Monday, January 23, 2017

[Japan 2016] Uji, Kyoto: Strolling Along The Uji River

Photo By: Elin Chow

After lunch, we left Arashiyama and headed to the next destination of the day - Uji. Uji is a small laid back tourist town located on the southern outskirts of Kyoto on Uji River. It is the second largest city in the Kyoto prefecture.

Uji? How do you get to Uji? To many people, Uji might seems distant and difficult to get to, but it is actually not. Uji is located conveniently close to Kyoto and can be easily reached by JR train along the JR Nara Line. From Kyoto Station, you can take either the rapid or the local train. The one way trip takes about 20 minutes by rapid train and 30 minutes by local train.

At Kyoto Station, the train departs from track 8, 9 and 10. The JR Nara Line is covered by the JR Pass. For those who do not have a JR Pass, the one way fare from Kyoto Station to JR Uji Station is 240 Yen.

Besides JR Uji Station, the Uji area is also serviced by the Keihan Uji Station. You can use the Keihan Electric Railway to get to Uji. Both the JR and Keihan Uji stations are located 10 minutes walk from Uji River. However, the Keihan Uji Station is more convenient in Uji because it is located closer to the river.

If you are alighting at JR Uji Station, you will first encounter the Uji Tourist Information Center located just right in front of the station.

Drop in Tourist Information Center to pick up a free copy sightseeing map. If you are any questions about the various tourist spots in Uji, the shop assistant will do their best to help you.

The city of Uji lies between the ancient city of Kyoto and Nara. Despite being a city of great cultural, political and historical importance, it is surprisingly off the foreign tourist beaten track. The small town is not popular place to visit for foreigners and is often overlooked by first-time visitors to Japan. After all, it is not one of the main attractions of Kyoto.

But Uji is a great place to escape hustle and bustle of the city and tourist crowds. There were few foreign tourists when we visited the town.

The city of Uji is surrounded by lush green and Uji River, which is 5-10 minutes walk from JR Uji Station. The source of the river is Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in the country. Uji bridge spans across Uji river with a fairy busy road passing over it. This is one of the oldest bridge in Japan, first constructed around 646.

Uji is home to many famous historical sights, including the Byodo-In Temple and Ujigami-jinja shrine. Most of the attractions in Uji are located within a short walk from Byodo-In Temple and Uji river, so it is possible to reach most of them by foot.

Located just beside Uji River, you will find the Byodoin Omotesando Street, which leads to the famous Byodoin Temple. As I headed down the cobbled stone street, I started to see more local tourists.

Uji is famed for its excellent tea cultivation and production for hundreds of years. The tea produced in Uji is usually regarded to be of superior quality. The best place to purchase tea and tea-related souvenirs in Uji is Byodoin Omotesando Street.

The 300 meters long street is lined with restaurants and shops selling tea and tea-related products and local arts and crafts. Some of the shops have tea roasters facing the street where fresh brew of tea are sold for immediate consumption, filling the air with the fragrance of intoxicating tea leaves.

Strolling down the street, you will see Itohkyuemon, a long-established Japanese tea shop based in Uji, Kyoto.

Itohkyuemon offers a wide range of green tea products, such as high quality tea, sweets, ice cream, noodles and alcoholic beverages. 

At the end of the street, you will find the famous Byodoin Temple. You will know it once you see the red Torri gate. Registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the temple was first built in 998 as a countryside retreat villa for political Fujiwara no Michinaga. The temple was turned into a temple by Michinaga's son, who also ordered the construction of the spectacular Phoenix Hall.

Byodoin Temple is open from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm daily, with the last admission at 5.15 pm. The entrance fee was 600 Yen, which does not include admission to the Phoenix Hall. The Phoenix Hall is featured on the back of the 10 Yen coin. To enter the Phoenix Hall, a separate 300 Yen entrance fee is required, which includes a short guided tour.

We did not pay to enter the temple because we were traveling on a low budget. But do not worry, Just like Arashiyama, you can still enjoy the beautiful city of Uji without spending a penny. The cobbled stone approach to the temple is lined with colorful maple trees. It was beautiful everywhere we looked.

Continue down the street will bring you to a flight of stairs leading to Prefectural Uji Park. 

Set along the bank of Uji River, Uji park is a popular spot for locals to enjoy cherry blossom in spring and fall colors in autumn. Running through the park is a paved road lined with maple trees and surrounded by nature. 

All along the path, there are benches where people can take a rest and take in the beautiful scenery. Enjoy a bento or drink under the shade of colorful trees beside the picturesque Uji river. The atmosphere is incredibly relaxing and peaceful. For those seeking to spend some quality time with nature, this is the best place to enjoy some quietude and tranquility.

At Uji Park, you will also find several stone bridges that connect the park to the other side of the river. 

If you walk across and stand on the bridge at Uji Park, you will see a vermillion colored bridge some distance away, connecting one side of the river to the other. The bright orange red contrast perfectly against the lush green mountains. Absolutely stunning!

The riverside is lined with several cafes and tea houses where you can relax and enjoy a cup of hot tea while taking in the view.

It was nice to stroll around and all along the river at your own leisurely pace. The river adds a very special feeling to the entire place - so tranquil and calming. 

All along the river, you will see many small boats which you may hire for cruises in the day, The boats are also available for cormorant fishing (also known as Ukai) during mid June to late September.

