Uji: The Beauty in the Southern Kyoto

By Anissa Ratna Putri - Februari 11, 2018

When you have several days to explore Kyoto and want to go beyond Fushimi Inari, Arashiyama, Kinkaku-ji, or Kiyomizu-dera, please go to the south of Kyoto: Uji city. Best known for its matcha (green tea), here are several places you might visit when you walk around Uji.

Places to explore in Uji

Byodoin Temple
I was told by a friend that there is a temple that is used as a symbol in a Japanese 10 yen coin - and it is Byodoin. Unlike other Buddhist temples that I've been to, instead of being brownish in its wooden structure, Byodoin Phoenix Hall is red - fascinatingly stand in the small land in the middle of a green pond. Byodoin was built in 998 and its Phoenix Hall is one of the wooden structure that survives during Heian Period (the period in which most wooden structures in Kyoto are burned). As I went there in early May, I had a chance to see a wisteria garden blooming. If you are here in early April, you may meet some Sakura trees around.

Nakamura Tokichi Restaurant
As Uji is best known for its green tea, one of the places you might go to taste it is Nakamura Tokichi Restaurant. They have two shops in Uji: Nakamura Tokichi Honten near to JR Uji Station and Nakamura Tokichi Byodoin near to Byodoin Temple. However, I have to warn you: the line is long. I started to line up around 10 am and I finally got my seat around 12:30 pm. Yes, it was 2,5 hours of waiting. 

Nakamura is known for its sweets, particularly traditional Japanese sweets using green tea. Nonetheless, since most of the Japanese traditional sweets using green tea combined with red bean (azuki) while I am not a fan of it, I was not tempted to order the traditional Japanese sweets. Instead, I ordered a green tea cold soba for my lunch (820yen) and a dessert named 'Kyo no Fukiyose' (800 yen). They also have set menu for you who wants to taste their dessert along with a cup of green tea/green tea latte. The soba was good - one of the best soba I've ever had (if you rarely eat soba, you might not know the difference). The dessert, unfortunately, was so-so for me. It was good as a dessert, but as a green tea dessert, it didn't give a strong flavor as I expected. Based on this experience, I will suggest you order Japanese traditional sweets instead if you are looking for a real green tea taste. You might also consider trying their green tea parfait named Maruto Parfait (1000 yen). My friend said it was the best green tea parfait ever.

Uji River
I must say, Uji River, in some way, look like Katsura river of Arashiyama. It has the mountain, it has the boat, and to my perspective, the water is even clearer than Arashiyama's (if not the same clear level). We were crossing the bridge from the side of Byodoin Temple to the 13-story stone pagoda in the small island in the middle of the river while enjoying a beautiful view in a sunny day.

Ujigami shrine
We were unintentionally found this shrine in our way to the Tale of Genji Museum. Although not as famous as Byodoin Temple, Ujigami shrine is actually the oldest shrine in Japan that is recognized as a Unesco World Heritage in 1994. The shrine is said as a "guardian shrine" of Byodoin Temple.

The Tale of Genji Museum
The Tale of Genji is a Japanese literature that is considered as the first novel in the world. The writer, Murasaki Shikibu, wrote the literature in Uji city. The novel told a story of a son of ancient Japanese emperor named Genji, who for political reason was removed from the line of succession. The tale focus on Genji's love story, while also illustrates how the aristocratic society of Japan at that time.

The museum, instead of being ancient like the story, is a modern one. They provide visual screen showing the history of Uji, with projected images in a dark room. There are also some figures illustrates the Genji tale and a movie room that play Genji Tale movie. For foreigners, the museum has some English explanation and the movie has the translation in English, Chinese, and Korean. The museum entrance fee is worth 500yen for adult and 250yen for children (6-15 years old).

Closing remarks
You might say, Uji is one of the off-beaten track for tourist who wants to explore Kyoto. Although the destination is not as happening as the one you will find in Kyoto city, Uji does have its own charm. Explore the area by foot is the best way to enjoy the city. Go and experience the beauty of Uji by yourself!


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