The city of Uji is located on the Uji River between two big ancient cities, Kyoto and Nara. It is blessed with so many amazing temples and shrines, which makes you sure that the city has a long history and very rich culture. It will take a lot of time to see and do all that is worth seeing and doing, but you won’t regret it. You will enjoy every minute of your stay in Uji. Here are some of the things you can do there.
1. Visit the Oldest Shinto Shrine
Ujigami Shrine is probably the oldest Shinto Shrine built in 1060. It is pretty small, but still very significant because of the age. It is also one of the World Heritage Sites from Japan. This is a perfect opportunity to enjoy the magnificence and true dignity of the shrine because it is not usually crowded as those in Kyoto or other bigger cities. Here you can be with god; the shrine is peaceful, modest and divine.
- Name: Ujigami Shrine
- Address: 59 Uji Yamada, Uji 611-0021
- Tel: 81 774-21-4634
2. See the Famous Byodoin Temple
This is a truly famous temple and the most recognizable one, too: you can see it on the ten yen coin! The temple itself is the best example of Japanese Buddhist architecture. It was first build in 998 as a villa and it was real paradise with its wonderful garden. The most beautiful part of the temple is its Phoenix Hall. The other amazing part is the underground treasure house where you can see many valuable artifacts. When you enter the temple, look at the walls. You will see some great artwork there, don’t miss that!
- Name: Byodoin Temple
- Address: Renge-116 Uji, 611-0021
- Admission: 600 Yen
- Website: byodoin.or.jp
3. Enjoy the Beauty at the Mimurotoji Temple
Mimurotoji, or as it is also called ‘flower temple’, was built in 1200. It is located in the north of Uji City, and is famous for its large temple gardens full of various seasonal plants and flowers. Depending on the time you visit it, you can enjoy the cherry blossoms, azaleas, hydrangeas, lotuses and many others. In front of the temple’s main hall, you will see the statues of a rabbit and an ox. Touch the ball of stone in the ox’s mouth and you will be successful; put your hand into the sphere of stone near the rabbit and make a wish!
- Name: Mimurotoji Temple
- Address: 21 Todo Shigatani, Uji 611-0013
- Opening Hours: 8.30 a.m. – 4.30 p.m.
- Admission: 500 Yen
4. Visit the Obakusan Mampukuji Temple
Obakusan Mampukuji is a Zen temple built in the Chinese Ming style and it is situated on the hills in the suburbs of Uji. It was built by one of the three main Chinese sects of Zen Buddhism. It is huge and there are more than twenty halls. There are also some Japanese elements in its structure, and it is evident in the interior of the temple. It prides its original appearance. It is usually very calm and peaceful place with beautiful temple grounds, so it might be a good idea to come here when you wish to run away from the hustle and bustle of the touristy places.
- Name: Obakusan Mampukuji Temple
- Address: 34 Gokasho Sanban-wari, Uji 611-0011, Kyoto Prefecture
- Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
- Fees: 500 yen
5. Go to Koshoji Temple
This temple is not as old as many others. It was originally built in Kyoto, and then 400 years later moved to Uji. It was in the 17th century and that is why they say it is a relatively new temple. You will love its structure, especially the five-story pagoda on its ground, as well as the beautiful garden with wonderfully pruned trees, different shrubs and flowers. It is still in use and tourist especially like its approach lined with amazing maple trees, forming a beautifully colored tunnel in autumn.
- Name: Koshoji Temple
- Address: Yamada-27-1 Uji, Kyoto Prefecture 611-0021
- Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- Fees: Free
6. Visit One of the Three Famous Bridges in Japan
Head north of Uji Station, and after a short walk you will get to Uji Bridge. From there, you can walk through all the riverbank attractions. Japanese believe that this bridge is among the three most important bridges in whole Japan. It was built back in 646 and it was the scene of the three very important battles in Japanese history. The truth is that this is only a replica of a real bridge, since it is repeatedly damaged by flooding, and that it was rebuilt in 1996 for the last time. Nevertheless, it is still very popular and attractive for tourists.
7. Learn the Tale of Genji
Just ten minute walk from Byodoin Temple there is the Tale of Genji Museum. There are signs in different languages helping you to get there. When they think of Uji, most Japanese first think of the Tale of Genji. It is believed to be the first novel in the world. In the museum, you will see the reconstructions of the scenes from this tale. They have prepared an audio guide which helps you understand the stories. As you listen to the story, you can look at various exhibits dating back to the time of the tale.
- Name: Tale of Genji Museum
- Address: 45-26 Uji-Higashiuchi
- Hours: 9.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.
- Fees: 500 yen
- Website: uji-genji.jp/en/
8. Visit the Byodoin Museum Hoshokan
You will love this modern museum located within the area of Byodoin temple. It is air-conditioned and there are nice seating areas where you can relax and rest. The architecture of the museum is fascinating and it simply blends into the historical landscape of the temple grounds. There is a great video presentation and there are many very old Buddhism statues and arts. You will love the replicas of the phoenix birds from the top of the temple and wooden statues carved from just one piece of the cypress tree.
