Showing posts with label private tour Kyoto. Show all posts
Showing posts with label private tour Kyoto. Show all posts

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Sagano Romantic Train, Kyoto, Japan

The narrow-gauge steam train Sagano Torroko Ressha or Romantic Train is one of Japan's most scenic journeys, and can be combined with an exciting boat trip back on the Hozu River to make a wonderful day trip from Kyoto. The scenery is beautiful all year-round, with cherry blossom in spring, maple leaves in autumn, and bamboo groves. However, it is tricky to piece together with the trains and buses and boats all going from different places - these directions will take the stress out of trying to find your way!

The Sagano train goes from Arashiyama to Kameoka on a 25-minute ride costing around 600 Yen, and the boat trip back on the Hozu River takes around 2 hours and costs around 4000 Yen.

1. Take the JR train on the Sagano Line from Kyoto Station to Saga-Arashiyama Station. This takes around 15 minutes and costs around 230 Yen.

2. In the same building as the Saga-Arashiyama Station is the Torroko Saga Station. From here, take the Sagano Romantic Train to Torroko Kameoka Station, it runs every hour between 9am and 5pm every day except most Wednesdays from March to the end of December (but check the departure times beforehand – you should pre-book tickets a day or two ahead anyway at the JR ticket desk at Kyoto Station). Car number 5 is usually the open-sided carriage – great in summer, a bit chilly perhaps at other times!

3. When you get off the Sagano Romantic train at Kameoka, you need to either take a bus to the Hozu River to get on the boat, and this takes around 15 minutes, look for the Hozugawa-kudari bus, or get another train from Torroko Kameoka Station to JR Kameoka Station and then walk about 10 minutes to the boat.

4. The boats down the river are small, for around 20 people and you sit on the floor on carpet with a vinyl see-through top in cooler weather. The boats are rowed by 3 oarsmen who are very skilled at negotiating the rapids and pools. They depart every hour from 9am to 3.30pm for Togetsukyo Bridge at Arashiyama, a famous beauty spot, and worth lingering at.

5. Once you are back in Arashiyama, the nearest station to the disembarkation point to get to central Kyoto is the Keifuku Arashiyama tram, about 10 minutes’ walk away, and which takes you to Shijo-Omiya Station in about 20 minutes and costs 200 Yen.

If you just want to do the Sagano Romantic train, you can return to Arashiyama from Kameoka, and perhaps take a gentle hike through the bamboo groves and past some beautiful little Zen temples, or break your journey at the intermediate station, Hozukyo. The train runs in both directions.
If you just want to do the boat trip, you should take the JR Sagano Line train from Kyoto Station to JR Kameoka Station which is about 10 minutes’ walk from the embarkation pier. Note that the boat trip only goes one way, downstream, from Kameoka to Arashiyama.

For more information about Sagano Romantic Train and another Private Day trips in Japan please email  or check our website at

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Cherry blossom-time in Japan

The Japanese love their fairy-tale cherry-blossoms, sakura, and admiring the fluffy pink-and-white clouds of cherry-blossoms is called hanami - the hanami tradition dates back many hundreds of years although it used to be just for the Imperial court - nowadays everyone enjoys it. It’s a popular tradition in springtime to have a little party in the park under the cherry trees with a picnic and a glass of sake or beer, or to stroll along the romantic riverbanks or streets where the trees are illuminated by paper lanterns at night. The most common blossoms are yedoensis, or somei yoshino, white with a tinge of pink, although there are about 200 varieties native to Japan, and the trees do not bear fruit. The sakura themselves last only a couple of weeks before the petals wither and fall, but to the Japanese, their great beauty, abundance and fragility are representative of life itself, and, above all, its shortness.

Typically the cherry-blossom season starts in the southern regions such as Okinawa in January, moving northwards over the following weeks to reach Kyoto and Tokyo in late March, and it lasts for barely a couple of weeks in any one place. The cherry-blossom season is a little early this year, 2010, as the weather has been quite mild recently, so from around March 21st to April 6th the sakura buds will be blooming in Tokyo and Kyoto.

