Starting a Day in Kyoto Station

October 16, 2017

by Takumi Abe

Japanese life in morning

At Kyoto Station many people head to school or work at the beginning of the day. If you are there, you can feel Japanese daily life in the morning. We cannot see such a scene in temples or shrines. Commuters are coming and going in the station. You can see many faces with delightful, depressed or serious looks.

Kyoto Station starts “Rush Hour” at 7am with arriving trains. At this time, the station is crowded. I took pictures of commuters, tourists and station officers at this busy time. You can feel a very different atmosphere at Kiyomizu temple. I hope you enjoy the photos enough that you will want to visit Kyoto Station in the early morning. I was there for an hour from 7 AM.

Starting a day from Kyoto Station

No.1 Starting Gift Shop

Gift shop (Omiyageya)

People who come to Kyoto are not only tourists but also students on school excursions and salaried workers on business trips. Some of them use Kyoto Station for going back home. They buy souvenirs in gift shops in the station. Clerks want them to buy gifts so they put goods on the shelves.

No.2 Keeping clean for users

Be clean

People are coming and going in the station. It is not easy to keep clean especially on rainy day. However, the station is always sanitary. In the background, there is a lot of hard work being done by the facility workers.

No.3 For Kyoto

The gate

At the same time as arriving trains, all the people go through automatic ticket gates. Their daily life in Kyoto begins. They head to school or work in the city.

No.4 Changing trains

On stairs and elevators

Kyoto station has JR (Japan Railway) and Kintetsu (Kintetsu Railway). Some people change trains for JR or Kintetsu. Lots of people run into each other in the elevators and stairs. They walk in a hurry while somehow avoiding collision.

No. 5 If you need help

Officers help you

Station officers help everybody.  They want users to feel comfortable. If you do not know where a destination is, officers answer and relieve your anxiety.

No.6 A student

a Student reading a book

Half of the station users are students. While waiting for trains, they chat with friends or read a book or study.

No.7 School trip

School trip

In Japan, Kyoto is a famous destination for school trips. Many students study the history of Kyoto and Japan. They also learn how to go to famous places.

No.8 Starting Sightseeing

It is difficult to be in unfamiliar place

Tourists also start here to get to tourist sites. In front of the map, some tourists check where their destination is. This map shows you locations. In a cafe, some tourists eat breakfast to build up energy for the day ahead.

No.9 A line

No.0 platform

On platform 0, users make lines without disorder. They use phones for checking e-mails, messages or news. They look down on small screens. If you stand beyond the yellow line, you will be warned by the station staff.

No.10 In the busy time

He watched Shinkansen and trains

In the rush hour, it is not easy to have inner peace. However, a place you always use looks different between busy times and free times.  You may find another face of the Kyoto Station if you look.

Morning Kyoto

Speaking of Kyoto, many people will come up with temples and shrines. However, if you are interested in daily Japanese life, you can see it in Kyoto Station. You can see common Japan. In famous places in Kyoto, you can feel old Japan. Kyoto Station however, is filled with another part of Japanese culture. These pictures taken in Kyoto station belong to this part. If you have time to stay in Kyoto, I want you to enjoy World Heritage sites, but I want you to see daily life in Japan. It may be fun to find differences between your own country’s life and that of Japan. You may be surprised . Kyoto station has both a traditional and contemporary atmosphere. I want you to take an interest in the morning time in Kyoto Station.

Kyoto’s Historical Boulevard

by Takumi Abe

Many people who visit Kyoto want to seeonly  Kiyomizu temple, Kinkakuji temple or the Ryoanji rock garden. However, when most people first arrive in Kyoto, they will see the Kyoto Tower and a wide avenue going to the north. This street has many cars, taxis and buses. Its name is Karasuma-dori, and its length is six kilometers. Karasuma street is an important and central street in Kyoto, so there are many business buildings and some temples along it.  In addition, two universities are located on Karasuma, and the Kyoto Imperial Palace flanks the avenue as well. It is an important street especially from the views of the economy, education and Japanese history.

