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Romance on the Sagano Scenic Railway

Updated on April 15, 2021
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I am an expat living in Japan. Every day is an adventure and a blessing. Here are some of my most memorable experiences.

For couples and train enthusiasts alike

Sagano train
Sagano train | Source

One hot summer day in Kyoto, my girlfriend told me about the Sagano Scenic Railway. Also known as the Sagano Torokko. It is a train that wanders through Arashiama just south of Kyoto City, Japan offering a scenic tour of its natural beauty.

Like many of my other Japanese adventures, I was intrigued and had to give it a try. Many prefer to ride Sagano Scenic Railway during the autumn to enjoy the foliage. This is understandable as Kyoto is known for some of Japan's best foliage.

However, we rode in the summer confident that Sagano Torokko would not disappoint us. Sure enough, 620 yen (each) and a couple hours later I had a profound respect for Japan's landscape.

How about a map?

This is a map of Kyoto and the Sagano on a postcard
This is a map of Kyoto and the Sagano on a postcard | Source

What you see above is a postcard I bought and sent to myself from the Torokko Hozukyo station--the second and final station on my journey. It's a hobby of mine.

It's a map of the Sagano Scenic Railway. Running horizontally in the middle of the postcard is the Sagano Scenic Railway itself. To the top (or north) is Kyoto City and some of its most famous tourist destinations. The monkeys at the south can be seen at Iwatayama Monkey Park.

As you go west, you'll see the hills and the river just below. That is the path of the Sagano Scenic Railway as it chugs through Arashiyama. The river is the Hozugawa River. This is what you'll see when you ride the rail. The Honzugawa will be close by.

The Sagano Scenic Railway - The video

The video above does an excellent job in illustrating the experience. However, during my trip there were no singing conductors.

It moves slowly, giving passengers the opportunity to relax and enjoy the scenery. Notice how the Hozugawa River has carved a valley into the mountains. Both sides of this valley are dotted with trees. The train has wooden seats to add to the nostalgia. The windows have no glass or bars during the summer so be careful!

Finally, the weather was much nicer for us which is why we took a boat back east instead of taking the JR.

The boat ride back

The Hozugawa River Cruise
The Hozugawa River Cruise | Source

To the right is a photo of the boat ride back: the Hozugawa River Cruise. Taking the train west and then the boat back east is easy to do and popular. The passenger leaves the train at Torokko Hozukyo, the second stop from Arashiyama. This is a small station that sells snacks and souvenirs. Leaving the station, he/she will find taxis and buses waiting.

The passenger takes a bus or taxi to a small pier and boards a boat. There is no official schedule here. The boats leave when they are full or when there are no more passengers to board.

The river flows east and the boats go with the flow. Each one seats about twenty people and has three boatmen who take turns guiding the boat with poles and giving a tour of the area.

The Hozugawa River winds more than the Sagano Scenic Railway so the Hozugawa River Cruise is longer: about two hours. At times things get wet and rocky but this doesn't happen often. For those who get hungry, there are other boats waiting here and there to offer snacks and drinks. Your boat lines up to the snack boat and then you can buy something.

The Hozugawa River Cruise is 3,900 yen.

Kyoto will amaze you

Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, Japan
Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, Japan | Source

The Sagano Scenic Railway and the Hozugawa River Cruise are in Arashiyama--a district just outside Kyoto City but within the Kyoto Prefecture.

Most people visit Kyoto and give Arashiyama an afterthought. If you ever visit the city, you'll see why. Briefly put, Kyoto is a city unlike any other. Centuries ago, it was once the capital of Japan. This is evident in the landmarks and local culture that survive to this day.

Take a look at Kiyomizu Temple above. A tourist will most likely visit this temple on his first trip to Kyoto. Still, I believe that a person can live in Kyoto for twenty years and still be fascinated by its heritage and history. The Sagano Scenic Railway is a small but fun part of it.

Saga-Arashiyama Station

Saga-Arashiyama Station:
Japan, 〒616-8373 Kyoto Prefecture, 京都市右京区 嵯峨天竜寺車道町 Saga-Arashiyama Station

get directions

For more information - Check out the links below

The Sagano Scenic Railway is closed every Wednesday, all national holidays and throughout January and February. It is 620 yen for adults and 310 yen for children.

Many people make reservations but this was not necessary for us. Perhaps we were lucky. Don't take any chances, especially in the autumn, click on the link below for more information.

While you're at it, take a look at some of the other articles about Japan.

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