Do you like trains? Do you like romance? Romantic Train Sagano will cater to both fetishes.
Chris wasn’t feeling well or something today so we traipsed around Kyoto without him.
We didn’t know anything about Romantic Train Sagano (JP) going into it besides its reputation for having beautiful views. It sounded good to us so we took some time to track it down.
The tour starts in a quaint little train station we had a hell of a time finding. We kept running in circles before just finding some train tracks on our map and roughly following them to a station.
In front of the building sits a decommissioned locomotive.
We purchased tickets and hung around the lobby for a while. The guides say to buy tickets in advance but in May most of the train was empty so we did not deem it necessary. During summer or other peak months perhaps this is necessary.
There were some old railroad artifacts on display around the waiting area. Snacks and souvenirs are sold around the ticket counter, and there is a small cafe of sorts in the back. Kyoto is miserably humid in May. We snagged a seat under a ceiling fan and enjoyed some ice cream.
When the train pulled up, it was unlike any I’d seen before– not steam-powered, not coal-powered, but diesel-powered. It was very quaint by Tokyo standards but fit in perfectly with the old-world charm of Kyoto. Seating is assigned and there is not much room for luggage (not that we had any).
As we pulled out of the station, the train ran alongside the Hozugawa River.
It seems Romantic Train Sagano also functions as a commuter train, despite there being an active and shorter JR line available from town. At a few points along the way, the train will stop to allow passengers to embark and depart at their leisure. I think only one person or so got on or off the whole time we were there, so it’s not like the Tokyo Metro or anything.
The elderly Japanese tour guide spoke only Japanese if I recall correctly. We got the impression he was most likely born and raised in the remote villages serviced by the train. Towards the end of the trip when he finished the guided aspect of the tour, he engaged passengers with a very unique performance of his throat-singing talents.
Throat-singing isn’t for everybody, but it beats Chinese opera.
On the way to Kameoka we were sitting across from an expectant Japanese couple. They seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as we were, and we found ourselves sitting across from them again on the way back. We found her obligatory pregnancy overalls cute.
It seems every job in Japan warrants its own uniform, and if you’re a pregnant woman, well, you have one too.
The views from the open-air car were even more breathtaking than they were on the way to Kameoka. That we were on the more advantageous side of the car probably helped, as did the fact that the sun had finally come out.
It became amusing towards the end of the journey– only half of the car was full, so around every bend we would all change seats from one side of the train to the other. I don’t think any of us were in our original assigned seats by the end of it.
At under 30 minutes, Romantic Train Sagano was a bit of a short ride but worth every yen. There is something very calming about the rocking of an old train as it clatters down the rails, moving you along through a pristine and colorful Spring landscape. It was very relaxing, very much a train, and very–dare I say–romantic.