Day 4 (16 June): Arashiyama

Today we took the local train to Arashiyama, home of more World Heritage sites and the Sagano Romantic Train.  This line was originally the main line to the north west of the city before it was replaced by a faster, straighter route in 1989.  The scenic railway route was preserved and outfitted with nostalgic trains featuring wooden benches and a diesel engine.  

Each train is made up of four enclosed cars (with windows that can be opened) and one fully open car.  We arrived just as one train was about to leave and only standing room was available. We decided to wait an hour for the next train and were lucky to receive seats in the open car.  The 25 minute journey winds along the side of the Howuzaga River on narrow ledges and through cuttings and tunnels. On both sides of the ravine pine trees tower above us and maple trees hug the line.  Although this was truly beautiful in mid summer it would be an amazing journey in either spring for cherry blossom blooms or in autumn for the changing colour of the maple leaves. 

At the final station in Kameoka we swap to a bus and make our way to the riverboat ride.  These sightseeing boats take 2 hours to make the 16 kilometres back to Arashiyama through stunning gorges and over rapids.   A traditional style, flat bottomed boats is piloted by three boatmen - one at the rear who steers (much like an Aussie surfboat) and two at the front who guide the craft with a single oar and a bamboo pole.  They work hard and each take turns in each position

The Hozugawa River was originally employed to transport logs that were used to build many of Kyoto, Osaka and Nara's famous temples and castles (including those big 30 metre columns at Todaiji Temple). During the Edo period the river was cleared of obstructions so that boats carrying grain, firewood and other cargo could safely navigate it.  However, there are still plenty of rapids where the boats scoot down narrow shoots, scraping and bumping against the rocks. We spotted plenty of otter, deer, cormorant, crane and turtles. 

Otter on patrol for fish.

Otter on patrol for fish.

As we approach the end  we are approached by a boat selling food and drink, including BBQ octopus, pickled cucumber and whatever these things are.  We welcomed a cold beer.    

Back on dry land, chicken and a Japanese pork and cabbage pancake were devoured.  We explored another part of the Bamboo Forest which we missed when we were here in December 2015.

We highly recommended seeing this untouched natural beauty so close to the bustling main heritage areas.