Hanami in Tokyo

One of the favourite spots for hanami parties in Tokyo is Ueno Park which has over 1000 cherry trees and is free to enter, and which is also hosting the 6th annual Tokyo Opera Nomori Festival between March 16th and April 10th 2010. There are around 40 classical concerts scheduled around the neighbourhood, some of them free, to celebrate the arrival of spring. Nearby you can also find the National Museum, the National Science Museum, the Museum of Western Art and the Metropolitan Modern Art Gallery, so it is easy to combine an enjoyable Japanese tradition with world-class culture!

Shinjuku Gyoen is not far from Shinjuku Station, and it also has 1000 trees but of many different varieties – there is an entrance fee payable here of 200 yen.

Hanami in Kyoto

Kyoto’s best spot is Maruyam Park next door to Yasaka Shrine, it’s centrepiece is a great pink weeping cherry tree that is lit up at night, and entrance to the park is free. Heian Shrine has many weeping cherry trees in its garden, but you have to pay 600 yen to go in. You may like to visit the gardens during one of four evening classical concerts this year to celebrate the blossom festival, 9th -12th April, tickets cost 2000 yen. Alongside Heian Shrine is the Okazaki Canal which is lined with sakura, and you can take a boat trip of around 25 minutes for 1000 yen to get really nice views. Kamogawa River is also a favourite viewing spot especially where it is crossed by Kitaoji Street

Ninnaji Temple has late-flowering sakura, and Hirano Shrine has hosted its own cherry blossom festival for a thousand years – it’s on the 10th April, and the shrine is only a 10-minute walk from the Golden Pavilion. Kiyomizu and Kodaiji Temples are specially illuminated at dusk during the blossom time, entrance fees are around 500 yen.

For more information please email or check our website at

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

You’re supposed to eat a piece of sushi in one go so as not to destroy the artistry of the chef! The most popular types of sushi are nigri, pieces of fish on top of rice balls, norimaki which is rice and seafood rolled inside a sheet of dried seaweed, and inari, which is a ball rice in a tofu bag and fried. Most Sushi restaurants are those with the conveyor belts with food passing in front of the customers on plates colour-coded for price – these are called kaiten sushi shops. Just sit down at the counter, pour yourself some soy sauce in the little bowl, help yourself to ginger and tea which cleanse your palate between dishes, and you’re ready - just pick up whatever takes your fancy from the belt, dip it in the soy sauce and eat it either with the chopsticks, or your fingers. The coloured plates help the restaurant calculate how much to charge you, so keep those rather than put them empty back onto the conveyor belt.But if you change your mind about something you've selected, you shouldn’t put the dish back on the belt, even if you haven’t touched it. Don’t stretch over someone else to reach a plate, take only what passes in front of you, and if the plate is covered and has a sticker on it, that means that someone has ordered it specially so you shouldn’t take it.
Fancy learning to make your own sushi? Why not join one of ReadyClickAndGo's small cookery classes in Tokyo where you can learn the secrets of this traditional favourite!

What's Sashimi?

This is thin slices of raw fish or seafood eaten without sushi rice, but dipped in soya sauce. The most popular fish served as sashimi is tuna, mackerel, prawn, squid and octopus.

