Uji, Japan – Byodo-in Temple

Ujigami Shrine (宇治上神社)

This small shrine tucked away nearby Byodo-in Temple is Japan’s oldest original monument of Nagare-Zukuri Style of Architecture. The Shrine’s construction dates back to 1060 AD in the honor of Emperor Nintoku’s Brother who, in order to resolve a dispute of succession, committed suicide. Throw in some dark clouds, rain and gusty winds, and the shrine takes on a somber if not slightly eerie atmosphere.

ujigami shrine
Ujigami Shrine – Honden (main hall)

The Japanese are somewhat famous for their sense of honor: Samurai would perform Seppuku’ (切腹), a suicide ritual of disembowelment (Katana through the gut) rather than be taken alive and tortured for information.  Emperor Nintoku was the fourth son of Emperor Ojin, and ruled over 700 years prior to the Shrine’s construction and dedication to the family. The appreciation for the history alone is admirable and perhaps one of the reasons Ujigami Shrine is one of Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage Sights of “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto“.

Walking around downtown Kyoto or Osaka, with all the giant skyscrapers and shopping centers, it’s easy to forget you are visiting a nation and culture that is thousands of years old. Japan can trace back it’s history to before the rise of the Roman Republic! Of course, not all monuments are grand like the Byodo-in Temple or Osaka Castle, some are small but have stood for centuries as the world around it continuously changes. So I encourage you to take a breath, relax  and feel the history! One day, you’ll be gone and this little shrine will persist, assuming no earthquakes, to be visited by many more tourists from all around the world.

Uji Green Tea

The last thing worth including is Uji’s significant contribution to the Japanese Green Tea industry (O-Cha お茶). The chinese Zen Buddhist priest brought the drink and plants over from China in the 9th century. Very much like today’s celebrities, once the drink became popular among the  nobles, it spread throughout all of Japan. The Tsuen Tea Shop, located on the eastern side of the riverfront is Japan’s oldest tea shop, kept within the same family in the same location since 1160 AD.  Check the links below for Uji guides and information on tea tours!

Quick Links to Green Tea in Uji

I absolutely loved my trip to Uji, but I didn’t know half the things I know now having researched a little bit about the city and sights. Looks like I have an excuse to go back! The history of the town is so rich; it really feels like the cradle of modern Japan is hidden between Kyoto-Shi and Nara-Shi. It must be the small towner in me, as I felt most at ease and anxious exploring the quiet streets riddled with hidden temples and shrines. I was debating whether I should include this first picture seeing as Jenni and I both look like wet dogs, but I couldn’t resist! It was such a fun day despite the weather!

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