Monday, April 13, 2009 ;
4:53 PM
Apr 3
Friday

The morning was an adventure indeed. I read about the beauty of Arashimaya from a fellow mom on a parenting forum that I am a member of (http://bigontrips.blogspot.com/). From her blog, I also learnt about a steam engine train ride that passes through all the scenic and breathtaking spots along the river. However, she said it is very difficult to get tickets because of the crowds each Fall and Spring.

Hence, I did a lot of research and was determined to get on the 1st train. We woke at 6am and ushered the kids down for breakfast by 7am.

We then took a rather long walk to the nearest subway station (might not be long for a single backpacker, but it was about 15min for our family dynamics).

Once on the subway, we also didn't know what went wrong but we were supposed to change trains at a station called Nijojyo (according to website). But then the subway station maps had one Nijo station and one Nijo-blah blah station. The criss cross lines were so numerous we couldn't decide which Nijo we should alight to transfer.

As we neared the stations, we had no choice but to guess. We saw a lot of people alight at Nijo and the announcement in English said passengers can transfer to XX line, so we got off.

Then we asked around. Most people can understand what we wish to know but don't have the language to answer. The station master then took a map out and pointed that we needed to exit the station and walk a short distance to transfer to the JR line.

Our 1-day Kyoto subway and bus pass does not cover the Japan Railway (JR) but the buses from there to Arashimaya will take much longer. So off we went to the JR station.

At the JR station, we got to the correct platform but then there were several different trains arriving that says they will pass by Arashimaya but they had different names. We were a little confused.

After waiting for 20min, this train that says limited express arrived. So we got on. That's the station:


Guess what? Limited express means it wouldn't stop at certain stops so it reaches the final destination faster, and we are so unfortunate that it didn't stop at where we wanted to alight! We were alarmed and quickly asked the ticket-officer what the next stop would be. Turned out it would be Kameoka.

Along the way there, we saw the transition from city to suburbs/ countryside. And when we alighted, the landscape was totally different. It was a Japan I had not seen much on TV or in magazines. But it was a part of Japan we were so glad to get to know.

All across stretched mountains, farms and a small town.

We crossed to the other platform and waited for a train to bring us back. However, looking at the schedule, we found that the following trains all do not stop at Saga station, which is the starting point for the Romantic Train. If we were to wait for the one that does, it will involve an hour's wait. I felt it was too long, we might not get tickets.

Then I recalled that the Romantic Train ends at Kameoka Torokko station, and it was possible to take the train from the end point too! So we quickly checked and realised we just had to take the JR train to the next station, Umahori, and then take a short 10min walk to the Torokko station!

That's what we did! ds1 is checking out the priority seating signs. This seat is coloured differently from the rest in the carriage and has pictures of who are eligible to sit there. Elderly, pregnant, women with babes in arms, disabled...

We alighted at Umahori and started walking briskly. The scenery along the way was unforgettable. Fields and fields of wildflowers, brightly coloured, really cheered us up and lifted our spirits. The air was so fresh and a light breeze made the walk very enjoyable.

We were able to ask Qs by pointing to the Romantic Train brochure we took at the station and were able to find the Torokko station easily.

We were still worried we might not get tickets since it was getting late by now, almost 10am, because of all our delays taking the wrong trains earlier. So Dh hoisted ds2 on his shoulders and we walked at a faster pace.

I love the lolling hills, scented air and vast fields.

Had to fight great temptation not to stop, walk into the middle of the field and just lie down. But we had a train to catch!

So far, all along the way, there was not another soul around. It was just our family and the sounds of our kids, that's all. However, as we neared the station, we noticed a whole large tour group! Argh! So worried we wouldn't have tickets.


But we managed to get them! Very happy, even though it wasn't in the uncovered carriage. I felt the uncovered one would be better since views are 360deg and we can take better video clips and digi photos. This is the station master and the cute animal mascots.
Woohoo! On the train! It was packed full of tourists, and from their accent, they should be from Taiwan. There were a fair percentage of Japanese too, but from other parts of Japan. The kids really enjoyed the ride. They were mesmerised by the scenery, the choo-choo of the train, the bumpiness, everything.

Sakura interspersed amongst evergreens, with the turquoise waters made for picturesque scenery.

You could take a boat ride too, along the same distance. It costs more than 3000yen though, per person, and take approximately 3 hours. But it could be very fun since you can shoot the rapids (kind of, though the water seems pretty calm to me).

The train ride costs 690yen per adult and about half that for kids. The website is here: http://www.sagano-kanko.co.jp/eng/index.htm

Occasionally we will pass by small bridges and more boats.

Can I live there?? It's so beautiful!









Finally video clips. This one below shows the Romantic Train chug chugging into the station. Can you see all the tourists! We were fortunate to have missed our stop earlier, because at the starting stop Saga, we saw even more crowds and there was a long queue to buy tickets for later train timings.

So it was a blessing in disguise to take the train at the end point. At least there wasn't a queue and there were seats left.



During the trip, a Japanese girl (toddler) was crying non-stop, so all my video clips had the crying in the background. :-) Both ds wanted to give her some candy to cheer her up but I wasn't sure if that'd be good. In the end, they did approach her with a Fruit Plus grape sweet (I figured it would be deemed safe since the words were printed in English, which meant it wasn't produced in China and thus the mom would trust it). The girl accepted it and the mom thanked them. But she only stopped crying for a while and started again after a few min.

This clip was when she stopped crying, and the train was crossing the river on a pretty bridge.



rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
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