Our 1-day itinerary for Uji & Kyoto is an efficient step-by-step plan of attack for visiting this region of Japan, including green tea spots, four different UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and a variety of temples & shrines. It’s a jam-packed day that takes you to several excellent spots on the southeastern outskirts of Kyoto.
While we think this is a good itinerary, it should not be your top choice if you only have 2-3 days in Kyoto, which is the case for most first-time visitors to Japan. If that describes you, start with our 2-Day Kyoto Highlights Itinerary for a shorter trip or 3-Day Kyoto, Japan Itinerary to experience Western, Central, and Eastern Kyoto on separate days.
If you do have additional time, consult our 1-Day “Cool Kyoto” (Northern Kyoto) Itinerary and 1-Day Southwestern Kyoto Itinerary, or even our 1-Day Nara, Japan Highlights Itinerary, as all of those are solid options for subsequent days in the Kansai region. Basically, this Uji & Kyoto Itinerary is going to be for those spending a week or so in the Kyoto area…
Now that we’ve done our best to convince you not to use this Uji and Kyoto Itinerary, let’s cut to the chase–this is actually a pretty jam-packed and fun-filled day!
Fushimi Inari Shrine – Given that this day is probably going to be your fifth day or later in Kyoto, there’s a strong probability that you’ve already visited Fushimi Inari Shrine during your trip. Nevertheless, we’re including it here because it’s incredibly easy to access Fushimi Inari via the JR Nara Line on your way to Uji, and you might just want to do that.
If you do opt to for Fushimi Inari, you’ll want to do the “truncated” experience, minus the Hike Along Kyoto Trail from Fushimi Inari Shrine to Tofukuji Temple. Nevertheless, we recommend arriving early and bypassing the normal senbon torii loop to see the Secret Bamboo Forest of Fushimi Inari. After you’ve done that, re-join the normal route up to the top of Mt. Inari. This is an awesome no-crowds experience, which is a far cry from what the average tourist experiences at Fushimi Inari. Click here to read and see more in our full post about Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Uji – Located about halfway between Kyoto and Nara on the JR Nara Line, Uji is a city famous for its green tea. In fact, the city’s prominence as a tourist destination is predicated almost entirely upon Byodoin Temple and the Omotesando shopping street leading up to it.
On Omotesando, you’ll find a variety of shops, kiosks, and assorted vendors selling all things green tea. Whether you want to sample matcha during an authentic tea ceremony or eat a green tea hot dog on the street, you can. Although that might sound “jokey,” we tend to skew towards the latter in Uji.
Despite the city’s reputation for exceptional green tea, Omotesando and the surrounding area is really touristy. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that (a lot of Kyoto is touristy!), but if you’re looking for authenticity in a tea ceremony, you’re better off finding a quiet option in Kyoto.
We recommend leaning into the touristy nature of Omotesando, trying as many outrageous green tea foods as you can, and perhaps buying some green tea. If you’re truly serious about green tea or matcha, check out our Best Green Tea in Kyoto, Japan post.
Byodoin Temple – From our perspective, Byodoin Temple is the reason to visit Uji. All of the green tea stuff lining the street leading up to it is simply an appetizer. Byodoin Temple is a must-visit UNESCO World Heritage Site with some of Japan’s most eye-catching architecture. (If it were in the city, it’d rank in the top 10 or 15 on our Top 100 Temples & Shrines in Kyoto, Japan List.)
Phoenix Hall is the highlight, and is among the most mesmerizing buildings in all of Japan. It has a certain wow-factor to it, and is distinct from other temple buildings in and around Kyoto. The underground Hoshokan Museum is also exceptional, and like a more focused version of Kyoto National Museum. Even if you opt against doing this itinerary, consider visiting Byodoin Temple. Click here to read and see more in our full post about Byodoin Temple.
Ujigami Shrine – From Byodoin Temple, it’s about a 10 minute wait here. Ujigami is the oldest standing shrine in Japan, which has led to it obtaining UNESCO World Heritage Site status. This makes Ujigami Shrine culturally important, but not compelling.
