Zen Kyoto

Uji Tea Festival

Zen Kyoto Title

Tea Festival

On the first Sunday of October, under the sponsorship of the Cha-matsuri Supporting Association of Uji, the Uji tea festival is held at the Kosho-ji temple. The purpose of the festival is to offer memorial service to the three great men made great contributions to the tea industry of Uji and the way of tea: Zen Master Eisai who brought tea seeds to Japan, Priest Myoe who planted the seeds at Uji, and Rikyu Sen who historically had a profound influence on the way of tea and tea ceremonies in Japan.

On the day of the festival, water is drawn from the Uji River at the “san-no-ma” position of the Uji Bridge. Water is then carried to the main hall of the Kosho-ji temple for the beginning of the ritual. Such ceremonies as “Chatsubo no kuchikiri no gi” (Opening the seal of the tea jar) and “Kencha no gi” (Offering the new tea to the founder) are performed. The tea is made by a grand master of either the Urasenke or Omotesenke school in turn.

The Kosho-ji temple temple, where the tea ceremony is held, also once housed the Asashi-en tea plantation, one of the so called “Uji-shichi-meien” (the seven farmed tea plantations in Uji). It extends from here to the foot of the Asashi-yama mountain.

Additional tea gatherings are held on the To-no-shima on the Uji River.

The Uji Bridge

This is one of the oldest bridges in Japan. It is believed to have been constructed for the first time in 646, more than 1300 years ago.

In its long history this bridge has been damaged again and again by wars, floods and earthquakes. However, people have restored this bridge several times, indicating that Uji has been an important point for crossing the river.

This bridge has always been familiar with people as a symbol of Uji, as a place of scenic beauty. It has appeared in works of literature including “Kokin wakashu” (古今和歌集) and “The Tale of Genji” (源氏物語, written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu), and in pieces of art paintings and craft products.

The present bridge is 156.4 meters long and 25 meters wide. It was constructed in March, 1956. Its design comes from the many histories and cultures of the bridge. For example, the “Giboshi” (onion shaped ornaments) on the wooden railings is one of the sights of Uji its elegant figure is constantly reflected on the surface of the river.

There is also the “San-no-ma” in the middle of the bridge. It is said that Hideyoshi Toyotomi had water drawn for a tea ceremony from here and still today water is drawn from the same place for the Uji-cha Festival in October.

In this square there is a terrace made from a “San-no-ma”which was a part of the bridge in the Showa Era. From here, we can enjoy the beautiful view of Uji.