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Goin’ Japanesque!

The Sagano Romantic Train: A Scenic Route through the Four Seasons

Here we introduce one of Kyoto’s attractions, the Sagano Romantic Train or the Sagano Torokko Train. It is a train that takes you on a sightseeing trip and you can experience different sights throughout the changing seasons. The route starts at Saga Station, makes stops at the Arashiyama Station and the Hozukyo Station. The last stop is Kameoka Station, making it a 7.3 km (about 4.5 miles) long trip of about 25 minutes long.

The vivid colored diesel locomotive is a very impressionable design. The station and train have a retro vibe and it makes you feel as if you have time traveled back to the Showa period. The interior has wooden seats.

The 5th car is a special “open” car. The glass windows are removed to give it its openness. Can you tell there are no windows? For those of you who love taking photos, we recommend you to try the open car and photograph the surrounding scenery from the train. Because there is no glare of the glass windows, the images turn out beautifully!

The train makes short stops at scenic spots too. This is when you feel the heart of Japanese “omotenashi” or hospitality. It’s such a breathtaking thrill going into the tunnels!


1. Spring: Cherry Blossoms

The route takes you through a tunnel of cherry blossoms in full bloom. It is only a very short period out of the year when you see this much blossoms. The flowers bloom every year, then fall, then bloom again the following year…through the ages, the site of such blossoms has made Japanese ponder about the transience of life as well as the vitality in nature. 


2. Summer: Greenery of the Fresh Leaves

The loud noise from the cicadas and the soothing sounds from the waters of the river. Take a deep breath of the fresh smell of the woods around you. Inhale… exhale… it feels like you are being purified from the inside. The fresh air makes you forget the heat from when you first got on the train. The open car is definitely recommended for the summer! 

The train runs alongside the Hozugawa River, so you sometimes encounter boats that are river rafting. The boatman gives you a wave. Hellooooo!


3. Autumn: The Beautiful Foliage

Even the vivid color of the train is no match for the vivid colors of the autumn leaves! 

We see some lone travelers here and there. The scene evokes a sense of wistfulness along with nostalgia. 


4. Winter: The Snowy Landscape

The bright color of the train really stands out in the snow. The contrast between the white snow and the clear blue sky is just amazing. 

The open car may just be a bit…cold in the winter time. Makes you want to jump right into the hot waters of the onsen (hot springs). lol


Additional Experience

We think we’ve shown you how great the torokko train is! What’s good about Japan is that there is 4 times the enjoyment for each of the 4 seasons. You could have found this information on other sites too, though. The best part of travelling is the “experiences” you have at each point you get off the train! Here, we show you even those points.

Read the rest of the article for pointers on what you can do when you get off the train!

5. Torokko: Saga Station

First we introduce the first station of the torokko train. The brick station-building has real steam locomotives and one of Japan’s largest railroad dioramas on display. There is so much to see in the station building alone. 

5-1. 19th Century Hall

The first area you walk into when you enter the building is the 19th Century Hall. It is a display space that shows items that represent the industrial revolution of the 19th century, such as the steam locomotives, piano and large- scale organs. 

5-2. Diorama Kyoto Japan

Going further back into the Saga Station, there is one of Japan’s largest railroad diorama.

How big is it, you ask? It is 12.3 meters long and 17.3 meters wide (about 40.3 ft by 56.7 ft) and the total area is 3069 square feet including the underlying tracks underground. The total length of the train tracks are 2.7 kilometers (1.678 miles) long! The city of Kyoto is replicated in minute detail and with such accuracy.

You may even see some buildings you saw while you were sightseeing? Look! There are even little people too! 

diorama-kyoto-japan 1
Uh oh! Car wreck!! This photo shows a daytime scene, but at times you can see a night scene or a fire may erupt followed by a sudden burst of activity to extinguish the fire?! I guess you will have to go and visit for yourself to see if you luckily encounter such a scene :)


6. Torokko: Arashiyama Station

The next stop is Arashiyama Station. There are many temples and historic sites that you can walk around and explore. 

The Tenryuji Temple 

Has a completely different view in the fall. 

Tenryuji, a world heritage site and the bamboo grove that is often seen in movies or TV commercials are a must see. The Saga Station and Arashiyama Station are within walking distance so it may also be a fun experience to get off the train at one of these stations for a nice stroll. If you think walking is too tiring, another option is to sightsee on a rickshaw. 


7. Torokko: Hozukyo Station

The season for new leaves, cherry blossoms, and fall foliage are the most popular times of the year for this area and many people visit during these times. There are those that come to take pictures of the beautiful scenery, and those that come for hiking to enjoy the clean air. 

Have you heard of tanuki? Perhaps if we said the animals that are in Hayao Miyazaki’s film “Ponpoko / The Raccoon War (Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko)” it may ring a bell?

They are animals that live in East Asia. Since they resemble raccoons, they are called “raccoon dogs” in English. In Japan, they appear in folk tales and trick people (?!) or are made into ceramic sculptures like this… At Hozukyo Station these guys wait lined up to greet you.

By the way, these tanuki are not to be confused with the noodles called “tanuki udon” or “tanuki soba”. They are udon-noodles or soba-noodles that have bits of fried tempura batter (agedama) in them. Rest assured they do not have tanuki meat in them. 


8. Torokko: Kameoka Station

8-1. Hozugawa River Rafting

This is the last stop on the torokko train. The Kameoka Station is the starting point of the Hozugawa river rafting.

The Hozugawa Kawa-kudari (river rafting) is about a 2 hours boat ride of 16 kilometers (close to 10 miles) from Kameoka to Arashiyama. A popular route is to take the torokko train to Kameoka Station and then return on the river back to Arashiyama. 

In the old days, this was used as a water route to transport wood and other supplies. Seem a little scary? 

8-2. Historical Sites

This area originally flourished as a town surrounding Kamayama-jo Castle, the castle of Akechi Mitsuhide. Thus, there are many remains of historical sites. There are so many temples and shrines that we could not show them all here, but we want to give you a sneak peak. Some of them are a little far from the train so you may want to try the rental bicycles to cover more distance. 

Shinomura Hachiman-gu


Kuwayama Jinja

The Sagano Romantic Train Torokko tour has a completely different feel from season to season. Depending on the time of year you visit you can have an entirely new experience each time. For this reason, even among Japanese, it seems there are many people who revisit the area to see the different seasons.

Which season would you choose to go, that’s the question?


Information: Torokko Saga Station (starting point)

Time Schedules:
Official Website:

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About the author

Kimi is a Japanese living in Tokyo. She has spent half her life living overseas in New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong. Her hobbies are traveling, eating, drinking and beautifying. She enjoys yoga and has a daily goal of running 6.5 km to offset her love of beer and junk food.

View all articles by Kimi