I decided to do some actual sightseeing today rather than just wandering around the neighbourhood my hostel is located in. For today, I decided on Uji, which is a place I had meant to see on my last trip to Japan, but ended up not having the time or energy for it. Uji is located just south of Kyoto and is known for three things: it’s high quality green tea (virtually all the Japanese kinds, including sencha and matcha), Byodoin Temple (which dates back to the Heian Era and is nearly 1000 years old), and for being a significant location in the Tale of Genji, the first known novel (and written by a woman!).
I decided to start the day without any painkillers of any kind and still kept my compression wraps in my room. Walking had been fine, but as I descended the long set of stairs down to the subway line that would take me to Uji, my knees were definitely feeling the strain again. As long as I wasn’t going downwards, my knees seemed to be doing ok, so I did my best to walk it off or take elevators where I could.
Uji was actually quite a pleasant experience. I walked to Byodoin Temple, took many photographs, and paid to see the famous Phoenix Hall, where a large statue of the Buddha sits. The tour guide spoke only in Japanese but information sheets in different languages were offered, so I could at least follow along with my English information sheet. It was amazing to see artifacts that had survived nearly 1000 years, through wars, fires, and natural disasters. Obviously, many aspects of them had been restored, but regardless, they are still original pieces.
Byodoin Temple also has a small but great museum on its grounds and is included in the admission fare. Thankfully, they had information in English, as well as Chinese and Korean. Again, it was fascinating seeing such ancient sculptures up close through the glass display cases.
Once I had circled around the compound, I exited and went down Omotesando street, which I had already passed through on my way to the temple. I picked up some souvenirs to send back home, including some packs of green tea, then stopped at a little restaurant for lunch.To stick to the theme of green tea, I decided on the green tea soba noodles. Truth be told, I didn’t notice a huge difference in the noodle flavour, mostly because the soup’s flavour overwhelmed it. Oh well. It was still kinda cool to say I ate green noodles.Afterwards, I was craving something sweet, so I stopped at another little shop and bought some matcha and vanilla swirl ice cream.
It was a chilly day, though, with only a high off 11 degrees Celsius, and the ice cream had done its job and chilled me. I zipped up my jacket and did my best to walk briskly to warm myself up.
I headed to Ujigami Shrine, a Shinto Shrine across the river from Byodoin Temple. To get there, one has to pass through Uji Shrine. Supposedly, both Uji Shrine and Ujigami Shrine were one temple, but were separated in the Meiji Period. Uji Shrine was nothing special except that it’s purification fountain was a rabbit. Usually, it’s just a spout of metal or bamboo or, at most, a dragon, but this was the first one I had seen that featured a rabbit.
Up a little path was Ujigami Shrine, which was a bit bigger but not by much. My readings tell me that Ujigami Shrine is possibly Japan’s oldest shrine but there are no records of when it was constructed, and the first records of it date back to 1060 AD, when it was already in existence. Its grounds were nothing fancy but they were quite peaceful and I enjoyed my short time there.
By the time I left Ujigami Shrine, it was already about 1pm, so I decided to head back to Kyoto. When I got back to Uji Station, I gave in and took some ibuprofen to settle my knees,which did not enjoy going up and down so many stairs (for those of you who don’t know, train and subway stations in Japan usually have many stairs). I picked up yet more souvenirs, including some items from the famous Ikuokaya shop, mostly to say that I’ve shopped there, haha. Then I walked back to the hostel, dropped off my stuff, rested a bit , then headed out to find something to eat. I ended up wandering around until I found a restaurant that old many different kinds of Japanese comfort food. I settled on some negiyaki, which is a bit like okonomiyaki but has more green onions. I do like green onions.
Feeling full, I returned again to the hostel and hung out with some of the other travels who had returned after touring and a few others who had just arrived today. Albert dropped by, as well, and he is leaving for Shikoku tomorrow to do the pilgrimage. I wished him well and told him that, if he goes fast, maybe he’ll catch up to me and we’ll meet again! Hard to say, though. Only time will tell.