Honey's Anime Hot Spot - Uji
Like its neighboring city, Kyoto, the city of Uji has deep connections to Japanese culture and history that have made it a major tourist destination in modern times. Uji not only has two UNESCO World Heritage sites but is also renowned across Japan for producing top quality green tea and is the setting of both the final part of Murasaki Shikibu’s Heian-period masterpiece The Tale of Genji and Ayano Takeda’s light novel series Hibike! Euphonium (Sound! Euphonium), the latter of which has been adapted into multiple anime series by Kyoto Animation, itself also located in Uji!
Uji is a fascinating city that has a lot to offer for tourists and anime fans alike and, given its proximity to Kyoto, an easy recommendation for most people planning a trip to Japan! Read on to find out more about the major attractions, local cuisine, anime connections, and more!
|Location|| Uji is about 35 minutes southeast of central Kyoto by train.|
From Kyoto Station:
From Sanjo Station:
Note: Keihan Uji Station is a bit closer to the main tourist sites
|Cost of Admission|| Byodo-in Temple: ¥ 400|
Ujigami Shrine: FREE
The Tale of Genji Museum: ¥ 600 (Adult) ¥ 400 (Child)
|Hours of Operation|| City of Uji|
The Tale of Genji Museum
Starting with the UNESCO sites, Uji is home to many fascinating temples and shrines but the two most prominent are Byodo-in Temple and Ujigami Shrine.
Byodo-in was originally built in 998 as the villa of Minamoto no Shigenobu, a powerful member of the Heian court, and was later expanded and converted into a Buddhist Temple by Fujiwara no Yorimichi and others. The centerpiece of Byodo-in is the Phoenix Hall which is named after the two bronze phoenix statues on the roof. Its interior contains a famous statue of the Amida Buddha with 52 Bosatsu (Bodhisativas) and many colorful paintings on the walls and ceiling. The Phoenix Hall is considered by many to be the most beautiful building in Japan and is featured on the back of the 10-yen coin (bring one for a fun photo op!).
Ujigami Shrine was built as a guardian shrine to Byodo-in shortly after its completion and is dedicated to a prince of Emperor Ojin, Uji no Wakiiratsuko, who committed suicide to solve a dispute over succession to the imperial throne. It is famous for its natural spring and is considered to be the oldest extant Shinto shrine in Japan and is exemplary of Nagare-zukuri style architecture. As it is adjacent to Byodo-in and Uji Shrine, all three are recommended spots!
Another facet of Uji that’s impossible to miss is its green tea or Uji matcha which is available throughout the city in a seemingly endless variety of forms from matcha soft serve ice cream to matcha ramen, dango, gyoza, beer, and more! Tea too, of course, and it’s absolutely delicious with a rich umami flavor and many places offer traditional Japanese tea ceremony service! The origin of Uji matcha started at the beginning of the 13th century by influential Buddhist monk Myoue (Kyosogiga’s Myoue’s namesake by the way) who started a tea farm in Uji using seeds he was given by the Zen monk Eisai.
Tying it all together is storytelling from The Tale of Genji and Hibike! Euphonium. As we mentioned before, the finale of The Tale of Genji takes place in Uji and follows Genji’s secret descendants Niou and Kaoru and their rivalry over the daughters of an imperial prince. Many connections to the story such as the statue of Murasaki Shikibu near Uji Bridge can be found in Uji as can The Tale of Genji Museum which offers a variety of exhibits on the life and culture of the Heian Period Imperial Court.
As the setting for Hibike! Euphonium, Uji is also the perfect place for otaku pilgrimage! Kyoto Animation did a brilliant job capturing so many places throughout the city that you can visit in real life from the riverside bench Kumiko and others frequent to the chatsubo (tea jar)-shaped postbox by the station and many more! Trace Kumiko’s dramatic run across Uji Bridge! Eat hotdog pastries at Nakaji Bakery near Ōbaku Station! There’s actually so much that the local tourism office offers a special Hibike! Euphonium area map with tons of locations to visit from the series with images from the anime for perfect shot comparisons.
We definitely recommend checking out the local tourism offices located near the train stations for more information, cool and/or tasty souvenirs, and those special Hibike! Euphonium maps! There’s also a bunch of large character cutouts placed around town for more fun photo opportunities!
With rich history (and tea) and cultural connections old and new, Uji is an excellent and easy side trip from Kyoto that’s well worth your time, and a necessity if you love Hibike Euphonium!
Want to go? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below! Until next time, be sure to stick around Honey’s for more of all things awesome, Anime Hot Spots and otherwise! Mata ne~