Make your own Sushi!Tokyo - Japan

Great Japanese dishes you might like

TempuraAn easy favourite! Vegetables and seafood deep fried in batter.
GyozaDumplings filled with cabbage, pork, onion, garlic, ginger and soya sauce, Chinese in origin
DomburimonoA bowl of rice covered with boiled beef, chicken and egg, shrimp or pork, and is a popular and inexpensive dish, often served with miso soup and pickles
ShabushabuDiners have a little stove in front of them and a bowl of boiling water into which they put vegetables and soy sauce to make a stock to their taste. Wafer thin slices of beef are then boiled in the stock and eaten with sesame sauce, and more vegetables and tofu can also be added and cooked to the diner’s taste,
Ramen noodle soupThese are the most popular, and restaurants serving these will often have long lines out the door at lunchtime. You usually get the noodles served in miso, salt, pork or soy soup, and you should eat them noisily to show your appreciation! These noodles are Chinese in origin, and you can usually find Gyosa dumplings in these restaurants as well as fried rice.
Soba noodlesSoba noodles are spaghetti-style noodles made from buckwheat and wheat flour, and can be eaten hot or cold, dipped in soya sauce or wasabi.
Udon noodlesLong flat wheat noodles
Japanese ‘as you like it’ pancakes – OkonomiyakiYou sit in front of a hotplate and the pancake-like batter is brought to you for you to cook to your liking. It’s filled with all sorts – pork or fish, beansprouts, cabbage, onions – whatever you like really. When it’s cooked you sprinkle it with sauce and dried seaweed and off you go! The cities of Hiroshima and Osaka have a bitter rivalry as to which boasts the best Okonomiyaki!
YakitoriChicken kebabs! But all parts of the chicken may be used – the liver and skin for example, as well as thigh meat – and cooked on skewers.

How to eat in Japanese restaurants

Many restaurants display plastic or wax models of their dishes in the window, and it’s easy to point to whatever takes your fancy.Some restaurants have only low tables and floor seating, and you should remove your shoes and leave them by the door before walking in.Water or tea is served as soon as you sit down, and refilled for you.When making a toast, say kampai rather than chin-chin (this is the word for male genitals!) Fill everybody else’s glass but do not fill your own – someone else should do that for you.Say Itadakimasu at the start of your meal – it means ‘I receive this food’, and afterwards say Gochiso-sama, ‘I give thanks for this food’.There’s no rule on starting your meal with a particular dish, the Japanese serve everything together rather than in separate courses – just eat whatever takes your fancy!Don’t stick your chopsticks into food, or pass food to others using them, point them at people or play with them. You can pick up large pieces of food and take a bite out of it if you can’t manage to cut it up.Slurping noodles is OK, burping is not!Your bill is usually to be taken to the cash desk by the door, rather than settled with your waiter or waitress. Tips are not expected.

Japanese food

Soya beansThe staple of most Japanese food, and used in a variety of ways;MisoSoya bean paste dissolved in hot water to make a thin sauce – drink it out of the bowl TofuPressed soybean curd, pressed into blocks and often fried. Low in fat, cholesterol free and high in protein. EdamameYoung green soybeans in the pod, boiled and eaten whole as a snackNattaFermented soybeans eaten for breakfast with rice. Hmm.
WasabiA spicy green paste, the Japanese equivalent of horseradish
SweetsRed and white bean paste, rice, sugar, sweet potatoes and chestnuts can all be used to make exquisite little ‘tea sweets’, traditionally eaten with tea rather than after meals.
BurgersFreshness Burgers, ZATS Burger and MOS Burgers are well-known Japanese variants on the traditional American takeaway.
Bento boxesThese are lunch boxes, found at convenience stores, supermarkets, stations etc.

Cheap and cheerful!

Convenience storesThese are known as ‘combini’, and you can get everything here! Lunch boxes with a drink cost around 500 yen, or you can get a cup of instant noodles and use the hot water for immediate consumption – not inside the shop though!Oden is a very popular winter soup of soy sauce, vegetables and meat and 7-11 stores are said to sell the best!
Fast foodGyudon is beef and onions on rice, and is a cheap and popular fast food in Japan costing around 400 yen. There is a fast-food chain called Yoshinoya which sells Gyudon, and there are other fast-food restaurants all over the country - Yoshino, Matsuya, Sukiya, Nakau.
Vending machinesThese sell everything from hot drinks to cigarettes, ice cream to alcohol – and they always work!
Fancy learning to cook some of these classic Japanese dishes? Why not join one of ReadyClickAndGo's small cookery classes in Tokyo where you can learn the secrets of traditional Japanese cuisine!
Make your own Sushi