26 Worshipping Bodhisattvas on clouds, and more. There is also a CGI video of the Phoenix Hall. Photos are not allowed in the museum.
The center of the temple area is the famous Phoenix Hall. It’s a gorgeous wooden building with the red and orange colors and the ornate architecture. On a clear day, you can see the reflection of the Phoenix Hall in the lake. (During our visit, it was the annual restoration of the lake so there were a handful of people power-washing the rocks.)
As you saw in the video from the museum, the Phoenix Hall has a statue of Amitabha Tathagata, a celestial Buddha, enshrined in the building. It’s an additional fee to visit the Phoenix Hall and you’ll get a tour and a close-up view of Buddha. We didn’t take the tour as we’ve seen plenty of Buddha statues before.
Fun Fact: If you’ve been to Oahu, Hawaii, they also have a Byodoin Temple. It’s a replica of Uji’s version and was built in 1968 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.
Address: Renge-116 Uji, Kyoto 611-0021, Japan (〒611-0021 京都府宇治市宇治蓮華116)
Opening Hours: 8:30am-5:30pm
Admission Cost: 600 yen ($5.80 USD) adults, 400 yen ($3.80) junior high and high school students, 300 yen ($2.90) children and elementary students; 300 yen ($2.90) for the Phoenix Hall
3. Devour Uji matcha desserts.
We couldn’t leave Uji without trying matcha desserts! Two famous shops selling matcha desserts are Nakamura Tokichi Honten (中村藤吉 宇治本店) and Itoh-Kyuemon (伊藤久右衛門 宇治本店・茶房).
Founded in 1854, Nakamura Tokichi Honten is a famous spot for sweets. Try mochi, ice cream, shaved ice, and more. You can also experience a traditional tea ceremony. When we visited, the restaurant was closed for renovation so we couldn’t try the desserts. The store has lots of tea and snacks that you can bring home as souvenirs.
Main Shop: Japan, 〒611-0021 Kyoto, Uji, Ichiban−１０(〒611-0021 京都府宇治市宇治壱番１０)
Byodoin Store: Renge-5-1 Uji, Kyoto 611-0021, Japan (〒611-0021 京都府宇治市宇治蓮華5-1)
Main Shop: 10:00am-6:00pm
Byodoin Store: 10:30am-5:00pm
Itoh-Kyuemon is a well-known tea brand founded in 1832 that specializes in Uji tea. There are several locations in Uji that have both the store and restaurant. You’ll recognize this shop with 茶 (tea in Kanji) at their entrance.
While the teas have good umami flavor, the best thing to do here is to eat the desserts. The menu is huge and has everything you can imagine – parfaits, ice cream, drinks, and seasonal dessert platters. They also have meals such as soba.
We tried the Itoh-Kyuemon matcha parfait and hojicha parfait at the main store. Both of these were so good and one of the best Japanese desserts that we’ve eaten. The matcha and hojicha flavors are prominent in the ice cream and jellies. There is just enough sweetness in each of the parfaits. We typically don’t like shiratama dango, the small mochi balls, since the Japanese dessert places in Ho Chi Minh City don’t make them well. However, they are the best here with the soft texture.
Expect to pay over 1,000 yen ($9.60+) for each dessert item. They aren’t cheap but worth the money. The hot hojicha served with the meal is also good and you can buy the tea leaves at the store. If you eat at the restaurant, they also give you a coupon for 60 yen ($.60) off purchases from their store.
Itoh-Kyuemon Uji Main Shop: Aramaki-19-3 Todo, Uji, Kyoto 611-0013, Japan (〒611-0013 京都府宇治市莵道荒槇19-3)
Across from the Uji Station: 〒611-0021 京都府宇治市宇治宇文字１６−１
Byodoin Temple: Japan, 〒611-0021 Kyoto, Uji, Renge−３１−1 (〒611-0021 京都府宇治市宇治蓮華３１−1)
Main Shop: 10:00am-6:30pm
Across from the Uji Station: 10:30am-6:30pm
Byodoin Temple: 10:00am-5:00pm
4. Try matcha soba.
You’ve probably had matcha ramen earlier in the day, so you may want to try matcha soba as a snack. Soba is a thin noodle made out of buckwheat flour and/or wheat flour. What makes matcha soba fun is the bright green color. The matcha in the soba is subtle so it’s more of a novelty to eat.
Surprisingly, Uji has many soba restaurants. One place that we recommend is Tsubame-ya つばめ屋. It’s an unassuming place yet it has delicious soba and the best tempura that we’ve eaten. We had the Tsubame-ya Tenzaru Combo with tempura, fried shrimp, conger eel, and two types of soba. We chose matcha and nihachi soba (80% buckwheat, 20% wheat flour). The tempura batter is flaky and very light since it’s cooked in rice oil. If you add a bit of the matcha powder and salt mixture onto your tempura, you’ll get extra umami flavor. We still dream about this tempura many months after our trip.
