Renowned Japanese author Kimitake Hiraoka — more famously known as Yukio Mishima — described Japan as a series of contradictions. He noted that Japan was partially defined by the relationship between “old and new”. While Tokyo and Osaka help define the importance Japan places on technology and innovation, there’s a particular uniqueness found in Japan’s rich historical sites. What better way to experience historical Japan than understanding Uji and Uji’s special relationship with one of Japan’s favorite drinks: Tea?
Uji is located south of Japan’s former capital city, Kyoto-shi. Home to approximately 180,000 residents, it is nonetheless well connected with both Keihan Uji Station and JR Uji Station serving the community. But what makes Uji special? Let’s take a look at five must-see tea locations and several additional historical locations to help bring to life Uji’s special status as both a tea haven and a source of rich history.
Note: Although I list out all the spots, let me first recommend my personal friend’s Uji tea tour which covers these and even more in English. Click here to view Uji Tea Lover’s Tour in English. (More about it later in the article.)
1. Tsuen Tea
Tsuen Tea Shop is quite possibly the oldest tea shop in the world and is considered the oldest tea shop in Japan. Established in 1160, Tseun’s current building was build in the Edo period in 1672. While known largely for its tea, the shop’s historical imprint has been furthered by visitors such as the first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate Tokugawa Ieyasu and Japan’s “great unifier” Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
Located close to Keihan Uji train station and with a beautiful view of the Uji bridge, Tsuen Tea offers not only classical Japanese teas such as matcha and sencha but various Japanese sweets to go along with your drink.
Uji is famous for many reasons including the Byodo-in Temple, however a short distance away is a lesser known public tea house, Taihoan. At Taihoan, visitors can participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Through being seated on tatami mats and the serving of matcha, visitors can experience a unique and captivating side of Japanese tea culture. Yes, Japanese etiquette is special and memorable even in the realm of drinking tea.
3. Fukujuen Ujicha Kobo and Takumi no Yakata
Having fallen in love with Japanese tea several years ago, I found myself increasingly curious as to how the tea was created. For those looking to explore this curiosity, Fukujuen Ujicha Kobo offers a workshop where visitors can not only grind their own matcha but prepare and finalize their own tea. Takumi no Yakata expands the tea-making experience where those interested can work with certified tea instructors to perfect their own cup of tea.
To be continued in 10 Must-See Places in Uji, Kyoto for Tea Lovers – Part 2
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