On the Tea Road
Head to Uji, a city renowned for producing the best matcha (powdered green tea) in Japan. Take a mini-bus tour of the Japanese countryside, pass through the green tea fields and meet the producers.
Getaway in the Japanese countryside
You will leave Kyoto on a minibus driven by your guide, and head east towards the great Lake Biwa. After a glimpse of modern day Japan's residential and commercial areas, you'll reach the Setagawa, the river into which the waters of Lake Biwa flow. The first minka, Japanese countryside buildings, appear and you'll take the small local road which runs along the right-hand bank of the waterway. The signs of civilisation disappear little by little, and the wild Japanese vegetation underlines the contrast. The other side of Japan,wild and primitive with woodland and rivers, awaits. Here as well, however, man has managed to tame this profusion of life and create some magnificent rural panoramas. The deciduous and pine forests open up in places to make room for the first tea trees, which are arranged in long, regular tunnels. Pretty villages with grey-tiled roofs and the now omnipresent tea fields border the small, rural roads.
Through the green tea fields
You will arrive at Wazuka, one of the hot spots for Japanese green tea plantations. Wandering on foot through these small valleys is a unique and relaxing experience. It's often possible to spot groups of monkeys frolicking in these labyrinths of greenery. If you like to take pictures, get your camera out! Leave Wazuka in the late morning and, having first gone over a small but pretty steep hill, you'll head north towards Ujitawara where a very pleasant couple awaits you in their little factory.
A visit to the producers
"This is where you will of course be tasting several types of tea which come from the nearby fields, trying to gain insight into the subtleties of this drink. But even more importantly, you'll be able to experience the warmth of Japanese hospitality and the pleasure of spending time with passionate people. Get back on the road and then drive across the great Amagase Dam, which holds back the waters of the Setagawa, becoming the Ujigawa and forming a small lake. Leave the vehicle behind for a while to walk among the prosperous and venerable houses of the town built on tea until you reach the entrance of Byodo-In. This temple is splendid! This is the temple pictured on the 10-yen coin and which is one of a select group of UNESCO world heritage sites. Sadly, it is often overlooked in favour of the other more well-known sights in Kyoto.
The opportunity is too good to miss! Don't deprive yourself of the chance to admire it, as well as its illustrious neighbour, the Shinto shrine of Ujigami, which is also classed as a world heritage site and which you'll find on the other side of the river, nestling at the foot of the mountain. Then finally, at the end of the day, return to Kyoto.After this trip to the valleys that saw the birth of Japanese tea, we'd be willing to bet that the bright green liquid in your cup will take on a whole new flavour for you…
Guided mini-bus tour
Meet at the Family Mart in Keihan Sanjo at 8:45am with your guide and other travellers for a mini-bus departure to Uji city. Meals in an establishment chosen by your guide are included in the price of the tour.