When visiting Japan, experiencing the culture and activities unique to the country is a must for most international tourists! If that is the case for you, consider taking the Hozugawa River Boat (保津川下り) to Kyoto’s Arashiyama. You are completely disconnected from civilisation once the boat starts floating on the river. Boarding the traditional boat and being surrounded by Kyoto‘s rural natural landscape will make you feel as if the boat is traveling back in time!
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Hozugawa River Boat Ride (保津川下り)
The 16 km Hozugawa River Boat Ride, also known as Hozugawa River Cruises or Hozugawa-kudari in Japanese, has a long history of over 400 years. Hozu River was once an important waterway to transport timer and supplies to Kyoto and Osaka from the Tamba region (丹波地方) in northern Kyoto.
Nowadays, the boats are there to carry anyone who would love to enjoy 90 to 120 minutes of beautiful scenery of the dynamic landscapes. From the photo, the current might seem calm, but there are parts of the river where the boat ride may seem more like rafting!
The boatmen there aren’t just good at steering the boat. Holding expert knowledge about the Hozu River and how weather can change the water flow is essential to being a great boatman. Repairing and preserving nature in the area are also part of their duties.
Apparently, it takes around ten years to be a full-fledged boatman! On top of that, they now need to study foreign languages like English to be able to serve passengers like us! (´▽｀*).
Tip: When on the boat, focusing on what is in front of you might be natural. But occasionally, you should check out what is behind you. Although there might be some awkward moments between you and those sitting directly behind you, the valley seen from a different angle won’t make you regret it (^_-)-☆.
From mid-December to early March, the boats will be heated up to keep you nice and warm in the colder months (^_-)-☆.
Hozugawa River Boat Ride’s Timetable and Ticket
- Hozugawa River Boat doesn’t have a departing schedule on weekends and public holidays. When enough customers are gathered at the terminal, the boat will depart.
- On a weekday, Hozugawa River Boat departs on an hourly basis from 9 am to 3 pm.
For more information about the tickets and the Hozugawa River Boat Ride timetable, please refer to their official website HERE.
Where Do You Board the Hozugawa River Boat Ride from?
The boat’s pier is close to JR Kameoka Station (亀岡駅), just a 5 to 10-minute walk away.
If you take the Sagano Romantic Train, walk from the terminal station, Kameoka Torokko Station (トロッコ亀岡駅), to JR Umahori Station (馬堀駅). JR Kameoka Station is the next stop from JR Umahori Station.
If you don’t want to walk, you can also take Keihan Kyoto Kotsū’s (京阪京都交通) services from Kameoka Torokko Station and get off at Hodzukawakudari Jōsen-ba (保津川下り乗船場).
Kyoto Sagano Sightseeing Carriage Tour can also take you to the boat pier!
Download one of Japan’s transport apps to plan your trip.
What to Do on the Day Before Boarding the Hozugawa River Boat
Hozugawa River Boat Terminal is a two-story building. Whether you have pre-purchased your ticket or not, please fill in the small piece of paper shown in the 2nd and 3rd photo in the Instagram post. Only one paper is required to be filled out for the entire group. The name to be put in is the group’s representative’s name.
You can then take the piece of paper to the ticket counter to exchange or purchase your boat ticket. The ticket has a number printed. Please wait until your number is called before heading down to the pier. The big screen next to the ticket counter also shows the numbers that have been called out.
While you wait, you can purchase some snacks from the shop in the terminal. Food and drinks are allowed on the Hozugawa River Boat.
The Best Seats on Hozugawa River Boat
At the pier, the staff will allocate the seats on the boat for you. If you can, ask them if you can sit on the right-hand side of the boat. When we were on Hozugawa River Boat in the morning, more birds and turtles appeared on the right-hand side. Because the side of the river was under the sun, it is possible that they flocked over to seek warmth on a cold autumn day. In addition, Arashiyama’s traditional buildings are also located on the right-hand side of the river.
If you understand Japanese, the front few rows are the best seats because you can hear the boatmen giving out interesting talks and stories.
At the end of the boat ride, a food boat will come by. The boatmen will tie the two boats temporarily so you can get the snacks and drinks you want. It was the only time we were glad that we sat on the left-hand side of the boat. The food boat was located just next to us, and we were able to see clearly what they were selling.
Explore the Sagano/Arashiyama Area With a Guide
If you prefer to be guided when you visit the Sagano/Arashiyama Area, consider booking one of the tours below!
- Kyoto Sagano Bamboo Grove & Arashiyama Walking Tour
- Kyoto Rickshaw Tour
- Private Walking Tour in Bamboo Forest & Hidden Spots in Arashiyama
- Kyoto Sagano Romantic Train, Arashiyama, and Kiyomizudera Half-Day Tour in Kyoto
- Arashiyama Morning Walking Tour with Sagano Romantic Train in Kyoto
Taking the Sagano Romantic Train to Kameoka
If you don’t have 90 to 120 minutes to spare sitting on a boat, another option to adore Hozugawa Gorge is by taking the Sagano Romantic Train. Especially during the cherry blossom and the fall foliage season, you get to see the gorgeous flowers or vivid colors up close. Of course, you can see the Hozugawa River from the train’s window as well.
For more information, refer to our Sagano Scenic Railway article!
Discover Kameoka City – Just a Train Ride Away from Aarashiyama
Arashiyama in Kyoto is one of the most popular destinations in the prefecture. Before taking the Hozugawa River Boat, how about spending a couple of hours exploring Kameoka?
Kameoka City’s scenery is equally as amazing as what you can get in Arashiyama, if not better! And the best thing is that it is way less crowded!
For more information about the city, please refer to our Kameoka City article (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.