Uji City is famous as the home of Japan’s finest green tea. It’s a brand that the area just south of Kyoto City has maintained for centuries. Uji is not just cultivating tea, but also tea drinkers, and has developed a range of activities to help visitors experience it and understand it. Join us as we try five different hands-on activities that share the joy of tea.
Only about 20 minutes by train from Kyoto station, Uji is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites—Byodo-in Temple and Ujigami Shrine—and filled with traditional buildings and nature. It is similar to Kyoto City, but smaller and typically much quieter.
The following five establishments are all located within a 15-minute walk from Uji Station and all take you much deeper into the heart of the city and the world of tea.
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Chazuna – decorate a tea canister
A great place to help you gain your bearings and plan your day is Chazuna. This center opened in 2021 to help visitors learn about and experience both Uji and tea.
As well as a tea-leaf-grinding, matcha-making workshop and various crafts, one of the more unique experiences Chazuna offers is to decorate a tea canister.
You first choose one design from 30 varieties of high-quality Japanese washi paper that range from traditional motifs to modern images. Adhesive has been applied to the back of the paper, so all you have to do is stick it on. To avoid creating air bubbles, the recommended technique is to pull the paper as hard as you can as you apply it to the steel can. It is a deceptively not-so-simple task that is best done with a partner and a laugh or two.
Exposure to humidity and light reduces the quality of green tea, so an air-tight container like this is essential. It makes an excellent souvenir that can be used for dry goods like coffee beans, or knick-knacks.
Other sections of Chazuna include a digital map with a touch panel that introduces the highlights of Uji. You can download this information to your smartphone. There is also a restaurant, gift shop and, on the second floor, an observation area with an excellent view of the town, Uji River, and Chazuna’s own rows of tea plants.
The museum here explains the tea-producing process, Uji’s ground-breaking tea-growing techniques, the history of Uji and local sightseeing highlights. You can see old tea-making equipment on display and most exhibits, including a short video, are in English. A fun photo-taking corner lets you download the photos to your smartphone. The museum requires an entrance fee.
Open: Daily, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. (Museum final admission at 4:30 p.m.)
Address: 203-1 Todo Maruyama, Uji City, Kyoto, 611-0013
Access: 4 minute walk from Keihan Uji Station, 12 minute walk from JR Uji Station
Chazuna Activity Website: https://chazunayoyaku.rsvsys.jp/events/list
Historical Park of Tea and Uji Town (Chazuna)
If you want to learn about Uji tea and the culture and history of Uji, this is the place to start.
This history-filled park is located at the center of several historical locations, linking the Uji …
Taiho-an is a tea house that offers a relaxed environment in which to experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
“Relaxed” is an important consideration because not only are the steps of making the tea highly formalized, but the drinking is, too. Here, that is not a concern, because the friendly staff can guide you on the proper etiquette if you would like.
Tea ceremony is about much more than just drinking tea, and the staff will offer information about the room’s hanging scrolls and more. Their explanation of the room and its adornments will help you understand the seasonality and hospitality that is central to tea ceremony.
To really showcase the world of tea, the type of tea ceremony used at Taiho-an differs by the day. While matcha powdered tea is usually served—along with a beautiful Japanese sweet—about three times a month green leaf tea, sen-cha, is served instead.
As a separate service that requires an advanced booking, you can experience performing the tea ceremony yourself. This not only allows you to experience the grace of movements honed centuries ago, but also to understand their purpose. You start by cleaning the tea bowl and wiping it in just such a way that all the necessary areas are cleaned elegantly and without extraneous movement. The ceremony’s repeated lifting of the tea whisk might seem superfluous or decorative when you receive tea, but here you learn that this movement is done to confirm the integrity of the whisk.
There are other tea ceremony mannerisms that you may take with you for life, such as how opening your elbows just so when you raise your tea bowl changes your posture, your presentation and your confidence: you get to feel the culture of Japan from the inside.
Learn Japanese Tea Etiquette (Tea Ceremony, Taihoan)
At Taihoan, a teahouse operated by Uji City, you can enjoy authentic Uji tea with seasonal sweets.
Tea Ceremony Association teachers will prepare tea using traditional methods. Visitors do not have t …
In a quiet back room of Agata Shrine, Kyoko Goto offers a unique and exquisite experience that she has masterminded. Applying her practice of traditional kodo incense appreciation, she coaches visitors in crafting matcha incense.
Although it is made from the same natural ingredients as the incense sticks you see at temples, Goto has developed a method of molding balls of bright green incense into delightful shapes like rabbits, cherry blossoms, tea motifs and symbols of Uji and Kyoto. The wooden molds are specially crafted and based on the ones used to make traditional Japanese sugar confectionary. This is the only incense with an aroma made only from matcha. Incense Kitchen is also the only place in the world where you can try your hand at making incense using wooden molds.
Heating the incense shapes with a tea light releases the relaxing aroma of matcha. The shapes remain intact and can be reused as aroma stones.
The matcha is recycled powered tea recovered from the air circulation filters of an Uji City matcha factory. It is placed in a mortar and mixed with water and powder from the Japanese Bay tree. A pestle is used to bind the material and then it is thoroughly kneaded and pushed firmly into the mold. The process is very tactile and Goto is confident that children visiting Uji will enjoy it much more than visiting another temple or shrine.