There is an English menu. Expect to pay around 1500-2000 yen ($14.33-$19) for the soba and tempura meals. Cash only.
Address: Higashiuchi-13-3 Uji, Kyoto 611-0021, Japan (〒611-0021 京都府宇治市宇治東内13-3)
Opening Hours: 11:30am-5:00pm
5. Cross the Ujibashi Bridge.
In order to see other temples and museums, you’ll need to cross the Ujibashi Bridge. It was built in 646 by a monk with its current bridge built in 1996. The bridge has cultural significance as it was referenced in the “Tale of Genji” novel. Before going onto the bridge from the Byodoin Temple side, there is a statue of Murasaki Shikibu, who wrote the “Tale of Genji” novel.
While the current bridge isn’t any unique, it does have a lovely view of the hillside as you overlook the Uji River.
6. Visit Uji Shrine and Ujigami Shrine.
You’ll pass through a residential area to get to Uji Shrine (宇治神社) and the Ujigami Shrine (宇治上神社).
Uji Shrine was a part of the Ujigami Shrine until 1868. It’s a small shrine area with rabbit decorations everywhere. It’s a quick stop before heading to the larger Ujigami Shrine.
Address: Japan, 〒611-0021 Kyoto, Uji, Yamada, １丁目 (〒611-0021 京都府宇治市宇治山田 １丁目)
The Ujigami Shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Japan and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site historical monument of ancient Kyoto. Originally it was a guardian shrine for the Byodoin Temple. The shrine has a main hall, worship hall, and a forest area. It’s a quiet and lovely area to browse around as mostly locals come here to pray.
Address: Japan, 〒611-0021 Kyoto, Uji, 宇治山田５９ (〒611-0021 京都府宇治市宇治山田５９)
7. Other places to visit in Uji
We didn’t have a chance to see everything in Uji. Here are some other places to consider visiting. Please note that some of the temples will have an entrance fee.
Tale of Genji Museum
This museum (宇治市源氏物語ミュージアム) is based on the “Tale of Genji” novel as the last 10 chapters are in Uji. You’ll see exhibits and recreations of the novel in the museum. For foreigners, there is an audio guide in English to follow along with the exhibits.
The museum is also very close to the Ujigami Shrine and Mount Buttoku Observatory Point (more info below.)
Address: Higashiuchi-45-26 Uji, Kyoto 611-0021, Japan (〒611-0021 京都府宇治市宇治東内45-26)
Opening Hours: 9:00am-5:00pm (Closed on Mondays)
Admission Cost: 600 yen ($5.80 USD) adults, 300 yen ($2.90) children
Mount Buttoku Observatory Point
Want to do a short hike through the forest and see the Uji city skyline? Head up to Mount Bottoku (also known as Daikichiyama 大吉山展望台) to the observatory deck. It’s nearby the Ujigami Shrine so you can pair these two activities together.
Address: Higashiuchi-65-5 Uji, Kyoto 611-0021, Japan (〒611-0021 京都府宇治市宇治東内６５−5)
Amagase Forest Park
While not in the main tourist area, Amagase Forest Park is where locals go to spend time in nature. There are hiking trails, a view of the dam, and an observatory deck. This area is known to have cherry blossoms in bloom during spring.
Address: Japan, 〒611-0041 Kyoto, Uji, 槇島町槇尾山 (〒611-0041 京都府宇治市槇島町槇尾山) (You’ll need to take a taxi to get here.)
Uji City Botanical Garden
If you love seeing seasonal plants and flowers, then add this Botanical Garden (宇治市 植物公園) on your Uji itinerary. Come here to see cherry blossoms during the springtime and fireflies in the sky during the summertime. (You’ll need to take a taxi to get here.)
Address: Hachikenyadani-25-1 Hironocho, Uji, Kyoto 611-0031, Japan (〒611-0031 京都府宇治市広野町八軒屋谷25-1)
Opening Hours: 9:00am-5:00pm
Admission Cost: 600 yen ($5.80 USD) adults, 300 yen ($2.90) children under 15 years old
Uji is such a fabulous spot to spend either a half-day or one day from Kyoto. We would come back just to eat the matcha dessert! Now it’s time to return back to Kyoto to spend the rest of your day.
If you still have time, you can head to Nara to see the deer and more temples. It’s another 30 minutes going south on the JR Nara Line.
Interested in visiting Uji? Let us know in the comments if you have any questions.
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