The narrow-gauge steam train Sagano Torroko Ressha or Romantic Train is one of Japan’s most scenic journeys, and can be combined with an exciting boat trip back on the Hozu River to make a wonderful day trip from Kyoto. The scenery is beautiful all year-round, with cherry blossom in spring, maple leaves in autumn, and bamboo groves. However, it is tricky to piece together with the trains and buses and boats all going from different places – these directions will take the stress out of trying to find your way!
The Sagano train goes from Arashiyama to Kameoka on a 25-minute ride costing around 600 Yen, and the boat trip back on the Hozu River takes around 2 hours and costs around 4000 Yen.
1. Take the JR train on the Sagano Line from Kyoto Station to Saga-Arashiyama Station. This takes around 15 minutes and costs around 230 Yen.
2. In the same building as the Saga-Arashiyama Station is the Torroko Saga Station. From here, take the Sagano Romantic Train to Torroko Kameoka Station, it runs every hour between 9am and 5pm every day except most Wednesdays from March to the end of December (but check the departure times beforehand – you should pre-book tickets a day or two ahead anyway at the JR ticket desk at Kyoto Station). Car number 5 is usually the open-sided carriage – great in summer, a bit chilly perhaps at other times!
3. When you get off the Sagano Romantic train at Kameoka, you need to either take a bus to the Hozu River to get on the boat, and this takes around 15 minutes, look for the Hozugawa-kudari bus, or get another train from Torroko Kameoka Station to JR Kameoka Station and then walk about 10 minutes to the boat.
4. The boats down the river are small, for around 20 people and you sit on the floor on carpet with a vinyl see-through top in cooler weather. The boats are rowed by 3 oarsmen who are very skilled at negotiating the rapids and pools. They depart every hour from 9am to 3.30pm for Togetsukyo Bridge at Arashiyama, a famous beauty spot, and worth lingering at.
5. Once you are back in Arashiyama, the nearest station to the disembarkation point to get to central Kyoto is the Keifuku Arashiyama tram, about 10 minutes’ walk away, and which takes you to Shijo-Omiya Station in about 20 minutes and costs 200 Yen.
If you just want to do the Sagano Romantic train, you can return to Arashiyama from Kameoka, and perhaps take a gentle hike through the bamboo groves and past some beautiful little Zen temples, or break your journey at the intermediate station, Hozukyo. The train runs in both directions. http://www.sagano-kanko.co.jp/eng/index.htm
If you just want to do the boat trip, you should take the JR Sagano Line train from Kyoto Station to JR Kameoka Station which is about 10 minutes’ walk from the embarkation pier. Note that the boat trip only goes one way, downstream, from Kameoka to Arashiyama. http://www.hozugawakudari.jp/en