The historic city’s architectural entrance
Kyoto Station is the city’s main access point. This huge transportation hub is served by the Shinkansen, JR and Kintetsu local trains, and the subway. In addition, its great northern entrance is the terminus of most bus lines.
The celebration of the 1200th anniversary of the foundation of Kyoto (formerly Heian) as Japan’s capital afforded the station the opportunity to undergo a complete modernization. The architect Hiroshi Hara (born in 1936), who also created the Umeda Sky Building and the Sapporo Dome, designed the new station, which officially opened in March 1997 after three years of work.
The new station replaced the first one, which opened in February 1877, was destroyed by a fire in 1950, and was rebuilt a bit bigger two years later. However, the old structure was nowhere near as large as the new station:
- 70 meters high and 470 meters wide (west to east), with a total area of 238,000 m²
- 15 floors distributed between the underground (4 levels) and the surface (11 levels)
- A huge 60-meter central atrium with an impressive ceiling height and steel and glass walls
Several hundred thousand passengers pass through the station daily, making Kyoto Station one of Japan’s most important stations. In addition, it has been served by the Tokaido Route since 1889.
Access is possible using any form of transportation, from the local train lines in front of the main entrance to the Shinkansen 🚅 on the upper floors. Many people pass through the building, and some even lose their way, but there are a few nice places to discover in Kyoto Station. Most people run to catch their bus or taxi without a glance to Kyoto Tower in front of the entrance. However, wandering in Kyoto Station can be an enjoyable experience.
Walking west, beyond the escalators, visitors encounter a great 171-step stair that leads to a pleasant outdoor hanging garden. From there, a lovely panoramic view opens onto the south of Kyoto, beyond Hachijo. A keen eye might even spot Nintendo’s historical headquarters despite the thick glass wall protecting the garden.
On the other side, visitors can discover Shimogyo, Karasuma and downtown Kyoto, but the best view is found in the Skyway Tunnel 45 meters above the atrium. The setting sun over Kyoto and Higashiyama is a wonderful must-see.
Wandering through the station’s many floors, visitors will find huge shopping malls, such as Isetan’s 10 levels, or the underground Porta and The Cube and the electronic retail shops BicCamera and Yodobashi. Explorers can also discover the Gekijo Theatre, the Granvia Hotel 🏨, two museums, Kyoto Tourist Information Center and an exhibition devoted to the manga artist Osamu Tezuka.
True to Japan’s love for food, each floor of Kyoto Station is also home to dozens of restaurants.