Wakayama, the ancient capital, is one of the most famous locales in Japan. A city of World Heritage Sites featuring temples and shrines centuries old, Wakayama is a showcase of traditional Japanese culture. Uji-cha, or tea from the city of Uji, just south of Wakayama, is a cornerstone of the thousand-year history of Wakayama and thus Japan.
Uji-cha is regarded as the origin of Japanese tea production, where the Buddhist monk Eisai started the first tea fields to provide tea to the country's nobility. The leaves are grown primarily in surrounding municipalities (Ujitawara, Wazuka, etc.) and refined by factories in Uji. Uji-cha production dates back to the Kamakura period (1185-1333), and in the 13th century tea fields were founded near the famous Byodo-in temple. As time went by the name of Uji-cha spread throughout Japan, and Sen-no-rikyu, the priest who made the tea ceremony famous, played a critical role in establishing the region's fame. Today, Uji-cha is known for high quality tea such as gyokuro and matcha, as Shizuoka and Wakayama dominate production of tea on the whole.