The saga is complete

I think I’ve finally done it. I’ve travelled along all the public lengths of the Sanin line. Didn’t I complete that last trip? No, there was one stretch, an old stretch no longer traversed by normal trains, that remained. And now I’ve ridden along it.

The photo that won me the Jetstar voucher that paid for part of this holiday was taken at the bamboo forests at Arashiyama, on Kyoto’s outskirts. I thought it would be appropriate to return there, not just for the competition, but also to travel on that last stretch of railway line.

We caught a brown Hankyu limited express train from Umeda to Kasugi, where we had to change to a semi express to Omiya in Kyoto. There’s something a little old fashioned about the Hankyu trains, but they do tend to be rather packed.

It was very hot outside when we emerged from the underground station at Omiya, changing to the Keifuku Railway, colloquially known as the Randen. This is Kyoto’s last tram service and is the quaintest and my favourite of the three lines to Arashiyama.

Alex delighted in the frequent level crossings as we trundled along both dedicated lines and shared streets. We stepped off three stations from the end, at Saga, and walked towards the Japan Rail Saga Arashiyama station, stopping for ice cream and drinks at a convenience store.

The Sagano Torokko Romantic Train is a tourist service that runs along an otherwise disused section of the Sanin line, one that has been replaced by a more direct line that mostly tunnels through the mountains. On this hot and sunny Sunday only standing tickets were available until the 2.07 service, so we had a bit of time to waste.

Adjacent to the Torokko platform is the Steam Locomotive and Piano Museum. We didn’t pay to enter, but Alex controlled a train on a N-gauge layout for Y100.

We walked to the main street and had a lunch of soba noodles. The cold version that B and I ate was very refreshing. Alex was very hungry and devoured his.

A bit further along was the terminus station of the Randen. Situated at the end of one platform was a foot bath. The Y150 tickets included a small towel. Despite the heat the hot foot soak was surprisingly pleasant.

A delicious peach ice cream later and we were ready to hurry back to the Torokko station.

The carriages were all open sided, the bench seats made of wood. This wasn’t about speed, but scenery. The first stop was mostly hidden inside a tunnel, then we began our way along the edges Hozugawa river. I was initially disappointed that we were on the wrong side of the train at the right, then we crossed over a bridge and it was our turn for a sight of the fast flowing river that cut through the rocky gorge. There were boats splashing through the rapids, a large sky blue group cleaning up the environs and a couple of kayakers with a campfire on the sandy verge.

Unfortunately, Alex slept virtually the entire journey, even when a demon masked guide ran through the train.

The scenery was spectacular all the way until the terminus at Kameoka, where the line rejoins the main Sanin track. Then we swapped carriages and sides for the return to Arashiyama. This car was even more open and even the floor was a grate.

This time we got out at Torokko Arashiyama station, climbed up the stairs and down the hill to the famous giant bamboo path. It was just as magical this second time. We took some star jump photos to send to Jetstar, then continued on to the adjacent Tenryuji shrine.

Last time it was just entering cherry blossom season, so the late summer foliage offered a difference. Were it not for the fact that I was chasing the energetic Alex around the gardens would have been a calming place, with burbling streams, raked rock gardens and moss browned by the summer heat.

By now we were quite exhausted, but we decided to take a slightly different route back to Osaka, walking over the long bridge across the Hozugawa towards the Hankyu Arashiyama station. We watched some of the boats being hauled out by a crane, their services finished for the day.

We had to run to make the train, which returned us, with one change, back to Hankyu Umeda station.

There was still time for shopping. Too tired to search hard, we ended up eating pasta, pizza and spare ribs at a Pronto chain store. Then more shopping at Hep 5, where a giant red blue whale and calf hung from the centre, and finally Loft. Then back to the hotel, utterly exhausted, which is why these blog posts are running a day late.

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