- Name: Byodoin Museum Hoshokan
- Address: 116 Ujirenge, Uji 611-0021
- Tel: +81 774-21-2861
- Website: www.byodoin.or.jp
9. Enjoy the Paradise at the Pure Land Garden
This garden is right in front of the famous Phoenix Hall and it is considered one of the masterpieces of scenic beauty. Pure Land Gardens date back to the Heian period and people believe that this is the first garden that influenced the others that spread out throughout Japan. The gardens were built to look like Buddhist paradise and they usually feature similar design with large ponds, islands and amazing pavilion buildings. Uji’s Byodoin Temple has preserved the most of the important elements of this type of gardens.
10. See the Amagase Dam
Because of the frequent flooding, the city built a dam called Amagase Dam in 1964. It might not be a historic site, but it has become one of the landmarks of the Uji city, and the view you can get from its top is absolutely stunning. And it is completely free. If you choose to visit it, it will surely be worth it.
11. Experience Cormorant Fishing
The Uji River divides the Uji city into two parts and forms the stunningly beautiful landscape. It is one of the favorite places for relaxation and recreation. In addition to that, all the important attractions are within short walks away from the river. In summer, you can go on popular river cruises during the day, or you can choose to go cormorant fishing in the evening. This is a traditional way of fishing and in Japan when fishermen attract fish with burning torches and their cormorants. The cormorants have collars that stop them from swallowing the fish. Enjoy this spectacular performance!
12. Have Fun at the Fireworks Festival
When you come to Uji, the first thing you notice is that there are not so many tourists as in some more popular cities in Japan. You will certainly love it. However, if you come in August, you might be there for the great Uji Fireworks festival. This is the time when this peaceful city turns into a very crowded place with thousands of people. The festival itself is extremely popular. The fireworks start in the late evening and they are shot from the the beautiful bridge. If you want to have the best view, you must come early. Of course, there are numerous food and drink stalls along the road to the bridge.
13. Visit the Uji Tea Festival
Tea from Uji is one of the finest kind and it is renowned throughout Japan, even further. In Uji, everything is related to green tea. There are green tea-flavored ice creams, biscuits, various sweets and green tea-flavored soba. You can enjoy trying this famous tea in many stores all along the street leading to Byodoin Temple. There is a big Tea Festival in October near Ujibashi Bridge held in honor of three Japanese tea ceremony masters. The other goal of the festival is to preserve tea-related artifacts, as well as to promote Uji tea industry.
14. Have a Picnic on the River Island
We already mentioned the Uji River and its wonderful bridges and banks. Another great point about the river is its island. In the middle of this beautiful river there is an islet with an amazing stone pagoda. They say it is the highest in Japan. This wonderful island is a great place to go for a picnic with your family. Of course, the best time to visit it is during sakura when you can get some of the most beautiful views.
15. Go Hiking to Mount Daikichi
If you want to get the best view of the Uji city and its surroundings, you should take a walk to Mount Daikichi. It is a small hill you can get along the trail starting at Ujigami Shrine and then up along the path through the woods. The walk takes not more than half an hour, but the panoramic view of the whole city is well worth every minute of it. If you are more adventurous, take the trail from the Koshoji Temple.
16. Have a Cup of Tea at the Taihoan Tea house
Just next to the Byodo-in Temple, there is the municipal tea house you should definitely visit. They opened this tea house to show the legendary tea ceremony to their visitors. This is an opportunity to visit the interior of the traditional home and have a cup of the authentic and unique tea from Uji, as well as to have a look at the steps of the ancient ritual. You will love the comfortable and serene atmosphere of the place.
- Name: Taihoan Tea house
- Opening Hours: 10.00 a.m. – 04.00 p.m.
- Admission: 500 Yen
17. See the Mysterious Festival
This is a very interesting festival of the Agata Shrine. Its nickname is ‘Mysterious Festival of the Dark Night’ because it starts at about 1 a.m. when a crowd of young men carries a huge statue of the god Bonten in procession to a temporary enshrinement location. During the day, however, you can take a walk along the streets with your family, and enjoy different performances and vendors along the way.
18. Enjoy the Beauty at Uji City Botanical Park
This is a great spot to relax you mind and eyes surrounded by the unbelievable beauty. Walk along the rolling plain and enjoy the different areas of the botanical garden. Each area is dedicated to the different season. There is also a greenhouse with various tropical plants and flowers. The park boasts the biggest 3D flowerbed in whole Japan. It is an amazing tapestry of flowers and water. There are various events, exhibitions even training sessions, throughout the year as well.
- Name: Botanical Park
- Address: 25-1 Hironocho Hachikenyadani, Uji 611-0031
- Tel: 81 774-39-9387
- Website: uji-citypark.jp/botanical/#_=_
19. Enjoy Sports at Sports Park Taiyogaoka
This is a great place to go with your family, especially if you visit in summer. It is a huge park with a stadium near the hills of Uji. In addition to the stadium, there is a baseball field, a swimming pool, as well as a family pool. There are track and fields for athletics but also some nice lawns suitable for children to play. They will especially love a very long slide there. As you can see, there are many activities that you can do, besides walking. A nice way to spend a day.
