April 12, 2004
by HASHIMOTO Miyako
Kyoto is an ancient city, so people want to see it retain its original charm. On the other hand, Kyoto is an internationally famous city, so Kyoto city now has not only old things but also new things for the visitor to see. For example, while there are a lot of temples and shrines, there is also Kyoto Station, one of the newest and brightest of Kyoto’s attractions.
When you heard the word”station”, what do you imagine? I think you would imagine a simple building of rail beds and platforms. However, Kyoto Station is very different from that image.
The main station building was built in 1997 as part of a project to commemorate the 1200th anniversary of the transfer-of-the capital from Nara in 798. This is the fourth generation of Kyoto Station buildings and there was a competition held to design the new station. Many designers applied, including a number from overseas. However, Hiroshi Hara’s design was selected, because it was really unique. There are many excellent facilities in this building, such as a hotel, department store, theater, restaurants, versatile open spaces, and a large parking lot. It is one of the biggest stations in Japan, with 1.3 million people using it every day.
The positioning of this building is quite convenient. Osaka, Shiga, and Nara are close to Kyoto, and with the many high schools and universities located in the city, a lot of people need to use Kyoto Station every day.
There are three main rail companies that operate out of the station: JR line, Kintetsu line, and subway. This makes it is easy to transfer from one to another. Furthermore, there are a great number of buses and taxis always around. Most commuters use trains rather than buses because students and workers need to get to school or work on time. However, many visitors are more likely to use buses, since buses can travel all over Kyoto city. Moreover, often their purpose in coming to Kyoto is to feel the atmosphere and dig deep into the culture. That is why during the spring and fall seasons, many places get pretty packed. When you visit Kyoto, you need to choose the time carefully.
During the Christmas season, there is a big Christmas tree in one of the open space areas. It is very beautiful, and there are 171 stairs in front of it, so many people can sit and admire the decorations. On top of all this, most weekends, there are events like concerts and talk shows for the entertainment of the public.
There is a spectacular skyway bridge which is glazed, so you can see out from both sides. You can walk quietly and peacefully along this from Isetan (department store) to the other side of the building where the hotel is located.
There wasn’t a good connection from Kansai international airport to Kyoto before, but now there is the Haruka, the express train which comes from Kansai international airport directly to Kyoto station. This has made it easier for many foreign visitors to journey to Kyoto.
There are several information centers in the station to assist the visitor, and one of them has volunteers who can speak English.
There is a large bus terminal on the north side of the station, and with so many buses coming in, inevitably people sometimes get lost. However, there are many signs to tell you which bus to take, and electronic terminals which you can search freely for information. There are also both Japanese versions and English versions.
You can buy a variety of souvenirs in the underground shopping area, and some of them are only available at Kyoto station. There are Japanese sweets, pickles, snacks, books, ornaments, toys and so on. It is really big and you can find many interesting things, so you certainly won’t get bored.
Even if you don’t need to use the station to travel, I really recommend you visit anyway. The facilities and the entertainment are great, and the view of Kyoto Tower is wonderfully romantic, for that 1st or even 51st date.