The upsides are that it’s free to visit, and you can be in and out within 10 minutes, allowing you to easily check this UNESCO World Heritage Site off your list on your walk to the next stop. (If you decide to skip both this and Mimurotoji Temple, you’re not really missing much.)
Mimurotoji Temple – Nestled in the northern hills of Uji, the “flower temple” has a variety of lovely gardens with seasonal flowers. Here you’ll find beautiful cherry blossoms in spring, azalea and hydrangea in early summer, lotuses in late summer, and fall colors thereafter.
Those gardens are the main reason to visit Mimurotoji Temple, but we also find the architecture compelling. The main hall is interesting, as is the beautiful, three tiered vermilion pagoda. From here, you’ll walk to Mimurodo Station and take the Keihan-Uji Line to Rokujizō Station, transferring to the Tozai Subway Line to Daigo Station.
Daigoji Temple – You’ll then walk to our fourth and final UNESCO World Heritage Site of the day, Daigoji Temple. This is another solid stop that is normally overlooked by visitors to Kyoto. The highlights here are Sanbōin subtemple and its glorious garden, which is worth the price of admission alone. The view of Bentendo Hall reflected in its pond is likewise beautiful.
From Daigoji Temple, our next stop is an optional ramen break. Whether you opt for that or not, you’re going to take the Tozai Line north, stopping either at Nagitsuji Station for the ramen or Yamashina Station for Bishamondo Temple (or both!). Click here to read and see more in our full post about Daigoji Temple.
Hiro Ramen – Hiro (known as “Menyahiro” on Google Maps) has an interesting story. Previously located in the Nishijin District near Kyoto Imperial Palace, but it was awarded Michelin’s Bib Gourmand distinction and became too busy, so the owner relocated to a quieter location. Can you imagine that? Being too popular, so you just move to somewhere less busy?!
Despite it being in a quieter location, you still might have to wait, as this ramen is something special. The owner uses Fushimi spring water to make the ramen, which features incredibly tender and delicate bamboo shoots. The most popular menu item is the kanishosoba, which has Japanese blue crab as the base. That’s the #1 ramen on the menu, and you need not look any further.
Bishamondo Temple – From Hiro, you’ll once again take the Tozai Line north, arriving at Yamashina Station. We are big fans of Bishamondo Temple, even if we “only” rank it #38 on our Top 100. The long approach takes you through a lovely Kyoto suburb, and there’s something charming about the area around the temple, as well as the environment itself.
Bishamondo Temple is most well-known for the view at the base of its stone steps leading towards the entrance while ablaze in crimson red from the falling leaves; this is one of the most well-known scenes of fall in Japan. Foliage aside, it packs a powerful punch the rest of the year, with multiple gardens, vibrant buildings, and several nicely-done fusuma and other treasures inside the main hall. Click here to read and see more in our full post about Bishamondo Temple.
BONUS: Hike to Nazenji Temple – If you’re still full of energy and there’s enough daylight left, consider taking the Higashiyama Course of the Kyoto Trail from Bishamondo to Nanzenji Temple. I detailed my misadventure doing this in our Kyoto Fall & Winter Trip Report, and while I had a fun experience that ultimately worked out, it was a bit intimidating.
Read the hike report if you’re interested. It’s a fairly intense but rewarding hike that you should anticipate taking a little over an hour to complete. There’s not much online info (at least in English) about it, but the trail is marked in Google Maps, which should make wayfinding a bit easier.
If you’re planning a trip to Japan that includes Kyoto, we recommend that you start by consulting our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan to plan all aspects of our vacation. You should also check out our other posts about Japan for ideas on other places to visit!
Have you visited Uji, Japan? What did you think of the experience? Did you enjoy the touristy stretch leading to Byodoin Temple? Would you recommend it to a first-timer visiting Japan? What about the other UNESCO World Heritage Sites on this itinerary? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Any questions about what we’ve covered here? Does visiting this spot in Kyoto interest you? Hearing about your experiences—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!