Category Archives: Arashiyama

Sagano Romantic Train

Sagano Romantic Train, Kyoto

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.

Sagano Romantic Train
Ticket with car & seat number allocation. Kameoka to Saga, Nov 8 @ 9:29am. We got the last 2 tickets for Sagano 2.

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.

Sagano Romantic Train
Way to the platforms.
Sagano Romantic Train

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.

Sagano Romantic Train

The walk from Umahori station to the Romantic Train stop at Kameoke Torokko, the brown building to the right.

Sagano Romantic Train

Early morning mountain view.

Sagano Romantic Train

Left to Umahori station. Signboard at Kameoke Torokko station.

Sagano Romantic Train

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.

Sagano Romantic Train

The first train for the day, Sagano #1 arriving from Saga Torokko. The return train will be Sagano #2 and so on.

Sagano Romantic Train

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.

Sagano Romantic Train
Sagano Romantic Train
Sagano Romantic Train
Sagano Romantic Train
Sagano Romantic Train

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.

Sagano Romantic Train

Our route in green.

Sagano Romantic Train

Hozukyo Torokko stop.

Sagano Romantic Train

A small platform for the stop at Arashiyama Torokko.

Arashiyama Torokko station.

Okochi Sanso Garden

Okochi Sanso Garden, Kyoto

November 2018
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.

Okochi Sanso Garden

Way to Okochi Sanso garden clearly marked outside the train station. It is also the way to the Bamboo Forest.

Okochi Sanso Garden

Entrance and the ticket counter for Okochi Sanso garden.

Okochi Sanso Garden

Postcard memento and ticket for green tea & sweet.

Okochi Sanso Garden

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.

Okochi Sanso Garden

Lawn as you enter the property.

Okochi Sanso Garden

Splash of autumn. Green, yellow, red.

Okochi Sanso Garden

Middle gate leading to the villa.

Okochi Sanso Garden

Okochi Sanso villa. It’s a modest size house by today’s standard to be called a villa.

Okochi Sanso Garden

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.

Okochi Sanso Garden

Walking path through one of the gardens.

Okochi Sanso Garden

The Jibutsudō, a small Buddhist shrine.

Okochi Sanso Garden

Senko-ji Temple across the river.

Okochi Sanso Garden

The original small tea house snuggled amidst the garden.

Okochi Sanso 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.

Okochi Sanso GardenOkochi Sanso Garden
Okochi Sanso GardenOkochi Sanso Garden

Okochi Sanso Garden

Autumn leaves falling.

Okochi Sanso Garden

Green tea and sweet.

Okochi Sanso Garden

Visitors at a newer tea house having their green tea. You can deduce what type of nationality are interested in an ‘up-scale’ attraction.

Okochi Sanso Garden

The tea house overlooking their private bamboo forest.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Kyoto

November 2018
From Okochi Garden, it is a short walk to the start (or is it the end?) of the bamboo forest. The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, or Bamboo Grove or also known as Sagano Bamboo Forest, is a natural forest of bamboo trees. The forest consists of pathway for tourists and visitors to explore the forest and suffice to say, is one of the most photographed places in Kyoto.

You can reach the bamboo forest by bus, train or taxi. You can take the train from the Kyoto train station, a journey of around 30 minutes. It’s quick, inexpensive and the train runs throughout the day and night. Take the San-in Line from platform 31, 32 or 33 at the Kyoto Station to the JR Saga-Arashiyama station and it is a 15-25 minutes walk to the bamboo forest. Alternatively, if you are on the Sagano Romantic train, get off at Arashiyama Torokko station and it’s a couple of minutes walk away.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

The crowd at the start of the walking path. This is the side close to the Arashiyama Torokko station.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

The denser part of the bamboo forest.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

The denser the bamboo forest gets, the denser the crowd gets too.

What we never expected in early November is the crowd to be so pack. Coupled with individuals and groups stopping to take photos and selfies, it makes walking along the pathway uninterrupted almost impossible. Your walk will always be obstructed or hindered every 30-50m or so. An icon of Kyoto we see beautiful pictures of that brought me here, diminishes and evaporated the instant we experienced what seems to be a never-ending chaos. Being an ‘avid’ photographer, I got so disgusted, I took less than 10 photographs.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

The pathway through the forest is open all day and I guess, it is best to come early or late in the day to avoid the maddening crowds but this does not guarantee you’ll get the best lighting for photo. As an alternative, you may want to consider Hokokuji Bamboo forest. That’s in Yokohama, close to 500km away.