21 Jun Uji day trip (Byodoin Temple)
Uji is a small city located between Kyoto and Nara. The city is famous for its green tea which is said to be of the best quality. Uji also has a number of historical sites and beautiful scenery. While staying in Kyoto, we visited Uji for a day trip.
Getting to Uji
Uji is very easy to visit from Kyoto. From Kyoto Station it is a twenty-seven minute ride on the JR Nara line. We took my parents to see Fushimi Inari Shrine in the morning and left from Inari Station. After twenty-four minutes of passing traditional Japanese houses, people gardening and beautiful landscapes, we arrived at Uji Station.
Byodoin began in 998 as a villa retreat. The politician who had it built, passed the villa down to his son. He turned it into a temple and had the Phoenix Hall built. This is now what Byodoin is known for, with the image featured on the ten yen coin.
Byodoin Temple is about a 1km walk from Uji Station. It was lightly raining and we passed many tea stores with the idea we would look in them on the way back. We paid our admission and entered into a landscaped garden. Following the gravel path soon lead us to the striking Phoenix Hall. Sitting in the middle of a pond and surrounded by greenery, the large building certainly stands out. The hall has contrasting colours of orange, white and black and two phoenix statues sit on its roof. You can take a short tour of the Phoenix Hall for an extra fee. The tour is only done in Japanese.
We took our time, admiring the magnificent architecture and trying to get some decent photos amid the rain, people and umbrellas. After walking around the pond and following the path past the bell tower, we came to the entrance of the Treasure House. Most of the Treasure House is underground, so not to be seen behind the Phoenix Hall. Inside you will find artwork and many interesting statues. The original temple bell is also kept here in order to preserve it.
Byodoin Temple info
Open: Everyday 8:30 to 17:30 (last entry 17:15), Treasure House 9:00 to 17:00 (last entry 16:45)
Admission: 600 yen. (extra 300 yen to tour Phoenix Hall)
Stroller friendly: Yes, although paths are loose gravel. We used a lift in the Treasure House.
Walking from Byodoin Temple to Uji Station
The temple’s exit is in a different location to the entrance. Our walk back to Uji Station took us past houses. It was interesting to see all the different homes and I forgot about the tea stores. I went to Uji and didn’t buy any Uji green tea. When I realised, I was so disappointed.
Other things to see and do in Uji
Unfortunately due to the rain we didn’t get to see many of Uji’s attractions. Here are some other places you could visit on an Uji day trip.
- Mimurotoji Temple
An ancient temple set in Uji’s northern hills. Mimurotoji’s gardens are said to be spectacular in each four seasons. As we were in Uji during summer, I had planned to visit the temple to see its beautiful Hydrangeas. With the help of another passenger, I asked the station attendant how we could get to Mimurotoji. The passenger translated that buses were not running there until later in the month. We could have taken a taxi but as it was raining we decided to give it a miss.
See the four seasons of Mimurotoji here. (Japanese site)
- Mampukuji Temple
Founded by a Chinese monk, Mampukuji has more of a Chinese architectural style than other temples in Japan. The layout of the buildings are arranged to appear as a dragon from above. The temple has many buildings and features zen gardens.
- Ujigami Shrine & Uji Shrine
Ujigami Shrine is believed to be Japan’s oldest standing shrine. Built as the guardian shrine of Byodoin Temple, the exact construction date is unknown. In 1994 Ujigami Shrine became a Unesco World Heritage site. Uji Shrine is located next to Ujigami Shrine.
- Koshoji Temple
If you are visiting Uji around late November then Koshoji Temple would be the place to go. Lined with maple trees, the temple’s main approach is wonderful for autumn leaf viewing. Koshoji is still a working temple and the grounds feature a five storied pagoda.
- Uji River
One of our favourite things to do in a new area is to just stroll around, taking in the surroundings. Unfortunately the rain dampened our day and we didn’t get to explore much of Uji. It would be easy to explore on foot with many attractions within walking distance of the Uji River. The river runs through town and is lined with restaurants and tea houses. Many of the stores make use of the local specialty, green tea. Uji rivers main bridge was first constructed as early as 646, making it one of Japan’s oldest.
Uji day trip
Although we didn’t get to see as much of Uji as we would have liked to, we still enjoyed our time there despite the rain. Byodoin Temple was a spectacular sight and walking from the station and back allowed us to see some of the city. Uji would definitely make a wonderful day trip or half day trip from Kyoto.