Kyoto Prefecture 京都府

Kyoto Prefecture 京都府

Status: 🌱

Kyoto prefecture, located in central Japan, was the capital of Japan from 794 until 1869. Moving from Nara 奈良 to Kyoto 京都市 in 794, marking the end of the Nara period (710–794), and later on to Tokyo in 1869, the first year of the Meiji period (1868–1912). Kyoto is the cultural centre of Japan, and many important historical events and developments occurred in the region. It is also one of the initial places where tea was first grown in Japan and an epicentre of cultural refinement for tea and surrounding arts. Those cultural developments include Chanoyu 茶の湯, Senchado 煎茶道 and Kyo Yaki 京焼, to mention a few.

The prefecture developed key technical improvements like the Japanese tea shading techniques that would shape the development of Gyokuro 玉露茶, for example. It was in Uji 宇治 where Nagatani Souen 永谷宗円 adapted and developed techniques that would result in Sencha 煎茶, the first original Japanese tea.

Tea growing regions in the prefecture include:

  • Uji 宇治
  • Ujitawara 宇治田原町
  • Wazuka 和束町
  • Minami Yamashiro 南山城村
  • Ayabe 綾部市
  • Joyo 城陽市
  • Kyotanabe 京田辺市
  • Yawata 八幡市

Lesser-known cities also grow tea on a smaller scale, including:

  • Kumiyama 久御山町
  • Ide 井手町
  • Kizugawa 木津川市
  • Kyotamba 京丹波町
  • Fukuchiyama 福知山市
  • Maizuru 舞鶴市
  • Kyotango 京丹後市

Tea is cultivated mainly in the South part of the region, neighbouring the Shiga 滋賀, Nara 奈良 and Mie 三重 prefectures. The production in the northern part includes Ayabe and some surrounding areas. The region's production is mainly in mountainous areas, so Harvesting methods 収穫方法 take advantage of the hand-held machines, although there is a sizeable amount of hand picking. Production in the region is small, although it ranked 4th place at 2,314 tons in 2020, around 3% of the total national production, with the 1st and 2nd place representing around 74% of the total amount. The prefecture usually hovers between the 4th and 5th place of the national production.

Kyoto tea growing areas focus on quality, with only recently developed land in flatter areas with higher production outputs and the ability to use driven harvesting machines. Southern areas present slopes that only allow the use of hand-held machinery. According to data from 2020, they are the second producer of Tencha 挽き茶・碾茶 at 20% of total production, after Mie 三重 at 70%, and Gyokuro 玉露茶 with a 22% of the total after Kagoshima 鹿児島 at 31%. In recent years Matcha 抹茶 popularity has put pressure on the production capabilities of Japan, which has been expanding facilities for its production. While in some regions, we can find Culinary or lower-grade matcha production. Kyoto preserves attention for higher grades of Matcha, demanded in the practice of Chanoyu 茶の湯 and offers a higher quality standard.

Growing areas

Uji 宇治

Uji used to be the biggest tea producer in the prefecture, but now it has grown into a modern city, so the production has moved out to the surrounding areas. It is still a big distribution centre and a base of operations for the industry in the region together with Kyoto. Wazuka is the main production centre nowadays, but Uji maintains a key role as one of the most recognisable tea brands for Japanese tea, Ujicha. A tea producer from Uji operates the oldest Tencha oven in Japan, dating from 1925 and still actively used.

Ujitawara 宇治田原

Located in the southern part of the Kyoto prefecture was the birthplace of Nagatani Souen 永谷宗円, which house has been converted into a museum. This area focuses on the production of Gyokuro 玉露茶, although they also produce Sencha 煎茶 and Tencha 挽き茶・碾茶, including Kabusecha 被せ煎茶・被せ茶. The region Gyokuro speciality is well regarded for its sweetness and Umami. The once common traditional shelf-style straw cover now uses a synthetic cover material.

Wazuka 和束町

Wazuka is the largest producer in the prefecture, making up almost 50% of the prefecture's tea production. Some areas are up to 600m with steep slopes, hand-held 2 person harvesting machines are the tools used at harvest. Surrounded by forest areas, some fields require the removal of debris, like branches and other materials, before harvesting. Wazuka mainly produced Sencha 煎茶, although nowadays it is also known for its production of Tencha 挽き茶・碾茶, which has quickly expanded.

Minami Yamashiro 南山城村

It is the second largest area for tea cultivation in the Kyoto prefecture. Some topographical characteristics are the less pronounced slopes and the presence of the Takayama Dam and its body of water. The surrounding areas of the Takayama Dam benefit from mists and better protection against possible frost damage to the tea bushes. Flatter topography in some areas has allowed the development of land for high-volume production where driven machinery for harvesting can be used. Minami Yamashiro production was focused on Sencha 煎茶 but shifted to Tencha 挽き茶・碾茶 in more recent times. The area houses large shared factories where most tea producers jointly process their teas.

Ayabe 綾部市

Ayabe is one of the few areas producing tea north of the prefecture. Its production started around 1955, just after WWII. Historically Ayabe was a silk-producing area whose mulberry trees were cut down and replanted into tea bushes with the dawn of the silk industry. This change was stimulated by government authorities, subsidising the creation of new tea fields to reinforce the prefecture Ujicha tea brand.

