Cherry blossoms at Uji (宇治), the tea capital of Japan

Spring is a wonderful time to be in Japan, especially during the period when the cherry blossoms (sakura さくら) bloom. For a few days each year, magical white fairy floss temporarily blankets Japan, dramatically transforming the land into postcard perfect scenes. Viewing sakura (hanami 花見) is an important tradition in Japan where friends, family and colleagues will gather and picnic under the cherry trees.

This year, I was really lucky to be able to get last minute air tickets to fly to Japan over the Good Friday weekend. Planning a trip during the sakura season can really prove  stressful as hotels and air tickets are usually booked out way ahead of time. Another dependency is whether you get to catch the blooms at the right time as the weather in the weeks preceding to the forecasted bloom time may throw all prior forecasts off. Prior to my trip, I monitored the cherry blossom forecast using a couple of Japanese websites:

1. Forecast of initial blooms and peaks: Sakura weathermap

2. Real time tracking of the status of blooms at famous hanami spots: Hanami walkerplus

I chose Uji (宇治) as one of my sakura viewing locations as I’ve always wanted to visit this place. Uji is a city located at the outskirts of Kyoto and is accessible on the JR Nara Line between Kyoto and Nara. It is famous for superior quality green tea and it is not uncommon to find tea or matcha products being labelled as originating from Uji, as Uji is synonymous with good quality tea.

As I stayed in Osaka this time, I used the Keihan railway to get to Uji as the train fare was slight cheaper than taking the JR line.

Pretty cherry tree beside a bus stop just outside the Keihan Uji train station

Pretty cherry tree beside a bus stop just outside the Keihan Uji train station

I fell in love with Uji the moment I got out of the railway station. The Uji River runs through Uji city – the calm river waters coupled with the blue skies and white sakura blooms was such a pretty sight.

White cherry blossoms set against the clear blue skies

White cherry blossoms set against the clear blue skies

Uji River

Uji River

Uji Bridge

Uji Bridge

I love the peace and tranquility at Uji :)

I love the peace and tranquility at Uji 🙂

Tale of Genji statue with Uji Bridge in the background

Tale of Genji statue with Uji Bridge in the background

Stone torii gate leading to the streets at Uji

Stone torii gate leading to the streets at Uji

Uji is famous for tea and one of the ‘must-not-miss’ foods will have to be green tea soba noodles! I had my fix at one of the shops next to Uji Bridge.

Lunch with a good view: Green tea soba noodles, tempura and inari maki

Lunch with a good view: Green tea soba noodles, tempura and inari maki

It is unmistakeable that Uji is a tea capital as the foods and sweets revolve around tea. Even the streets are lined with numerous tea shops and the smell of roasted tea permeated the air.

Matcha sweets galore

Matcha sweets galore

Famous tea shop Itohkyuemon (伊藤久右衛門)

Famous tea shop Itohkyuemon (伊藤久右衛門)

The Itohkyuemon (伊藤久右衛門) tea shop in Uji is a famous shop and it even has its own Kit Kat flavors (Uji Matcha and Hojicha Roasted Tea) to boot. These Kit Kat flavors from Itohkyuemon (伊藤久右衛門) are limited edition Kyoto regional specialty flavors. (Check out my other post on bizarre Japanese Kit Kat flavors for more information.)

Random cherry tree by the street

Random cherry tree by the street

After walking through to the end of the street, we reached Byodo-in Temple (平等院). Byodo-in is a famous temple where its Phoenix Hall is featured on the back of the Japanese 10-yen coin. Unfortunately, the Phoenix Hall is undergoing reconstruction works till March 2014 and is currently covered up in scaffolding. Whilst the entrance fee is reduced as a result, I figured that there is not much point paying to view a scaffolding and hence I did not enter.

Entrance of Byodo-in Temple (平等院)

Entrance of Byodo-in Temple (平等院)

To get to the cherry blossoms, we continued to walk past Byodo-in.

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Thank you, blue skies :)

Thank you, blue skies 🙂

Sakura, boats and a river

Sakura, boats and a river

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I love weeping cherry trees

I love weeping cherry trees

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Pretty white blossoms against the sunlight

Pretty white blossoms against the sunlight

Beautiful sight

Beautiful sight

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Pristine white

Pristine white

After viewing the flowers, it was time for tea and what’s a trip to Uji without having some matcha desserts? 🙂

A trip to Uji is never complete without a matcha parfait

A trip to Uji is never complete without a matcha parfait

More matcha sweets with azuki beans and toasted mochi

More matcha sweets with azuki beans and toasted mochi

My Uji matcha buys: (clockwise from left) matcha cappuccino, matcha chocolate, hojicha tea bags, matcha kit-kat, sencha green tea leaves

My Uji matcha buys: (clockwise from left) matcha cappuccino, matcha chocolate, hojicha tea bags, matcha kit-kat, sencha green tea leaves

How to Get There

Uji is accessible via the JR Nara Line (JR Uji station) or Keihan Uji Line (Keihan Uji station).

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7 responses to “Cherry blossoms at Uji (宇治), the tea capital of Japan

  1. These are really good photos too. I got to view the cherry blossoms for the first time this year in Tokyo. It was really beautiful!

  2. Hi! Just wanted to say thanks for liking and following my blog. I love Uji Cha and Kit Kat variations! You have fantastic pictures! Look forward to seeing more of your travels =)

    • Thanks for your support! ^^ I like photography but am still quite novice and usually end up with tonnes of photos before finally ending up with a few decent ones…. haha. Looking forward to more yummy desserts on your blog too! Oooh.. yummy!

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