You can’t miss certain must-sees when you visit a major tourist destination. I was appalled to hear my Australian colleague failed to visit the Buddha statue when she visited Nara. “What was she doing?”
But it is sometimes refreshing to leave the central area and get to the outskirts. That’s what my daughter and I did when I suggested we spend a weekend in Kyoto, as both of us had covered most of the main sites in central Kyoto town a number of times. Sagano and Arashiyama area, located to the northwest of Kyoto, are not really ‘off the beaten track’, but there is a feel of being rural, and in autumn you can enjoy gorgeous tinted leaves.
We spent the first day visiting art exhibitions; Utrillo & Valadon; Leonardo da Vinci and The Battle of Anghiari; Rene Magritte (my favourite). Yes, what is great about art scene in Japan is that you can see anything and everything, old and new, from the West as well as from Japan and the East. Saga-Arashiyama station is accessed from Kyoto station by a 16 minute train ride. We booked a hotel right next to the station so we can explore the area early in the morning. The hotel cost ¥16,000 for two of us but it was worth it.
We walked through the bamboo forest nearby in the quiet, and then took Sagano Romantic Train. It takes 25 minutes along a course closely following the Hozu River. You quickly leave the residential area and see the green valley and the rapid water of the river. Carriages are open and you enjoy the fresh air and breeze. I saw a wooden boat with tourists going down the rapids. Compared with the rides in the Glenbrook Vintage Railway in Waiuku and Driving Creek Railway in Coromandel, it was so picturesque and enjoyable with a cost of ¥620.