After getting off the Sagano Romantic train at Arashiyama-Torokko station, and a short uphill walk (nothing strenuous) will take you to the bamboo forest. Just before the pathway to the bamboo forest 170m from the station, turn right and you’ll head to the entrance and ticket counter of Okochi Sanso Garden.
Way to Okochi Sanso garden clearly marked outside the train station. It is also the way to the Bamboo Forest.
Entrance and the ticket counter for Okochi Sanso garden.
Postcard memento and ticket for green tea & sweet.
From inside looking towards the entrance. Notice the bamboo forest in the background.
This property is the former home and garden to one of Japan’s celebrated silent movie actor Denjiro Okochi who passed away in 1962. The villa is open to public for an admission fee. Along with the price of admission, you will receive a ticket for complimentary green tea and sweet. A lot of tourist miss this attraction or rather give-it-a-miss due to entrance fee of ¥1,000 but this keeps the crowds down and makes for a tranquil escape from the throngs of crowds at the bamboo forest.
Lawn as you enter the property.
Splash of autumn. Green, yellow, red.
Middle gate leading to the villa.
Okochi Sanso villa. It’s a modest size house by today’s standard to be called a villa.
Picture of the villa form the postcard memento.
The villa and garden covers some 20,000 square meters of gentle hill slope. They include several impressive building architectures, lovely gardens, a sweeping view of the city of Kyoto and the Hozugawa river. The gardens are well signposted, clean, perfectly manicured and the walking path is a fixed circuit that winds through the gardens. It is a one-way route so you won’t bump into fellow visitors.
Walking path through one of the gardens.
The Jibutsudō, a small Buddhist shrine.
Senko-ji Temple across the river.
The original small tea house snuggled amidst the garden.
Observation platform with a view of Kyoto city.
The walking path does have a bit of a gentle hill climb and with parts of it being stone slabs, sneaker are the best way to go. Typical of a Japanese garden, they are not flower gardens, but gardens aesthetically designed to incorporate shrubs, trees, stones, terrains, landscape, etc. If you require to freshen up, you can use their super clean, hotel standard restroom.
Autumn leaves falling.
Green tea and sweet.
Visitors at a newer tea house having their green tea. You can deduce what type of nationality are interested in an ‘up-scale’ attraction.
The tea house overlooking their private bamboo forest.
November 2018 On our second day in Kyoto, we’ll be visiting attractions in the Arashiyama district located on the western side of Kyoto. We will be riding the Sagano Romantic train first. Tickets has been pre-purchase at the JR (West) ticket office in Kansai airport a day earlier as it is known to run out fast. Most major JR (West) ticket office sells the Romantic train tickets and you can purchase it, up to 1 month in advanced. A one way ticket cost ¥620, rather expensive for a 15 minutes ride.
From the Kyoto train station, we took a 30 minutes JR San-in train line to Umahori station. You can board any of the trains from either platform 31, 32, or 33. Icoca card was used for fare payment on this sector. You tab your card at the ticket gate entering Kyoto train station and tap out at Umahori station.
Kyoto train station map. Credit:KyotoStation.com
After getting off at Umahori station, it is a 10 minutes walk to Kameoka Torokko Station, the stop for the Romantic train. Our plan is to board the Romantic train from Kameoka Torokko station and getting off half-way at Arashiyama Torokko station where you can access the Sagano Bamboo forest within a couples of minutes walk.
The walk from Umahori station to the Romantic Train stop at Kameoke Torokko, the brown building to the right.
Early morning mountain view.
Left to Umahori station. Signboard at Kameoke Torokko station.
Directional sign for Hozugawa river boat.
Starting from Kameoka Torokko station, we would suggest sitting on the left side facing the direction of travel. From this side, you’ll get more of the river and mountain view through the ride. Please note you will be sitting on small uncomfortable wooden chair with little shoulder room that isn’t exactly romantic. Do expect the train to be crowded and noisy. Standing passengers can come close to your seat and obstruct your scenery or worst, give you an elbow. Nonetheless, the train is clean and well maintained with its bright colorful exterior paint.
The first train for the day, Sagano #1 arriving from Saga Torokko. The return train will be Sagano #2 and so on.
Sagano #1 passengers getting off, while passengers for Sagano #2 scrambles in. Don’t know why. Seats are already numbered.
The train will coast along the Hozugawa river and goes through the ‘scenic’ forest. You will be treated with river and forest views which will definitely be lovely during cherry blossom or autumn foliage. During other seasons, this may just be another typical train ride, nothing to write home about.
We have decided to start our Romantic train ride from Kameoke Torokko and get-off at Arashiyama Torokko, the 2nd last stop about half way through the ride. This way, we will be getting the best views of the river and forest as opposed to starting from Saga Torokko. The famed Arishiyama Bamboo forest is 170m from Arishiyama Torokko station and the densest part of the forest is at about this point. If you opt not to get-off here, your last stop shall be Saga Torokko station. You can get off at any of the stations in between but NOT onto the train again.
