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This 25-Minute Train Ride Is the Most Romantic Way to See Japan’s Cherry Blossoms

Japan Train Travel
by Morgane Croissant Mar 1, 2024

If you time it right, there are several dozens of great places to enjoy cherry blossom season in Japan — and not just in Tokyo, but in Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Sendai, Aomori, and more. And the blossoms are not just found in parks, but also around temples, shrines, castles, etc. Few cherry blossom viewing experiences, however, are as cool as the one you get from the Sagano Scenic Railway. West of the city of Kyoto, the Sagano Scenic Railway, nicknamed the Romantic Train, offers a beautiful 25-minute ride amongst cherry blossoms. It might just be the loveliest way to take in the millions of delicate pink flowers that make spring in Japan so special.

What is the route of the Sagano Scenic Railway?

The Sagano Scenic Railway (AKA the Romantic Train) runs from the Saga Torokko Station to the Torokko Kameoka Station, a 25-minute ride. The train stops at two more train stations along the way: Torokko Arashiyama Station and Hozukyo Torokko Station.

How do I get to the departure station of the Sagano Scenic Railway?

The Saga Torokko Station, the departure station of the Sagano Scenic Railway, can easily be reached from Kyoto.

From Kyoto Station, the city’s main train station, take a JR train (Japan Railway) to the Saga Arashiyama Station. The ride takes less than 20 minutes and trains run between the two stations every 30 minutes or so, from early morning to late evening. From the Saga Arashiyama Station, it’s only a one-minute walk to the Saga Torokko Station. The ride costs $1.60 (JP¥ 240).

Those in possession of the Japan Rail Pass can use it to travel from Kyoto Station to Saga Arashiyama Station, but note that the pass is not valid to ride the Sagano Scenic Railway.

How much does it cost to ride the Sagano Scenic Railway? How can I book a ticket?

The train ride through the cherry blossoms costs $5.90 (JP¥ 880) for adults (12 and older) and $2.95 (JP¥ 440) for children between the ages of six and 12.

You can buy your same-day ticket at any of the four stations serviced by the Sagano Scenic Railway: the Saga Torokko Station, the Torokko Arashiyama Station, the Hozukyo Torokko Station, and the Torokko Kameoka Station. Tickets are sold on a first come, first served basis and, during cherry blossom season and in the fall, they sell out very fast. When the seats are sold out, some standing-only tickets are available.

If you want to secure a seat for a certain date and time, you can also purchase your ticket in advance online. Just make sure to read the instructions for online purchase before you start the process. Note that you can only buy your ticket no longer than one month before the boarding date.

What kind of trains operate on this route?

Train of the Sagano Scenic Railway

Photo: Kapi Ng/Shutterstock

This scenic train route is operated by old-fashioned locomotives pulling five red and yellow cars, all of which feature wooden seats. All the cars are similar, only for car number five (nicknamed “the Rich Car”) that has no windows. The other four cars have windows that you can open. Note that when it rains, the passengers in car number five do get wet.

The seat configuration in each car is two seats facing another set of two seats. When purchasing your ticket online, you can choose which seat works best for you. Note that seats A and D are the ones near the window while seats B and C are in the aisle. Also, if you want to be seated in the direction of travel, book seats C and D on the way from Saga Torokko Station, and book seats A and B on the way back to Saga Torokko Station.

Is the Sagano Scenic Railway open all year around?

Photo: Avigator Fortuner/Shutterstock
Photo: Guitar photographer/Shutterstock
Photo: Somjade Srimahachota/Shutterstock

The Romantic Train only operates from March 1 to December 29 every year. Even during that time, the train does not run every day. Consult the official schedule for information on when you can ride the Sagano Scenic Railway.

When is the best time of the year to ride the Sagano Scenic Railway?

The best time to ride the Romantic Train depends on what you would like to see. If you’re keen on cherry blossoms, book a ticket for between late March and early April. If you want to see the magnificent fall scenery, plan for between mid-November and early December. In the summer, the ride is also beautiful, with the train going through the lush landscape of the Hozukyo Valley and running alongside the glittering Hozu river.

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What is there to do around the Sagano Scenic Railway?

There are plenty of shrines and temples to visit in and around Kyoto, and those who like the outdoors can also partake in very scenic day hikes.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Photo: lkunl/Shutterstock

But if you’re looking at things to do that are a little closer to the Sagano Scenic Railway, plan a visit to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove where you can walk the paths that wind under tunnels of very tall and lush bamboo plants. The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is just a three-minute walk from the Torokko Arashiyama Station where the Romantic Train stops. At the top of the bamboo grove is Okochi-Sanso Villa from where you can get great views of Kyoto. After your visit to the villa, take a 10-minute walk to the 14th-century Tenryuji Temple, a UNESCO World heritage site. Take the time to admire all the structures and the gardens. On the site, you’ll find Shigetsu, a Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurant.

The Hozugawa River Boat Ride is another popular attraction among visitors to the area, and another great way to see the cherry blossoms in spring. The scenic rowing boat ride takes two hours, however, so make sure you plan ahead. The departure area of the Hozugawa River Boat Ride is a 30-minute walk from the Torokko Kameoka Station (or a 10-minute taxi or bus ride). The Hozugawa River Boat Ride arrival site is just a four-minute walk to Tenryuji Temple, 17 minutes on foot to Saga Arashiyama Station, and a 22-minute walk to Torokko Arashiyama Station.

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