Ayabe is known for its production of Gyokuro 玉露茶 and Tencha 挽き茶・碾茶 using Japanese tea shading techniques since around 40 years ago. The northern area has lower temperatures, resulting in a later harvest. The difference in day and night temperature allows for good development of Umami in their specialities like Gyokuro. The main characteristics of the region Gyokuro are its sweetness and thick texture, linked to its red soil composition.

Joyo 城陽市

Dry riverbed tea fields Joyo City is known for its high-quality Tencha 挽き茶・碾茶 tea-producing area. One can see vast tea fields equipped with frames for shading covers along the Kizu River and its dry riverbed.

Important Locations

Daitokuji Temple 大徳寺

Daitokuji, translated as the Temple of Great Virtue, is one of 15 headquarters temples of the Japanese Rinzai 臨済宗 Zen sect. The sub-temple Sōken-in 総見院 built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi 豊臣秀吉 claims to be the burial place, for Oda Nobunaga 織田信長, where Hideyoshi buried him in. It seems that in the Soken sub-temple, Hideyoshi held a tea ceremony utensils exhibition as part of a tea gathering he promoted at Daitokuji in 1585. The temple also is closely linked to Chanoyu 茶の湯 Way Of Tea tradition due to Hideyoshi's influence and through Sen no Rikyu 千利休, who was the tea master for both Nobunaga and later on for Hideyoshi. Rikyu was a key transformative figure in the development of Chanoyu 茶の湯. The temple also has some close ties with other influential Chanoyu figures like Kobori Enshu 小堀遠州 and Murata Shuko 村田珠光.

Manpukuji Temple 萬福寺

Manpuku-ji Temple, located in Kyoto Prefecture 京都府, is the grand head temple of the Obaku Sect of Buddhism. It was founded by Ingen Ryuki (Yinyuan Longqi) 隠元隆き and shares its name with Wanfu temple in Fuzhou city, Fujian, where Yinyuan was born. The mountain location also shares the name of a Chinese mountain, Mount Huangbo, where the Wanfu temple is situated. The Obaku Sect was the latest pre-modern Buddhist sect established in Japan. Manpukuji, serving as its main head temple, was built in 1661 after Yinyuan, when Tokugawa Ietsuna 德川家綱 granted him land in 1660. The temple is unique among Japan's Buddhist temples as it maintains Ming China's architectural style and Buddhist imagery and ceremonies.

The temple has close ties with the Senchado 煎茶道 Way Of Tea. First, Yinyuan introduced loose-leaf tea, commonly consumed in Ming China. Then through other monks from the Obaku, like Baisao 売茶翁 and Ōbaku Monchū 黄檗聞中. Baisao and Monchū later left the clergy, but Fukuyama Chogan 福山朝丸 published 1933 the first research on Baisao 売茶翁. Including his most prevalent writings and a chronology, Baisao Nenpu that he published in 1928. He promoted inside the Obaku Manpukuji Temple 萬福寺 to open a memorial hall (Baisado) and a sencha tea house (Yuseiken) on its grounds in 1928. Even though there was no ritual for Sencha 煎茶 in Ingen Ryuki (Yinyuan Longqi) 隠元隆き times and pillars likes Baisao 売茶翁 and Ōbaku Monchū 黄檗聞中 leaving the clergy to devote to Senchado 煎茶道, this promotion brought Manpukuji Temple 萬福寺 closer to Senchado 煎茶道 boosting the status of the temple, sharing a path similar to the Rinzai 臨済宗 Zen temples with close association to Chanoyu 茶の湯.

Kozanji Temple 高山寺

The Buddhist temple was founded by monk Myōe, who was permitted to build the temple in 1206. The temple has several historically significant properties and holds a Chanoyu 茶の湯 tea hut and several other utensils. It shares a relationship with the beginning of tea cultivation, with Myoan Eisai 明菴栄西, who is said to have brought tea seeds from China to Myōe. He planted them on the temple grounds, which turned out to be the first or one of the first tea cultivation in Japan. The garden still exists, maintained by a tea farmer from the region.

Although the connection between Myōe and Myoan Eisai 明菴栄西 is a bit fuzzy, and it is controversial to challenge the legends woven within these two figures. The tea produced in Togano Mountain had a role in the development of tea culture and also its growing techniques. Tea from Kozanji temple was regarded as "real tea", with the tea produced elsewhere labelled differently. This fame created a type of tea gatherings or tea games 茶会 where participants tried to guess the "real" from the rest, presumably with heavy gambling or prizes involved at some point later on. The natural environment of the tea garden inspired the creation of new methods of tea cultivation in Uji 宇治. Supposedly, farmers covered the bushes to protect them from the snow, which developed into shading later on. This shading simulated the environment at Togano Garden, which had natural shading from the forest. The resulting tea rendered a better quality beverage, and at some point, the ruling powers forbid this kind of shading technique elsewhere except in some gardens in Uji to protect the production method in the area.



Baisa-ō, and Norman Waddell. The Old Tea Seller: Baisaō: Life and Zen Poetry in 18th Century Kyoto. Counterpoint : Distributed by Publishers Group West, 2008.

Farris, William Wayne. A Bowl for a Coin: A Commodity History of Japanese Tea. University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2019.

Graham, Patricia Jane. Tea of the Sages: The Art of Sencha. University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1998.

ブレケル・オスカル., and Per Oscar Brekell. ブレケル・オスカルのバイリンガル日本茶BOOK = The book of Japanese tea. Shohan, 淡交社, 2018.

GJTA Tea Regions - Kyoto

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