Day Trip to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Sagano Scenic Train, and Hozugawa River Cruise – Kyoto, Japan
Our last day in Kyoto! There was still one more popular spot in Kyoto we had left to explore. The only issue we had today was a Typhoon was making landfall and potentially could wipe out our plans. But, we did not come all the way here to stay in our room. With the best umbrellas we have ever used – once again, Japan is superior in making the best umbrellas – we set out for the day.
The plan for the day included visiting several different sites in the area. First, we would visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove which is a popular spot for tourists. After, we would take the Sagano Scenic Train into the countryside. This train takes guests along the Katsura River and Oi River, and as the name implies, it is quite scenic as train weaves into the forest and gorge. We would get off the train at Kameoka Station and board the Hozugawa River Boat for a boat ride journey back to Arashiyama. I was very happy with this plan as I felt it combined many different activities in one and made the most of our time in Arashiyama . Depending on our timing, we should have time to explore a few more things like the Tenryu-ji Temple, Kimono Forest, Togetsukyo Bridge and Monkey Park. I also had my eye on a few spots for lunch that were very exciting. There was plenty to do here to make Arashiyama a great day trip from Kyoto.
However, the plan began to unravel before we even left for the trip. There was an unfortunately boating accident with the Hozugawa River Boat in March and closed the service for our visit in June. In looking, it appears that the service has resumed in July. While it was disappointing, we could still make the rest of the activities work by purchasing a round trip ticket on the Sagano Scenic Train instead.
Our journey started by taking a bus from downtown Kyoto to Arashiyama which took about an hour. It was a bit of a walk from the bus stop to the bamboo grove and we just accepted the fact that we were leaving this day soaked. Like most attractions in Japan, the warning of crowds here is quite high if you do not come first thing in the morning. We arrived at the bamboo grove around 830AM which by normal measures would be too late but since it was a typhoon, the crowds here were minimal. It became obvious why the bamboo grove gets so crowded – it is pretty small – much smaller than I thought it was. Unlike Fushimi Inari Taisha where there are miles to absorb the crowd, here there is not that luxury. While it is beautiful – visiting the bamboo grove alone would not justify the journey to get here. We did see a number of snails which entertained us as we counted the number we saw on our way out – I think we got to over seven.
After twenty minutes walking the bamboo grove, we made our way to the Torokko Arashiyama Sta. which was unfortunately closed. This train station is closest to the bamboo grove and we were hoping to purchase our tickets here. Instead, we reversed our steps and walked back to Saga-Arashiyama Station which is the major train station in the area.
Whomp whomp. The typhoon strikes again. The staff were very apologetic and did allow us to go see the train – there is an open car you can book to really enjoy the scenery and have unobstructed views. Since we were already at the major train station in the area, rather than go back to the bus stop, we hopped on a train to take us back to Kyoto.
We did not purchase tickets ahead of time which was the right call since getting a refund was a bit confusing. In case you need to buy a ticket, here is how you do it. If you reserved a ticket online, you will have to redeem it in this way as well.
If the weather was perfect, we would have made our time at Arashiyama much longer. If you have the opportunity to complete this day trip from Kyoto, I would suggest organizing your day in this way:
- Arrive at Arashiyama Bamboo Grove btween 7AM and 730AM
- Walk to Saga-Arashiyama Station and purchse or collect your ticket for Sagano Scenic Train
- Enjoy the relaxing andscenic train ride
- Get off at Kamenoka Station and purchase ticket for Hazugawa River Boat
- Explore the are awhile waiting for your boat to depart
- Enjoy the adventurous boat ride back to Arashiyama
- Lunch options: Ogura Chaya (udon), Bokura no Shokudō (izakaya), Boruta, Unagi Hirokawa (eel), Sushi Naritaya, Kyoto Kitcho Arashiyama (kaiseki), Kameyamaya (kaiskei), and MUKU.
- Depending on the time reamining in your day:
- Tenryu-ji Temple
- Kimono Forest
- Togetsukyo Bridge
- Monkey Park
While our time in Arashiyama was a bit disappointing, it was not because this area has nothing to offer. I would say, if you are only planning on making the journey here for the bamboo grove, it is not worth it. It is a lot of time to get here from Kyoto to only come for the bamboo grove. Since we were not able to experience much of this, hopefully we are able to experience it for ourselves on a return trip to Kyoto in the future.