1. Atmospheric Tour of Uji's Tea, Nature, and Spirituality
Explore the nuances of Kyoto's most famous tea-producing area on an intimate tour of Uji with a native or native equivalent English-speaking guide. Learn not only about the intricacies of tea but also the engaging local history. Just a little off the beaten path (around 30-minutes by local train from central Kyoto points such as the Gion or Kyoto Station areas), Uji packs in breathtaking views of the river and mountains. Uji also houses not one, but two UNESCO world heritage sites within a 10-minute walk of each other. All of this, and with far less people than you'd typically find canvassing the well worn paths of central Kyoto. Begin your journey at the world's oldest teahouse still operating since 1160 AD. Learn how one vassal to a famous Samurai warrior became the head of a family that has run the shop for 24 generations. Then, go down the street for a special tea drinking experience with the highest grade green tea. Learn how it's grown and what makes it special before seeing how to brew it and change its flavor profile. Once you've savored a few cups, mix the remaining tea leaves with ponzu sauce and eat them as is. Afterwards, go into the lush green of the mountain to the oldest original Shinto Shrine in Japan that houses Uji's guardian deities - and also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Surrounded by nature, Ujigami Shrine also houses the last remaining source of natural spring water that many tea houses still collect to brew their tea with. Step inside the stone grotto and purify yourself with the water. From there, cross the majestic river to the pilgrimage path leading to Byodo-in Temple, which is lined with tea shops going back as far as the medieval period. Immerse yourself in the sites and smells of this bustling street. In addition to tea and nature, this tour also features a visit to Byodo-in, a magnificent UNESCO World Heritage temple with a superlative, modern museum (admission included), and see how all the dots with the samurai, tea shops, and religion connect at the breathtaking Phoenix Hall. Afterwards, end your tea journey back in nature by exploring Koshoji Temple, which dramatically hugs the mountains and invites you to get in some Zen before wrapping up you day.