Just a short way out of Kyoto, yet very off the Kansai beaten track lies a tiny tea paradise town: Wazuka.
The locals gave it the name of Chagenkyo, which means “tea-utopia”.
It really is.
With its 800 years of tea history, life of people here evolves around tea.
Traditional dark wooden houses alternate rice fields and vegetable patches. Plum and cherry trees make their way around shrines and along the river, where cranes sometimes gaze around. Bamboos, emerald pines and cedar trees reach out at the sky. Very tidy lines of green round tea bushes are found on flat land, up the hills, down mountain slopes or even in small backyards.
Here is where 50% of Japanese production of popular matcha is cared for, harvested and processed.
Tea picking events are held in spring with the fist harvests and a tea festival in autumn.
Wazuka is not just a common town; it is a peculiar and enchanted place. Locals are warm and welcoming, foreigners that get here somehow don’t want to leave.
Much effort is made to preserve the town and creating new events and Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms is one of the central hubs. A small tea farm created only 20 years ago from two enthusiastic tea lovers, has broadened views and embarked on a mission: to spread Japanese tea culture around the world. They contribute actively at the vitality of the community, have foreign interns all year around and welcome with open eyes new ideas and projects.
Obubu offers lovely tea tours, something that is rare to find in Japan, despite the country’s many tea production regions.
During the tour time people can taste different teas and get some more knowledge on it. Moreover they can visit some beautiful tea fields in the area.
Lunch can be taken at a cosy local restaurant and the lovely cafes in town make a nice stop over from a walk around the hills; tea and sweets or matcha ice cream are always a good option! If you are lucky you can also see wild monkeys running through the fields or jumping on the roofs around town!
Wazuka is then a chance to get off the main stream circuits to explore Japan in a deeper way. A very laid back and entertaining alternative to step into old traditions in a lovely countryside.