If you are a tourist visiting Japan under the entry status of “temporary visitor,” you can buy the Japan Rail Pass and take JR trains for free in Japan (well, except for the price of the JR Pass). Note that at least right now in 2018 you need to buy your pass before you come to Japan. So if you come to Kyoto using the pass from Tokyo or Osaka, you could use the pass again to get to both Uji and Fushimi Inari Shrine, and so save in your travel costs. So let’s take the 30-minute train trip from Kyoto Station to Uji!
If you’re already in Kyoto, it’s a good idea to have breakfast at Kyoto Station, as there are many nice cafes and bakeries here. So let’s buy some bread and head for Uji!
So after a 30-minute train trip and a 15-minute walk from JR Uji Station, we’re at the World Heritage Site of Byodo-in Temple. The crimson Phoenix Hall with its magnificent phoenix on the roof is the most eye-catching thing at the temple.
If you happen to also catch the cherry blossoms when you go to Byodo-in Temple, you get to see the temple look a bit softer as it’s surrounded by cherry blossoms. There is also a museum at the temple grounds where you get to see Buddhist statues and other historical objects. Taking photos inside is not allowed, so I cannot show you what it looks like there, so I hope you’ll just believe me here; the museum is really cool!
The Uji River cuts Uji in two, on one side you have the sightseeing spots, and on one side Uji is just a quiet residential area. The locals can often be seen enjoying their time off by the river, and I find the river to be a perfect place to relax with a few friends and chat about something not too important, especially during the cherry blossom season, when both sides of the river turn pink with the blossoms.
If you walk across this crimson bridge, you can get to The Tale of Genji Museum. The way the scenery is surrounded by mountains makes one feel very relaxed. From the middle of June to September you can also see cormorant fishing on the river, and many tourists come here just to see that.
Unlike bigger museums, The Tale of Genji Museum is modestly-sized but it has an air of elegance to it. You can look at the beautiful Japanese gardens, and let your feelings calm down a bit.
The Tale of Genji was written by the noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the Heian period, and it tells the story of Hikaru Genji, the son of an emperor. At this museum you can see 10 scenes from the novel reconstructed, so you can feel like you were back in the Heian period. The museum also offers audio guides in both English and Chinese.
One of the most popular desserts you can get in Uji is this matcha sundae by Nakamura Tokichi served in a frozen bamboo container! Almost every tourist coming to Uji seems to stop by here for a cup of deliciously cold matcha ice cream. The matcha ice cream is not too sweet but tastes strongly of matcha, and you also get some very nice things to go with it, like red beans and sticky rice balls. And you can’t forget the matcha jelly! It’s yummy!
You can also get warabimochi topped with matcha here. The chewy warabimochi is made even better with the generous amount of matcha it’s topped with, and you can make it even sweeter if pour some kuromitsu syrup onto it. You sometimes have to wait an hour before you can get into Nakamura Tokichi, so I recommend going early.
From JR Uji Station the trip to JR Fushimi Station takes around 20 minutes, and already from the station, you can see the shrine. The god of the shrine, Inari, is known as the god of rice, but now Fushimi Inari Shrine is also known as a place to pray for success in business, and for this reason, the shrine is an especially popular destination for the first shrine visit of the year in January.
The shrine is of course most famous for its thousands of torii gates. These torii gates were even a filming spot for the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha.” If you have the stamina for it, you can try to hike up the mountain, and view the beautiful cityscape of Kyoto from up high. But I’m sure that you must be getting hungry! Time for some very late lunch!
Just off a small road leading to the Inariyama hiking trail, sits Vermillion. This café first made a name for itself as sanctuary away from the crowds of nearby Fushimi Inari Shrine. With a terrace that opens out into a forest of beautiful greenery, Vermillion also acts as a wonderful place to shelter from the smoldering summer heat as well.
Vermillion’s signature dish, the “Vermillion Plate.” With thick cut bacon, sausages from a beloved local butchery and a generous serving of veggies, this nutritious and filling breakfast plate hits all the marks.
The matcha of the Matcha Ganache is powerfully rich, while the side of delicious cream features the cutest little chocolate Torii gate you’ll ever eat. The fantastically unmistakable aroma of matcha is ever present in every sip of the creamy and delicious Matcha Latte.
Before you leave the area around Fushimi Inari Shrine, be sure to buy some fox cookies as a souvenir. When you go buy Hogyokudo, you can see the Japanese artisans making the fox cookies by hand. Getting to see the traditions of Japan being upheld like this is something that I really appreciate.
The crispy fox cookies contain white miso, which gives them a little bit of saltiness and a very nice fragrance. They sell both big and small fox cookies, and you can both enjoy them right away, or take some back to your friends as a souvenir. Of course, you could also take pictures using a fox cookie as a mask; this is getting to be a popular way of taking photos at Fushimi Inari Shrine lately!
At Hogyokudo, you can also find many other types of Japanese sembei-cookies on sale. They make for great snacks! The staff at Hogyokudo is very friendly and used to serving customers from overseas.
This brings to an end our day in Kyoto! If you have the Japan Rail Pass, you don’t have to worry about buying tickets and thus can save a lot of time (and money)! I hope you’ll all come to Kyoto to enjoy these great sights!
|Vanessa[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ]|