Uji is famed as one of the major producers of quality tea in Japan. Perhaps, you have heard of Uji-cha, an excellent quality and highly prized tea which has been grown in Uji for many years. Green tea is deeply entrenched in town culture ever since it was brought from China sometime in the fourteenth century.
There are many teahouses, cafes and restaurants wherein one can enjoy Uji’s tea culture. I’m particularly fond of matcha parfait and dangos. Visitors can also purchase green tea, or teaware in shops.
Aside from green tea, Uji is also known as one of the settings for The Tale of Genji. As it is located between the two ancient capitals, Kyoto and Nara, some important events had occurred in the area many years ago.
I came to Uji to visit the plant of Marukyu-Koyamaen. The company’s history dates back to Genroku period (1688-1704) when the founder, Kyujiro Koyama started to cultivate green tea. During the tour, not only will you learn how the tea is processed, you will also have a glimpse of the processing facilities wherein the production occurs. What impressed me the most that day was learning how they maintain the quality of the tea. The director of the company himself tastes each sample before the final stages of production. We are not just talking about hundreds of samples but thousands. To differentiate properties of each samples at this quantity requires superior skill and knowledge.
The tour concluded with a visit to a tea ceremony room and preparation of my own matcha tea.
Prior to my plant visit, I made short stops in two shrines:
The Ujigami Shrine is the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan. The temple is dedicated to the Emperor Ōjin and his sons, the imperial princes Uji no Wakiiratsuko and Emperor Nintoku. Uji no Wakiiratsuko committed suicide to solve a dispute over the throne succession. The Main Hall (Honden) dates back to the Heian period and consists of three separate buildings built side by side, each covered by a cypress bark roof.
The temple is a 10 minute walk from Uji station (Keihan line)
Mimurotoji temple is also known as the “flower temple”, as large gardens of some varieties of seasonal flowers are grown in the temple grounds. A three-tiered vermilion pagoda can also be found in the temple precinct. The temple is a 20 minute walk from the train station (Keihan line).
Directions For Uji
By JR Line train: Take the JR Nara line from Kyoto Station and get off at Uji Station
By Keihan Line train: Take the Keihan Main Line south toward Osaka, get off at Chushojima and switch to the Uji Line and get off at Uji Station