Sagano Scenic Railway
Arashiyama Tourist Train
Sagano Scenic Railway or Torokko Sagano is a touristic train ride along the gorge of the Hozu River, in the north-west of Kyoto. Inaugurated in 1991, the train rides on a part of the once abandoned Sagano JR Line, between Saga-Arashiyama and Kameoka stations. This very popular spot is also called "Romantic Train" and "Panoramic Railway".
The Arashiyama area, and especially Sagano, northwest of Kyoto, is a very pleasant sightseeing spot. There are some beautiful landscapes such as the Bamboo Grove or Iwatayama Monkey 🐒 Park. Another well-known attraction can help lengthen the visit: the "Torocco" Romantic Train 🚅. The promise is to spend half an hour in a semi-open train along the Hozu River (Ho-zugawa) and contemplate the scenery in the mountains. The reality is less romantic and in fact, you may want to skip it without any remorse when planning for your honeymoon in Japan.
The first cold shower happens when booking tickets: the cost a this just over twenty minutes journey is relatively expensive, and there is only one departure every hour. Once in the train, the disenchantment continues: the equipment proves to be quite cheap, if not spartan, with 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.
The most unromantic journey ever
Besides that, the trip has nothing especially romantic. The majority of riders are groups of Asian tourists (not Japanese) and therefore rather noisy. The commentary broadcasts by loudspeakers, in Japanese only, with some little jokes but overall, this sounds a bit too touristy. Besides a "photographer" is passing in cars to take a picture of you with a worn-out "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 🍁, respectively near early April and late November. But cherry and maple trees are not so lush around the Hozugawa and, once again, there are many other unmissable spots in Sagano (and even more in Kyoto) so that the interest of this touristic train is questionable.
Once arrived at destination (the terminus in Kameoka), 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. And if you feel like it, you can even board an equally touristy boat to come back, for an about two hours cruise.
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!