This wasn’t the Sagano Romantic train. As we had the KWA pass, we could take the JR trains down from Osaka to Kameoka and Saga-Arashiyama. That’s after a number of confusing moments where I just couldn’t figure it out. I guess it’s really much easier to try out the train system before attempting to plan the itinerary, which is what we did. Everything was pretty sketchy when I was still doing up our Google spreadsheet.
But after a few attempts at taking trains at Osaka and Kyoto, it was significantly easier and clearer to figure the lines out.
For example, you’d think that JR would be clear right? No. I consistently confused the lines and realized only after a few days that Hankyu and Keihan were brands separate from the JR lines.
So after a night of lazing in bed and staring at the map, I finally realised that even though seemingly bad planning landed us in Osaka and having to return to Kameoka for our hot spring date, it turned out quite alright and we just had to take a JR train back to Kyoto and change for the JR Sagano line. Both had rapid trains (which are NOT Shinkansens) so it was relatively fast.
Kameoka – Sumiya Kiho-an
This hot spring is located in the Yunohana spa resort in the suburbs of Kyoto. I found a lunch package with a private onsen since we already had lodging settled for our trip.
This place provided a shuttle bus ride from South exit of station, which brought us there in about 15 minutes. I was initially uncertain about the instruction but upon reaching the station, I understood that South was pretty self-explanatory. It was a tiny station with one South exit, and two flights of stairs down. If you went down the wrong one, it would just have been a few metres walk to the other side. Our shuttle bus was a 16 seater and we were the only 2 there.
We were given a little basket with the a timer and a key to the ‘secret hot spring’. When we walked out of the building and saw this, Immanuel and I immediately regretted. I was so apologetic and was scared of what I got us into by booking. It was both our first time in a hotspring and the walk towards the private one was so so so cold.
Imagine removing all the layers of heat tech, clothes and coats in this weather…
BUT WE TOTALLY COULD. AGAIN AND AGAIN.
The initial part was really tough having to go bare in the cold. Putting one foot in first, I thought that I’d be cooked in the water. It was really like hot milo, only cool enough to gulp down. Felt like that at least. Not possible or we would have been cooked.
After submerging our entire bodies, it felt SO GOOD.
We soaked for about 40 minutes and came out. Standing there in the cold actually felt warm! It was so amazing. I was so sure that the blemishes on my chest, something that I was very frustrated with especially just before the wedding, were immediately, visibly better. It was amazing.
We would do it again. Probably going to another trip to Kyoto, drop our luggage at Kanra, and head there for lunch and hot spring. And enjoy the zen minimalist yet modern design of Kanra. Perfect day.
So this is what we had for our kaiseki lunch, which was included in the Secret Open-Air Onsen & Lunch Package (¥8,000) package.
It was such an enjoyable time despite the initial scare and regret. Immanuel and I loved the lunch and hot spring experience, and even got to talk about what our dream home would be like after browsing the minimalist Japanese home design books.
I would love to do this again.
En route to Kameoka, we saw a beautiful river, which I now realised is the Hozugawa river that the Sagano Scenic Railway passes through. We decided to skip that as the exact stops weren’t covered in our KWA pass. However, our train from Kyoto passed by Saga Arashiyama and Kameoka, 2 stops that we wanted to go to.
I was pretty ill with sinus spoiling so many parts our time in Kyoto. So even though I planned Arashiyama on our third day, we couldn’t make it as I was just wasn’t in the best condition for a bamboo forest trip.
It worked out though, as I realised Kameoka was very near Arashiyama. So after our hot spring date, we took the Sagano train back to Arashiyama, and stopped at Hozukyo on the way. The view was magnificent and we even saw a boat of people going down the stream.
We peeked at this river from the train station, which turned out to be the only thing there. Other than the station, we saw a few elderly Japanese people who seemed to be just done with trekking. Because the days generally end by 4.45pm, we just waited at the station till the next train came for Arashiyama.
So that was it at Hozukyo, and we arrived at Arashiyama a little late. We walked the wrong way for a bit and ended up at the monkey area which we didn’t want to go for and was closed anyway.
After a little bit more, we arrived at the Bamboo Forest and it was pretty dark.
There were many other tourists and locals who were waiting around and we waited along with them. It turned out at that after a certain time, there would be lanterns and lights to light up the forest.
After our time at Arashiyama, we returned to Kyoto station satisfied and not too tired. We decided to go to Isetan to find something to eat and craved yakitori again. Sumibi was awesome but a little far from where we were so we settled for this place which I just found out, is called Kokekokko. It was nothing mind blowing but was satisfying. No chicken oysters here but we just ordered a set each. As usual, one slightly pricier and another simpler one. Sumibi hands down, but this was good too. A little like Gan Yakitori standard I guess – but it was nice to eat at the counter with the guys grilling the skewers skilfully in full view.
We ended the day getting biscuits and snacks for friends at the 7-11 at Kyoto Station.
It was a good alternative to the Sagano Scenic Railway ride, at our own time. Also, I don’t know how we’d take the open trains. Probably would have hated it because of the cold!