Uji matcha tea is one of Japan's leading brands of green teas, along with Shizuoka and Sayama tea. This popular tea comes from Uji, Kyoto, the birthplace of the tea cultivation methods used to this day.
Standing amongst the quaint cityscape is Nakamura Tokichi Honten, a Japanese teahouse founded in 1854 and designated as an Important Cultural Landscape in 2009. Today, we paid a visit to try this delicious Uji matcha tea for ourselves. Rest assured that measures against COVID are firmly in place.

Uji matcha: a popular tea since long ago

The history of Uji tea dates back to the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). It was introduced to Japan by Eisai Zenji, the founder of the Japanese sect of Zen Buddhism. Full-scale tea cultivation began when Eisai decided to plant the tea trees grown from seeds he brought back from China in Uji.
Thanks to the Uji region's fog-producing diurnal effect and abundant rainfall, it was a prime location for producing high-quality tea. Even more cultivation methods developed throughout the Edo Period (1603-1867), leading to the production of two other popular types of Japanese tea, sencha and gyokuro.
As the birthplace of Japanese tea and the cultivation methods used today, Uji has gradually become the center of Japanese tea culture.

A teapot-shaped mailbox outside JR Uji Station's South Exit

In the Muromachi period (1338-1573), Yoshimitsu Ashikaga created his own personal tea gardens in Uji, and Uji tea cultivation spread even more by the people's hands. With such a long history, the Uji brand has come to represent tea as a whole.
Uji matcha tea was even the beverage of choice at tea parties hosted by the shogunate and the royal family. Uji is located about 20 minutes from JR Kyoto Station via rapid train and is a popular tourist destination, as well.
Getting to Uji
■From JR Osaka Station: Ride Kyoto Line to Kyoto Station. Transfer to Nara Line and ride to Uji Station. (One-way: approx. 1 hour, 990 yen)
■From Keihan Line Yodoyabashi Station: Ride Demachiyanagi-bound train to Chushojima Station. Transfer to Uji Line to the last stop, Uji Station. (One-way: approx. 1 hour, 420 yen)

Nakamura Tokichi Honten: Where the spirits of artisans from long ago remain

Nakamura Tokichi Honten is located right next to JR Uji Station and about 10 minutes on foot from Keihan Uji Station. A large curtain with the Maruto symbol marks the entrance. This long-established tea shop, named after the first Tokichi Nakamura, is the essence of Kyoto's Uji no Sato tea.
Long ago, the original tea house was lined with a variety of famous teas and souvenirs, and tea leaves were sold by the measure. Toda…

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