Just as Tuscany is famous for its wine and Provence is famous for its lavender, there’s one place where the very best matcha is grown: Uji, Japan. Located in the Kyoto Prefecture in central Japan, this fertile region provides the perfect growing conditions for nutrient-rich traditional matcha tea.
Attractions in Uji
Located between the two ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto, and with fertile land that has been farmed for thousands of years, Uji is home to some of Japan’s best cultural treasures. This includes the Byōdō-in and the Ujigami Shrine, two monuments on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Uji also happens to be the setting of the famous epic Tale of the Genji, and attracts literary enthusiasts from all over the world to its Genji museum. However, one of the most notable things about Uji is its green tea, or matcha, and the associated culture and industry that built the city.
The Tea Hub of Japan
Uji has been perfecting the art of green tea and matcha tea since the 13th century. The tradition of Uji tea began with a gift given by Eisai, a famous Zen Buddhist monk, to the priest Myoue: seeds for the Camillia sinensis which would start a rich history of trade and agriculture for the area.
The Ōishita Saibai method of growing tea, which enhances the strong green color and flavorful taste, was developed in Uji. Also largely developed in Uji is the famous Japanese tea ceremony, meant to honor principles of hospitality and gracious, meditative living. During the 17th century, the Shogunate officially commissioned the best quality tea from the Uji region for entertaining and personal use. Uji thus became the foremost exporter of both matcha tea, and its associated culture. In fact, many tea houses and complexes belonging to these ancient tea masters still stand today in the historical district of Uji.
This history is celebrated throughout the city. Although it’s easy to find matcha-flavored treats and snacks throughout Japan, Uji features more variety and quality than you’ll find anywhere else. Strolling through the streets and browsing in shops, you’ll find matcha noodles, matcha ice cream, green tea biscuits, and matcha-flavored rice cakes. Visitors can also enjoy the still-operational plantations and production factories with tours and tastings.