Even located centrally along the Uji sightseeing route, here you can slip away to relax in a refined and beautiful environment complete with tatami flooring and sliding doors that look out onto the lush and peaceful garden of Agata Shrine.
The incense-making experience includes a stylish incense warmer Goto designed to pack up into a pocket-sized box that’s just right for travelers. She also offers the options of adding the experience of whisking up a bowl of matcha, or savoring lunch at a traditional Japanese restaurant that uses Uji tea in its dishes.
Chair seating is also available.
Open: From 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. for the basic workshop
Address: 72 Uji-renge, Uji City (in Agata Shrine)
Access: 12 minute walk from Keihan Uji Station, 10 minute walk from JR Uji Station
Uji Teahouse, Takumi no Yakata – taste the range of Uji tea
It was in Kyoto Prefecture’s Minami Yamashiro area that two key methods in the production of Japanese tea were developed. One is to shade the tea trees from sunlight for some time, and the other is the kneading of steamed tea leaves to dry them. The combination of these methods produces different types of tea.
Using both techniques creates the top-level gyokuro for which Uji tea is famous. Using just the shading method makes ten-cha tea, which is ground to make matcha. Applying only the kneading method creates sen-cha, which is the most commonly consumed tea.
At the Takumi No Yakata teahouse, you can experience all three varieties. Better still, you can make a game of it.
The name of the game is chakabuki. It’s a blind tasting of five types of tea in which players attempt to guess the different types. If you enjoy similar endeavors, such as wine tasting, this is the game for you. It is a profound education in the wonderful flavors and scents of Uji tea.
The enthusiastic staff at Takumi no Yakata are certified Japanese tea instructors. They will help you recognize the different qualities of each type of tea in the sample tasting before the competition begins. Typically these types are gyokuro, ten-cha, two different grades of sen-cha, and a more easily recognizable variety, such as the roasted green tea called hoji-cha, or genmai-cha, which includes roasted brown rice. As well as the flavor of the tea, its aroma and color are also key clues.
Chakabuki requires an advanced booking for a minimum of 10 people and is a great activity for uniting a group. (Reservations required for chakabuki)
Smaller groups and individuals can enjoy gyokuro, matcha or sen-cha in the café, where instructors will teach them how to prepare it.
Open: 11 a.m.–5 p.m. (last order at 4:30 p.m.)
Closed: Wednesdays, and December 29–January 4, August 14–16
Address: 17-1 Uji Mataburi, Uji City, Kyoto 611-0021
Access: 6 minute walk from Keihan Uji Station, 14 minute walk from JR Station
Tea Brewing Experience (Takumi no Yakata)
Learn how to brew and savor delicious Uji tea while sharing information about the history, production process, and benefits of the three famous types of Japanese tea: gyokuro, matcha, and sencha.
Fukujuen, Uji Tea Workshop – roast your own hoji-cha tea
The term “green tea” refers to unfermented tea leaves. It also appears green, both as leaves and as a liquid, except when those leaves are roasted. Roasting Japanese tea creates whole new types, the most popular of which is hoji-cha. You can experience this simple, yet transformative, procedure yourself at Fukujuen’s Uji Tea Workshop.
The process starts with sen-cha. Store-bought hoji-cha is typically made from lower-grade sen-cha. In this workshop at proud tea manufacturer Fukujuen though, one of their standard sen-cha teas is used, making the end result a more refined hoji-cha.
In two separate batches, you sprinkle the tea leaves over a baking sheet that is on a hot plate and use long cooking chopsticks to move the leaves around to brown them and ensure they do not burn. As the color of the tea leaves change, so does their aroma, from a rich, fresh scent to a deep, nutty one.
The instructor encourages you to try this at home. The technique can also be used to refresh old tea leaves and to scent your home before a guest arrives.
The workshop ends with a tasting of your own hoji-cha and instruction on how to brew it. It is served with a Japanese sweet.
Hoji-cha is less astringent than unroasted green teas, making it easier to drink. It is a warming, calming tea.
Fukujuen offers a range of tea experiences, including milling matcha and tea ceremony etiquette classes, and it has a small, free museum that illustrates the tea-making process. Its cafeteria serves both sweet and savory dishes, with many of them incorporating tea, like tea-flavored noodles. Fukujuen’s gift shop is extensive, selling various teas, snacks, tea utensils and the local, high-quality Asahi-yaki pottery.
Open: Most days, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. (last entry for hoji-cha workshop at 3:30 p.m.)
*Those with reservations will be given priority.Address: 10 Uji Yamada, Uji City, Kyoto 611-0021
Access: 8 minute walk from Keihan Uji Station, 15 minute walk from JR Uji Station
Tea Hand-Kneading, Uji Tea-Making on a Ceramic Plate, Matcha Tea-Making with a Stone Mortar (Fukujuen Uji Tea Workshop)
Use a stone mortar to grind tencha, which is the primary ingredient to make powdered matcha tea, and then prepare and drink your own tea.
In addition to a workshop, where you can experience making te …