Western Kyoto has long been known for its natural beauty. In fact, the Arashiyama district has been a favorite of tourists for well over 1,000 years. The beauty of this region peaks twice a year, first during the cherry blossom season, and later during the time of autumn color.
The Sagano Scenic Railway is a wonderful way to tour and enjoy the natural beauty of this rural region. The train has come to be known as the Sagano Torokko, or Romantic Train, because its passage takes guests sightseeing through such romantic scenery. If you’ve seen enough of the city, one of these day trips from Kyoto will bring a smile to your face.
How to get to the Sagano Scenic Railway station
The journey starts from the red-brick building Saga Torokko Station, which is located right next to the JR Saga-Arashiyama Station. Simply use your Japan Rail Pass to travel to Arashiyama. The Saga-Arashiyama Station is a brief 15-minute train ride from the Kyoto Station.
Itineraries of the romantic train
The Sagano Scenic Railway runs near the Hozugawa River. During the months of March and April, boughs of pink cherry blossoms sway above the passing train. In November and December, the trail is lined with flaming orange and red autumn leaves. The railway traverses seven kilometers, and the trip takes about 25 minutes one way as the train winds slowly through the mountains.
The train itself is of a nostalgic style, complete with wooden bench seats. It features one fully open car and four enclosed cars with the option of opening your personal window.
After making a single trip on the Sagano Scenic Railway, you can choose from a number of exciting options for your return trip. Take a short bus ride from Kameoka Torokko station, the terminal train station to the docks of the Hozugawa River.
Then, you can take the Hozugawa River cruise on your way back to Kyoto. A single ticket for the cruise costs ¥4100. Your final stop will be again Arashiyama, just outside of Kyoto. Cruise departure times are scheduled according to the Scenic Train timetable.
Ticket prices of the Sagano Scenic Railway
While the Sagano Scenic Railway is not covered by your Japan Rail Pass, the trip is worth the small extra cost. You may purchase tickets at the Saga-Arashiyama Station or at any Japan Rail ticket office in the Kansai region. An adult one-way ticket between the Torokko Kameoka and Torokko Saga Stations costs ¥620, and a children’s ticket costs ¥300. Return tickets cost the same.
Most tickets are sold for reserved seating; however, standing room only tickets may be sold during especially busy times. If you are traveling during the spring or autumn and wish to be ensured a seat, purchase your tickets in advance of your trip.
Timetables of the Sagano Scenic Railway
The trains of the Sagano Scenic Railway operates from March 1 to December 29 each year. Guests can enjoy the Sagano line Thursday through Tuesday of each week.
Please not that he trains do not run during the winter season, nor on Wednesdays during the spring, summer, and fall. The trains depart once per hour from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
What to see around Arashiyama
To make your day trip complete, consider visiting nearby tourist attractions, either before or after your scenic train ride. Upon arrival at the Torokko Saga Station, travelers may tour a small train museum. Before departing or upon your return, there are a number of interesting adventures awaiting you in Arashiyama as well.
A visit to the area is not complete until you have experienced the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, a walking tour amid tunnels of towering bamboo plants. View majestic rolling hills from the Togetsukyo Bridge, the “Moon Crossing” Bridge, in Arashiyama’s city center.
The animal lover in your traveling party will enjoy the Iwatayama Monkey Park in the Arashiyama Mountains, just a 10-munite hike from the bridge. There, visitors can view over one hundred monkeys roaming free within their habitat. Or, you can visit the Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple. This modern Buddhist temple captures the aura of much older sites. It is famous for its 1,200 stone statutes of different Buddhist devotees, called rakan.
Each of these sites – the bamboo grove, bridge, park, and temple – will add flavor to your trip as you experience an authentic taste of traditional Japan.