Our route in green.
Hozukyo Torokko stop.
A small platform for the stop at Arashiyama Torokko.
Bus services are extensive in Kyoto and you will likely be taking the bus, rather than the subway or train most of the time to places of attractions around Kyoto. A flat fee of ¥230 is charged for adult irrespective of the distance traveled within the designated zone. The Kyoto City buses are light green in color, with darker green stripes. The hub for Kyoto City buses is the Kyoto Station which is located just outside the Kyoto train station.
Kyoto City bus. Credit:medium.com
Riding the bus is straight forward, although at first you may feel intimidated. First of all you should know where you want to go from your originating location. A route map of Kyoto City Bus is a must have to enable you to plot your route. You can download it from their website for the latest version. Alternatively, get it free from the information racks all over Kyoto train station. Outside the station, head over to the Bus Ticket Centre to get one.
The Bus Ticket Center is to the right as you exit Kyoto train station. The Kyoto Tower is directly in-front of the center.
Location of Bus Ticket Center.
How to find which bus to your intended location. For example, you are at Kyoto station and wanting to go to Shijo Kawaramachi to visit Teramachi shopping street.
A segment of Kyoto City bus route map. Credit:www2.city.kyoto.lg.jp
1. Looking at the bus route, several buses from Kyoto station goes to Shijo Kawaramachi bus stop. You can choose bus #104, #4, #17 & #205.
2. Lets say you fancy the ‘blue’ bus route that bus #104 uses. You will then need to know where the bus stand for bus #104 is, as there are many bus stand outside Kyoto station.
This table is part of the route map. Credit :www2.city.kyoto.lg.jp
3. From the above table, bus #104 will pick-up passengers at stand A2. So that’s where you will board your bus.
4. You can take the same bus #104 for your return to Kyoto Station.
How to ride the Kyoto City bus. Go to the designated bus stand to board your bus. Fare payment is done upon exit. You enter the bus through the center door. An LED board inside the bus will display the next stop. Ring the bell if your stop is coming up and make your way towards the front door for fare payment and exit.
You board from the middle door & exit from the front. Credit:www2.city.kyoto.lg.jp
Fare payment by cash.
Cash fare payment is made into a fare box next to the driver by putting in coins. All fares are to be paid in EXACT amount and no change is given. There is a coin change machine next to the driver that ONLY accept ¥1,000 notes as well as bigger coin denomination for change.
Payment by cash.
How a fare box and the change machine looks. Credit:arukumachikyoto.jp
Fare payment by Icoca card.
Payment by pre-charged Icoca card is the simplest. Just tab your Icoca card at the reader with the ‘IC’ symbol and you are done. Almost all other pre-charged cards of other card issuer are also accepted, example Suica, PASMO, PiTaPa, etc.
Two variants of the Icoca cards.
A more detailed graphic of the fare box, change machine, charge card reader, etc. Credit:why.kyoto/blog
Fare payment by card (paper) ticket or ‘1-day pass’ card.
Passengers with card ticket (counter/vending) or ‘1-day pass’ will have to insert the ticket into the card ticket slot. Users of ‘1-day pass’ will have their ticket stamped with the date and the ticket will be ejected out at the other end of the machine. Keep this pass for your subsequent ride for the day by just showing the driver the date stamped.
A used ¥600 ‘1-day pass’ with the usage date stamped on the reverse.
What is a ‘1-day pass’ ? It’s a ¥600 all day ticket. You can travel to any designated bus stops, as many times you like within the day. Make at least 3 trips (¥230 X 3) and you’ll start to save ¥90. Your subsequent trips are then for free. The pass can be purchased from the Bus Ticket Center, vending machine in-front of the center or on board the bus from the driver. Please note bus driver may only carry limited quantity of passes. There is no problem buying several for later use, there is no expiry date.
The ‘RAKU’ Bus
The RAKU bus complements and forms part of the Kyoto City bus fleet. These buses have different design and meant to assist tourist by stopping ONLY at tourist attractions. It’s sort of an express bus covering tourist destinations within Kyoto. The RAKU buses are nos: 100, 101 & 102 and their routes are also incorporated into the Kyoto City bus route map.
The 3 variations of RAKU buses. The ‘norrnal’ green bus has also been spotted covering the RAKU circuit. Credit:yunosuke.com
You may find locals boarding this bus too, as they might be staying in close proximity of the attractions. So, the RAKU bus isn’t exclusive for tourist only. Fares and payment method is the same as other Kyoto City buses. Only RAKU bus 100 and 101 goes to Kyoto station.
Extract of the routes covered by RAKU buses. Credit:moneywehave.com