April 12, 2004
by YONEO Kazumi
What do you think of this futuristic building? JR Kyoto Station, completed in 1997 to commemorate the celebration of Kyoto’s 1200th anniversary, is an amazing work of architecture, nearly 60 meters high and a massive 470 meters in length. You can easily spot this daringly designed station from nearly any high viewpoint in the city because Kyoto Tower stands right in front of it, rising 131 meters into the sky.The Kyoto Station complex contains not only a railroad terminal, but a luxury hotel, theater, and a department store, as well as numerous specialty stores and restaurants.
You can ride the Haruka special express train from Kansai Airport directly to JR Kyoto Station without any transfer. If you’re planning to explore the station before going elsewhere in Kyoto, we recommend that on arrival you check your baggage into a coin locker (small 300 yen, middle 400 yen, large 600 yen per day) or, if your baggage is too big to put into a locker, at the left-luggage office (open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., located in basement floor one.). The left-luggage office can also deliver your baggage to your hotel for 750 yen per bag.
Next to the luggage office is a large bookstore. Many sightseers buy guidebooks about Kyoto there, or collections of photographs of Kyoto as souvenirs. You should also visit the Kyoto City Tourist Information Center (guidance in Kyoto City; open 8:30~19:00; Tel. 075-343-6655 ;2F Kyoto Station Building) or Kyoto Tourism Federation (guidance in Kyoto Prefecture; open 9:30~18:00 (closed New Year’s); Tel. 075-371-2226;9F Kyoto Station Building) or Kyoto Prefectural Informational Center (open10:00~18:00; closed 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month and from Dec. 29 to Jan. 5; Tel.075-342-5000; 9F Kyoto Station Building). It’s better to use the elevator to ride to the 9th floor. These information centers will give you, free of charge, all kinds of information about Kyoto sightseeing or lodgings. Of course, their staff have a good command of English. To your delight, you’ll find a lot of free leaflets and brochures written in English.
One thing which you must pick up there before you go sightseeing around Kyoto is a city bus and subway route map. (There are two types, written in English or Japanese.) A flat fare of 220 yen is charged on most of the city buses in Kyoto. However, the subway fare is even cheaper to the central part of the city. Moreover, there are no traffic jams underground. City buses and the subway are really useful for economy travel. There are some money-saving cards such as the Kyoto One-Day Sightseeing Card (cost: adults 1200 yen, children 600 yen; zones: allows travel within Kyoto City on city bus, municipal subways, and the privately-owned Kyoto Bus — certain areas excluded and a sightseeing map is included) and the Kyoto Two-Day Sightseeing Card (cost: adults 2000 yen, children 1000 yen). If you only use city buses, there is a City Bus One-Day Travel Card (issued by Kyoto City Transportation Bureau; cost: adults 500 yen, children 250 yen; zones: unlimited travel through all single-fare zones within the city.) These cards are available at the Bus Ticket Center in front of Kyoto Station, city bus and subway information centers in the Kyoto Station underground, Kitaoji Station and Karasuma-Oike Station, and the Mibu Transport Bureau Information Office. The city bus One-Day Travel Card is also available from drivers on city buses (some routes excepted).
By the way, Kyoto Station is a fine and convenient place to have a meal. On the 10th floor, there is a Lamian-Koji (an area of restaurants serving Chinese noodles in soup restaurants; open from 11:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.) On the eleventh floor, there are some Japanese, Western, and Chinese restaurants. These are classy and a little bit expensive. For those on a tight budget, take the opposite way. There are lots of cafés and restaurants in the underground station plaza called Porta. There is also a Starbucks café. (Another Starbucks is in the first floor of nearby Kyoto Tower.) If you have time to spare, we recommend you try some window-shopping in the underground section of the department store JR Isetan. You can enjoy the colorful and tempting sights of Japanese food culture.
Once you have eaten your fill, how about going up to the sky road and roof park? You can see all over Kyoto City from there at a height of 59.8 meters.