Fascinating Towns Near Kyoto: Otsu, Uji, & Fushimi

ByJustin Hanus
Jul 24, 2023

Fascinating Towns Near Kyoto: Otsu, Uji, & Fushimi

As the former capital of Japan, Kyoto is a huge city with plenty of things to see, but sometimes you may want a change of scenery and perhaps a bit of peace! There’s no need to go far — you can visit the smaller towns nearby. The three top choices are Otsu, Uji, and Fushimi.


Otsu is the most important port on Lake Biwa — the largest freshwater lake in the country. People have traveled to the lake for amusement since ancient times, and it remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area today.

Otsu also has a great deal to offer in terms of historical sites. There are a large number of shrines and temples, including three with structures that have been designated National Treasures. Particularly popular is Enryaku, which you reach by climbing Mount Hiei (there is a cable car if you want to avoid the long trek). At the top, you’ll have spectacular views of Kyoto. The temple dates back 1,200 years and is still the headquarters of the Tendai Sect.


The small city of Uji is located between Kyoto and Nara on the Uji River (which has its source in Lake Biwa). It is most famous for its green tea — which is of the highest quality — but it is also known for being the setting of the final ten chapters of “The Tale of Genji,” a piece of classic literature written by the noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century. You can learn more about the novel at The Tale of Genji Museum in Uji.

Almost all the historic sites in Uji are within walking distance of each other, meaning you can see a great number in a single visit. There are also some areas of natural beauty, including parks, a botanical garden, and spots along the river. Many tourists pay to visit Amagase Dam — the walk along the river from Keihan Uji Station to the base of the dam takes around one hour.


Fushimi is a ward of Kyoto located in the southern part of the city. The name means hidden or underground water, which refers to its spring water. The water is high quality and incredibly soft, making it ideal for sake. This has made Fushimi the country’s second most important area for sake production.

However, the town’s highlight is Fushimi Inari Taisha, the head shrine of the god Inari. It features paths made up of thousands of torii, which run up the side of the mountain. To walk the entire length takes around two hours, during which time you’ll pass by many smaller shrines.

Another top site is Fushimi Castle, first constructed in the 16th century but since rebuilt. In fact, it was destroyed by an earthquake just two years after it was complete. The castle has a Golden Tea Room with walls completely covered in gold leaf.

Each of these towns deserves at least a day to explore. Try to fit in time to visit each of them while you’re in Kansai.

663highland, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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