19th August 2018: Uji, layovers and finally Ise {Japan, summer 2018}

Uji [宇治] is Kyoto’s li’l brother that nobody has ever heard about and which has a bit of a disproportionate ego. Today I set off to visit this small town, where I had not slept because it was crazy expensive. Armed with an online itinerary I got there and asked for a map at the tourist office – my surprise? One of the main attractions, the Genji Monogatari museum was closed. Because reasons I guess. Hindsight: I should have slept in Kyoto again and left luggage at Kyoto station as I would have to travel through it again.

My general impression of Uji is that it wants to climb the tourist ladder but at the same time, it does not want to carter to the actual tourists. Attractions were in general expensive and a tiny bit unwelcoming, while at the same time the people were nice in a bit of a condescending way. The demeanour of the tourist lady “what are you here to see?” was strange, and the fact that the Genji Monogatari museum, which is the reason why the town is even in the map, being closed, even more so.

My first stop in Uji was Byodo-in [平等院], a beautiful temple complex built around a small lake. Coming into the actual building to watch the paintings had an extra charge so I did not do that. Instead I snooped around the whole complex, museum, and sub-temples.

I continued my walking route skipping the tea house, because even if Uji is known for tea, it was too hot for hot tea. I got to the river, Ujigawa [宇治川], and crossed one of the bridges, the Kisen Kisenbashi [喜撰橋] to get to a small river island called Tachibanajima [橘島].

Another thing that is apparently typical in Uji is ukai [鵜飼] or cormorant fishing, which means fishermen use trained cormorants to fish. It was apparently too early in the morning for the cormorant to be out working.

I crossed then another of the rivers, the Asagiribashi [朝霧橋] to get back to main land, where I stopped by Uji Jinja [宇治神社].

Then Ujigami Jinja [宇治上神社], which is basically another building of Uji Jinja but it got separated because the Haiden is a historical monument.

I finished my walk around Uji at yet another bridge, Uji-bashi [宇治橋], famously mentioned in Genji Monogatari. Do you see a pattern here and why I’m so weirded out about closed museum?

After Uji the plan was getting to Ise mid-afternoon, but my Shinkansen was late, which lead to a two-hour layover in Nagoya [名古屋].

That meant that I arrived in Ise [伊勢] in the Mie Prefecture, around 6 pm. I had two options there – walk 45 minutes to the hotel, or wait 45 minutes for a train that would take ten minutes to get at the hotel station, and then walk for 15 minutes. I chose to walk.

Thus I came across Tsukiyominomiya [月夜見宮] just as the sun started to set. I started to notice here the ‘naked’ torii, which are typical of Ise – it means that they are not painted or made of stone, they are plain wood, usually sakaki, a sacred tree in Shinto.

And Suhara Taisha [須原大社] a bit later (though the two look… creepily similar, don’t they?)

By the time I got to the hotel I was exhausted and hungry, and maybe a bit eeried out because I had had to cross a mostly deserted area over the river as it got dark. Sheesh, was I happy when I started seeing neon again. Bonus point, the hotel had an onsen, which was great for my back (and it was near a combini, so food was also had). The hotel was such a huge complex that they needed to hand out maps so you found your way between the different areas – onsen, reception, restaurant, room!