An Ode to Uji (& green edible things)

My favorite place in Kyoto is an unassuming little town called Uji. I first found out about it from a former colleague, a Japanese who grew up in Wakayama. She said it I might be interested to go there if I was fond of green tea. In Uji you’ll find real matcha in pure tea form, soft cream (with a dream dusting of green tea powder! I’d been going to the same store for three years straight), ramen, takoyaki, gyoza, crepe…and just about everything.

Matcha aside, what keeps me coming back to Uji is its endearing quaintness. It’s a refreshing stop rightfully sandwiched between the tourist favorites Fushimi Inari Taisha and Nara (the Nara line stops in all three stations, if I’m not mistaken).

During our autumn trip last year, my friend and I were supposed to go to Fushimi first but upon seeing the massive crowd alighting the station, we decided to go straight to Uji and thought of going back to Fushimi later that afternoon. We ended up spending the entire afternoon in Uji. The longer stay this time afforded me a visit to unexplored spots in town.

Our first taste of Uji, September 2015. With my dear friend Shari. 
Statue of Murasaki Shikibu, the novelist behind The Tale of Genji whose last few chapters are set in Uji. I may have read the summarized version of that story in high school. Now I’m curious to read the entire novel. Apparently, there’s also a Tale of Genji Museum in the area.
I absolutely adore this quiet spot by the Uji-gawa. When I first went here, it was end of summer hence the lack of cherry blossoms and autumn trappings. Still, I found it charming.
And I was back to the same soft cream store! This monumental event merited a haggard selfie. April 2016
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Another thing I loved about Uji was the comforting, distinct smell of green tea wafting in the air as you travese the store-lined streets. It’s divine.
Back to the quiet spot, this time with lovely cherry blossoms and my friend Larie practicing her best day-off pose. 😀 This was after our tour of the Byodouin Temple, a Unesco World Heritage Site. Tourists would just usually leave Uji after visiting that temple. Lucky for us, this gem of a spot (which is inside a park) remains low-key.
A glorious late lunch! We had arrived in Uji famished from a morning trip to Nara (where I got traumatized by a deer who snatched my matcha chips. Horrifying!). It was a bit past lunch hour when we got to Uji, and most restaurants were already closing. Fortunately, we were able to secure a table in one. I remember shelling out quiet a fortune for this meal but to this day, Larie and I would recall it with such fondness.  I’m no foodie so forgive my inaccurate description. But yes we had some hearty matcha noodles and salmon donburi with a generous heap of matcha-flavored seaweed on top.
Three for the road. We had matcha takoyaki on our way back to Uji station.
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Green-ing with joy. Same soft cream shop, November 2017.
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Third time’s a charm. Falling leaves in my favorite quiet spot.
The drizzle called for a photo op! Fun fact: After foregoing a visit to Fushimi Inari and going straight to Uji, we aligned at the station together with a throng of old people on tour. My friend and I had tita tastes, obviously.
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Yet another hearty Uji lunch. We shared the dishes (to save room for dessert!).
Too pretty to step on.
This one, too. Ano ba, Uji!
On my third visit, I finally had extra unhurried hours to explore other parts of Uji including this bridge and the mini shrines on the other side.
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And snooping around residential areas, one of my favorite things to do when traveling.
Crepe in all its green tea glory before we call it a day — an early night cap as I needed to catch up on sleep coming from a night bus ride from Tokyo.
There, the name of the soft cream store is Masuda Tea Store. And what a lovely logo / family emblem. The delectable matcha castella cake on the left was not from Uji, but from a quaint cafe across the Golden Temple.

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