Transport systems in major cities of Japan have undergone a huge change over the past decades – be it the introduction of timely and reliable high-speed trains, the construction of subway tunnels, etc. However, there are some train or tram networks that were once extensively spread and used but are now confined to just a few places in the country. Among them is the Keifuku Randen Tram Line, an extraordinary representation of how the people of Kyoto used to commute. The tram line also takes you on an epic journey through another beautiful side of the city, which many do not have the chance to see.
The Keifuku Randen, or simply the Randen, is revered by locals as it is the last surviving tram line that is still operational in the entire city of Kyoto. It used to carry passengers to different parts of the city, including the famous Arashiyama region, before major trains started taking over.
Other cities such as Tokyo used to have an extensive network of tram lines in the past, although most have been removed as the population started to increase. Only a handful are left untouched and they mainly serve as attractions now.
The Arashiyama Line of the Randen connects the areas of Shijo-Omiya, which is known as a shopping and food paradise, and Arashiyama, which is home to several historic sites. The Kitano, the second existing line of the Randen, connects Ukyo Ward’s Katabiranotsuji Station and Kita Ward’s Kitano-Hakubaicho Station.
You can see amazing places, including temples, bridges, streets, gardens, shrines, and other culturally rich spots, along the two tram lines of the Randen. This retro-looking tram is run by Kyoto-based major rail transport firm Kyoto Keifuku Electric Railroad.
If you are using the Arashiyama Line, get off at Sai Station, which comes immediately after Shijo-Omiya Station, and hop on the city bus to Kinkaku-ji or “The Golden Pavilion.”
Both Shijo-Omiya and Sai Stations give you access to some amazing shopping centers, bars, hotels, and many more.
The Randen-Tenjingawa Station allows you to get to Toei Kyoto Studio Park, a prominent filming location where you can find people dressed up in traditional and historical costumes. If you are lucky, you can even meet famous TV and movie personalities at the park!
You can visit the amazing autumn gardens of Rokuoin Temple, which can be easily reached from the Rokuoin Station of the Arashiyama Line.
You can also explore the historical Arashiyama region by getting off at Arashiyama Station. The ever-popular Bamboo Grove, Tenryu-ji, and many other notable attractions can be found here.
If you are using the Kitano Line, which you can get to by transferring at the Katabiranotsuji Station of the Arashiyama Line, you can visit several amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Ninna-ji Temple and Ryoanji Temple via the Omuro-Ninnaji and Ryoanji Stations, respectively.
You can also see the very interesting Shunkoin Temple that is actually a part of the much larger religious complex known as Myoshinji, which is also the name of the tram stop, where you can practice meditation.
Via the Kitano-Hakubaicho Station, you can access the well-known Kitano Tenmangu Shrine where plenty of festivals and events are held, as well as the famous cherry blossom spot that is Hirano Shrine.
The Randen is a must-try when you are in Kyoto, as it is not only a gateway to a lot of attractions in the city but also a cheaper and easier alternative to cover most tourist spots. The fare for the Randen follows a flat rate system: 220 yen for adults and 110 yen for children. However, since the tram operates far from Kyoto Station, you must look for a local bus or other means of transport to reach the starting point of the line.