Uji Park consists of Tonoshima and Tatibanajima islands, which are connected by the vermillion colored Kisenbashi Bridge, Tachinbanabashi Bridge, Asagiri Bashi Bridge and Nakajimabashi Bridge.

On Tonoshima island, you will find a 13-tiered stoned pagoda erected by Monk Eison. The pagoda is known as Jusanju Sekito in Japanese. Measuring a total of 15 metres in height, this is the highest stone pagoda in Japan.

To reach the stone pagoda, you have to cross vermillion colored bridge to the other side of the river.

The beauty of Uji is equal to the better-known Arashiyama, but far less crowded. I love the tranquility and amazing view that the city offers, and this is also what makes Uji a perfect day-trip destination without the rush and the crowds. If you are short of time, sightseeing in Uji can be limited to 2-3 hours.

Uji is a place where you wish time would stop so that you could stay longer. Retracing our footsteps back to JR Uji Station, we took the JR train once again and headed back to Kyoto Station.

At Kyoto Station, we walked through the entire Porta Mall in search for something to eat. We could not decide what to eat because there are simply just too many choices of restaurants to choose from, and everything looks delicious.

After walking around for half an hour, we finally decided to have our dinner at Wa Pasta & Cafe Co Na Na, a Japanese and Western fusion restaurant that specialize in Wafu Pasta, or Japanese style pasta.

The restaurant serves a good selection of high quality meals. English menu with pictures are available and most of the staffs speak reasonable English.

Japanese style pasta are lighter than the usual Italian pasta, and with a dose of Japanese Asian flavours in order to suit Japanese taste and preference. The pasta are cooked in dashi base or soy base instead of the usual tomato sauce or meat sauce.

Mushroom, Thick Slices of Bacon & Coddled Egg Pasta

Price: 1,328.40 Yen

Clams & Mushroom with Soy Flavored Sauce Yuzu Citrus Pasta
Price: 1,058.40 Yen

I ordered the Mushroom, Thick Slices of Bacon & Coddled Egg Pasta and my husband ordered the Clams & Mushroom with Soy Flavored Sauce Yuzu Citrus Pasta. Both were perfectly cooked and really not too heavy.  However, we actually find the price a little too expensive.

After dinner, we took the Karasuma Subway to Shijo Station and headed to Nishiki Market again to do some souvenir shopping. If you interested to know what I bought in Japan, please read my "Huge Beauty + Snacks Shopping Haul" post.

Then we visited this little sweet store located just beside the Karasuma Subway line at Kyoto Station to get some sweets. The store assistants were very friendly and polite. 

Price: 1,260 Yen

My husband bought these soft green tea cookies sandwiching green tea cream. These are incredibly delicious. The texture of the cookies are very soft and chewy. But just to be warned, these soft green tea cookies tend to sell out really fast. So please be early if you are interested to try these.

Price: 1,140 Yen

We bought some Japanese-style mochi in ground peanuts as well. Japanese-style mochi is a bit like Hokkien-style Muah Chee. The Japanese rice balls are made from sticky rice flour in sweetened coarsely ground peanuts. It was sweet, in fact, too sweet for my liking, but very soft and moist. We really love the soft and chewy texture of the rice balls. Most importantly, they do not stick to your teeth!

We could not finish an entire packet that night, so we decided save it for breakfast the next morning. I doubt anyone can finish 500g of mochi in a night. We turned in early that night too. It was a really tiring but fulfilling day. This is also our last night in Kyoto. We could not wait to explore the beautiful city of Osaka next!

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 7D6N Osaka - Kyoto - Nara - Kobe Trip Itinerary + Overview for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 7 days in Japan. For anyone planning your first trip to Japan but have no idea where to start, you should read my "How To Plan A Trip To Japan" post.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates on my 7 days adventures in Japan! You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.


  1. Beautiful photos, Elin! Thank you so much for sharing this lovely tour. Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. :)

  2. Hi Elin, thanks for sharing your trip to Uji. I am from Toronto, Canada. I am going to Uji soon and I see some people said part of Uji river is under construction. Did you see any construction when you were there? Thanks in advanced!!

    1. Hi, I did not see any construction when I was there. But Uji river is very long. Probably some parts of it is under construction. But I am not sure about that because I did not see any, at the parts i have visited.

  3. Hi! Elin, thanks for your sharing. I am going to Osaka-Kyoto-Nara this Christmas, for 7 days 6 nights. Can you suggest how many days I should book for accommodation for both cities? Half half or 4 nights Osaka, 2 nights Kyoto. As I will be travelling with my 3 teenagers children. 5 of us. Appreciate you can also let me know, whether the tourist attraction places are open during Christmas season as I heard some are closed. Thanks!

    1. Hi Janice,

      I would suggest 4 nights Osaka and 2 nights Kyoto. There are many dining and shopping choices in Osaka than Kyoto. But it depends what are your preferences. I am not sure which attractions are closed during Christmas. I believe the Universal studios will be open. It will be great place to spend Christmas together your family.

  4. Hi Elin! Love your post. :) May I check if many stalls at Nishiki Market are still open at night?

    1. Hi,

      The stalls at Nishiki Market close at around 6 pm. Some close slightly later at 6.30 pm.

  5. Hi Elin,

    May I know when did you go for your trip? I am going in this coming October for 9 days 8 nights, 4 nights in Kyoto, 4 nights in Osaka.

  6. Hi,

    I went around end of November for 7 days 6 nights