We love the Arashiyama area, and more generally Sagano, northwest of Kyoto. There are some beautiful landscapes such as the bamboo forest or Iwatayama monkey park. Being there, we chose to continue our visit with a well-known attraction : "Torocco" Romantic Train. The promise is to spend half an hour in a semi-open train along Hozu river (Hozugawa) and contemplate the scenery in the mountains. The reality is less romantic and in fact, you can forget it in your honeymoon in Japan without any remorse.
The first cold shower happens when booking tickets : the journey of just over twenty minutes costs ¥1,200 roundtrip, with one departure every hour. Once in the train, the disenchantment continues : the equipment proves to be quite cheap, if not spartan, with its unpleasant wooden seats from another time and a total lack of heating or cooling. Since windows aren't often closed and one in five cars is almost completely "open" on the outside, it's very cold in winter and hot in summer.
Besides that, the trip has nothing especially romantic. A majority of Asiatic population (not Japanese) is present in groups and therefore rather noisy. The commentary broadcasts by loud speakers, in Japanese only, with some little jokes but overall this sounds a bit too touristy. Besides a "photographer" in passing in cars to take a picture of you with a "I was there" sign, if you're willing to spend some more of your Yens.
Torokko is of course a particularly seasonal attraction, which is mainly interesting during the short seasons of sakura and momiji. But their presence are not so lush around Hozugawa and, one again, there are many other unmissable Sagano spots (and even more in Kyoto) to unjustify the interest here. Once you arrive to destination (Kameoka terminus), you will hardly have any other valid choice than to wait a few minutes and repeat the same trip in the other direction, just to get the same scenery and commentary.
Our advice: do not waste your time and money in one of those tourist traps. There are many other things to do in Arashiyama, and if you really want to take the train from Sagano, go to the moss temple!
How to get to Sagano Scenic Railway
By JR train -- Sagano line (15min / ¥230 (~US$ 2.20) from Kyoto Station) : Torokko Saga-Arashiyama station and a 2-minute walk
On foot -- a 20-minute walk from the bamboo forest
Location reachable with the JRP : order your Japan Rail Pass (from ~US$ 281)
¥600 (~US$ 5.60) one-way
¥1,200 (~US$ 11.20) round trip
Get your Japanese Yens free of charge
Saga > Kameoka departures every hour from 9:07 a.m. to 5:07 p.m.
Kameoka > Saga departures every hour grom 9:35 a.m. to 5:35 p.m.
Closed every Wednesday (except during sakura and momiji seasons)
Closed from December 30 to February 28/29 included
How long / when to visit
20 minutes one-way / 1 hour round trip
トロッコ嵯峨野観光鉄道 (Torokko Sagano Kanko Tetsudo: The Torocco Sagano tourism railway)