Last Sunday, the weather was finally nice enough so that we could take a trip with friends from London to the mountains near Kyoto. Our friends have been in Kyoto before and this time around we’ve decided to go on a slightly different day-trip, rather than the usual sightseeing in the city.
We went to a Sagano (嵯峨野) District which is situated in a the western part of Kyoto. Although this area is still part of Kyoto City, it looks nothing like it. Once you get to Sagano, you step in to ‘Hozukyo’ valley surrounded by mountains with wild Hozu River (保津川) running through the scenery. The area is a famous tourist spot for people looking for a little bit more from outdoor tourism.
The first thing you can do is to take a two hour boat ride down the Hozu River. It’s a great way to enjoy the magnificent scenery around. Although the weather last weekend was quite nice, it was still too cold for a boat. So we gave it a miss this time. It’s a shame because apart from a pleasant ride, we could also experience some thrills while riding down the Hozu River Rapids. The rapids take only a small part of the two hour ride, but seemed really entertaining. I’ll be definitely coming back to this place when the weather is more to my liking.
If ‘water’ isn’t really your thing or the weather isn’t warm enough you can take ‘The Sagano Scenic Railway’ . The ride on the train takes about 30 minutes. It runs above the river on the cliffs at the valley and offers some memorable views of the area. It’s an old fashioned train with wooden benches and a slow pace so we were able to fully appreciate the scenery. Each car has large windows which can be opened and passengers aren’t separated from the nature around. At one point the train also made a short stop on the bridge and we could take a long look at the river gorge and surrounding mountains. One car is fully opened and I would say that it’s the best part of the train to be on during the ride. This train seems like a good idea for families with children and those looking for more comfortable way through the valley. It’s a shame that sakura trees weren’t yet in bloom. We could see them all around the valley and I can imagine, that the place would look even more spectacular with cherry blossoms.
Both, train and boat ride will take you from Kameoka Torokko Station to Arashiyama Torokko Station. There, you can go on a 30 minute walk through the beautiful bamboo forest to Kyoto’s famous Arashiyama (嵐山).
Third, more active tour is to ride a bicycle in the Sagano – Arashiyama area. There is an inexpensive rent-a-cycle shop at Sagano station. I haven’t tried it yet, but as with the boat ride, I’ll come back and do so. We’ve seen couple of people riding through the valley on their mountain bikes. It looked like a real fun! For me, unfortunatelly that will have to wait for at least three months as my doctor doesn’t allow me this kind of activities after my bike accident last month. Not that I’m such a bad rider, but my collarbone must stay stress free until July.
And last option is the old ‘on foot’ trekking by the river and on the cliffs. There are many tourist routes in the area and it could be a fantastic trip for anybody wanting to see the nature surrounding Kyoto. The area is not too large in scale, so you don’t need to worry about exhausting mountain treks. It has a couple of train stations along the way so in case of tiredness people can just hop on a train and get back to Kyoto.
In coming weeks I’ll be discussing ideas for the Golden Week Holiday with our students at Smiths School of English Kyobashi (スミス 英会話 京橋), and this will surely be one of my first recommendations to them. It’s just too good to be missed with many different ways how to enjoy this great place of wild nature, and yet so close to Kyoto City (京都市).
If you’re looking for something different, give it a try. I’m sure you won’t regret it!