- Name: Sports Park Taiyokaoka
- Address: 1 Hironocho Hachikenyadani, Uji 611-0031
- Tel: 81 774-24-1313
- Admission: Free
20. See the Agata Shrine
Agata Shrine is one of the numerous small shrines you can visit in Uji. It is also one of the prettiest. Within it, there are various even smaller shrines beautifully lit up. At its entrance, there is a purification fountain with an imposing dragon statue. The shrine’s grounds are well maintained, and the trees look spectacular especially in spring and summer. This might not be the spectacular place, but it is still worth seeing.
- Name: Agata Shrine
- Address: Uji Renge72, Uji-shi, Kyoto 611-0021
- Tel: 81 774-21-3014
21. Visit the Eshin-in Temple
This is also one of the nice small places where you can enjoy some quiet and peaceful time in the middle of the town noise. The street might be full of people, but the temple stays unspoiled and serene. Set on a small hill, it offers beautiful scenery, and the autumn leaves make a wonderful sight. It overlooks the garden Izu and you can really relax here in natural surroundings and truly friendly atmosphere.
- Name: Eshin-in Temple
- Address: 67 Uji Yamada, Uji 611-0021
- Tel: 81 774-21-3942
22. Walk Across Amagase Suspension Bridge
When you are in Uji, it might be a good idea to walk all along to the dam. You will enjoy various sites on your way there, and one of the interesting things you will see is a nice example of an old suspension bridge. It will take you across the Uji River and you will definitely enjoy the lush greenery all around it. You definitely get a pleasant and relaxing walk.
23. Go Green Tea Tasting
Ujibashi-dori Street in Uji is lined with various artisan shops, bakeries, and, of course, tea shops offering green tea tasting opportunities. There are shops that have been selling and serving tea for a couple of centuries there. Enjoy some time in one of their gardens, savor some of the green tea cakes, jellies and other treats and have a cup of free green tea. They offer numerous varieties of teas so you get many options to choose from.
24. Relax in Prefectural Uji Park
If you really want to spend some time in the relaxing atmosphere, you must not miss Prefectural Uji Park. The park itself is set on the banks of the Uji River. Take your bento, choose one of the benches there, listen to the sound of water and enjoy the beautiful surrounding area, with the green forest hills at the background. You can take your mats and have a picnic with your family. Sometimes groups of Japanese ladies gather in the park and perform their traditional songs and dances.
25. Walk along Sawarabi Road
This is one of the most popular spots with the tourists from Taiwan and Hong Kong. We recommend that you visit it, and the best thing to do is to climb from Sawarabi street up to Mount Daikichi overlooking Byodoin temple. This road connects Uji shrine and Ujigami Shrine, the Tale of Genji Museum and the greenery and the atmosphere along the way is just amazing. Walk leisurely while enjoying and feeling the ancient history.
26. See the Ukifune Statue
Asagiri-bashi Bridge is one of the must-visit spots in Uji. You can just walk across the bridge and have a look at the beautiful river and lush greenery around it, but you must not miss the memorial statue dedicated to the chapters of the Tale of Genji with scenes from Uji. It is a beautiful statue of the maiden Ukifune and Prince Niou-no-Miya floating in a boat. The story says that she threw herself into the river to get away from courtiers.
27. Uji-jinja Shrine & Ujigami-jinja Shrine
Ujigami-jinja Shrine is a very old shrine listed as a World Heritage Site. It represents the guardian shrine for another World Heritage Site, the Byodoin temple. It may not be as glamorous as the Byodoin, but its architecture will leave you breathless. It simply blends into the hills with lush greenery and somehow shows deep respect for the nature. There is another small shrine on this shrine complex called Uji-jinja.
28. See the Statue of the World’s First Novelist
On the far side of the Uji-bashi Bridge, there is a statue of Murasaki Shikibu, the world’s first storywriter from the 11th century, who wrote about the Tale of Genji, romantic adventures of a ‘shining prince’. The stories are set in different places and the last ten chapters are set in Uji. There are some other sites all over the city connected to the story and you can learn more about her writing at the Museum.
29. Walk along Byodoin Omotesando Street
You already know that Uji is a renewed center of green tea production. Omotesando Street is a charming street with many stores selling tea and various products with tea. You can try tea-flavored noodles, ice-creams, donuts and many other tea related products. Along the way there are also numerous souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants. This is a perfect place for you if you are into matcha. The variety of products sometimes goes beyond your imagination. There is even matcha curry.
30. River Cruises
If you like spending time on water, than river cruises are perfect for you. All around the island in the Uji River you can see many boats. They are available for tours along the river at daytime and for fishing at night. There are even some larger boats for various banquets for bigger groups. The river is the place where they organize a fishing festival and dragon boat festival every year. That is the time when the city is really crowded; otherwise you can enjoy the serenity and peacefulness of this historical place.
Uji may be just a small part of Kyoto, but it still has a lot to offer. You can have fun and enjoy every minute of your stay there. There is something to see, wherever you go. And you will certainly have one of the best experiences in your life. Enjoy the history!
Have a good trip and travel!