Karasuma from 794

Kyoto city has prospered for about 1200 years so many streets in Kyoto have a long history. If you walk down Karasuma street, you can see buildings from various eras. Karasuma was constructed in the Heian period (794-1185). At that time, this road was called Karasumaru-koji street. “Koji” means small road. This street was named after a family of Heian-period aristocrats. Karasuma has been significant because among the many Fujiwara families it was the largest area where Heian aristocrats lived. The street flourished,  but it fell into ruinduring the civil war in Medieval times. After this period of battles, the street was revived by Hideyoshi Toyotomi. Due to his project, the street had many upper-class mansions, houses and stores. In  the Meiji period (1868-1912),  one of the modern Japanese periods, Kyoto Station was built at the south end of Karasuma street. As a result, this street was expanded and extended to all the way to northern Kyoto. At the same time, a streetcar started to run along the street. Today, Karasuma is in the central business district, where there are many banks and companies. Additionally, it is a gateway to Kyoto for people from various countries first arriving at Kyoto Station.


The gateway of Kyoto

What you can see on Karasuma

Shijo Karasuma

Shijo-Karasuma is one of the big commercial areas in the city. Many banks and insurance companies are located here. You can see the modern Japanese architecture and a long history. On the left side of the above photo of Shijo -Karasuma is the Mitsui building. This entrance was created in 1941.

Cocon Karasuma

Doshisha University

Cocon Karasuma is a commercial complex and office building. You may be fascinated by the arabesque pattern on the wall. This building was constructed in 1938, and it was recently renovated. It was not exposed the fires of war, so you can see the old-style stairs and floors inside. “Cocon,” in Japanese means both ancient and modern, so this amazing building shows the past  and the present in Kyoto.

If you continue much further north on Karasuma you will come to Doshisha University. This university was founded in 1875, and now about 27,000 students go to this school. It was established by Jyo Nijima. He was the first Japanese person to graduate from a university in the USA. He opened the door to modern education in Japan.


If you want to eat Japanese sweets, I recommend that you go to Toraya. It has a long history, and this store has been around for nearly five centuries. From the days of old, this store made sweets for the Emperor. Its famous itme is Azuki-bean jelly. It has been loved for more than 500 years. Is is on Karasuma just southwest of Doshisha University.

Traditional culture inJapan is not only concerned with food, but there is also kadou or literally “the way of flowers”. Kadou is arranging flowers beautifully. It represents and expresses the beauty of Japan. Kadou was formed in the Muromachi era (1336-1573). It is said that it originated at the pond of Rokkakuji temple. This temple is crowded with tourists. Next to it on Karasuma is the headquarters of the Ikenobo School of Flower arrangement.

Manga museum

Moreover, people who love Japanese culture had better go to the Manga museum, which is nearby the Oike-Karasuma intersection. As the name indicates, this museum keeps more 30 thousand manga. You can read manga in the museum or in its garden. The Giga-Ukiyoe, which is a collection of funny pictures and was printed in the Edo era (1603-1867), is in the collection of the museum. Moreover, some manga housed here are from overseas. The amazing thing is that this building has been used since 1929. it used to be an elementary school, therefore you can see also the old style of Japanese school.

The street as a face of Kyoto

Kyoto Imperial Palace

Karasuma street has a long history. It is rare that you can see a story that is 1200 years long. This place has faces of traditional Japan, modern Japan and present-day Japan. You can feel a Japanese passion to create the city, protect its heritage, and reinvigorate its culture.  The street is bustling with university students and some of its cafés are filled with young power. What is more, many workers use the street to find lunch or dinner, or go shopping. In  old times, there were many people riding in a carriage or walking in kimono. Suppose you come to Karasuma—you may feel the history of Japan.


Kyoto Tourist Information Center

by Chinami Aizawa

If you ever travel to Kyoto and are in need of good information about Kyoto, then the Kyoto Tourist Information Center (Kyoto Sougou Kanko Annaisho) is the place to go. Nicknamed “Kyo Navi”, the center is located on the second floor of the JR Kyoto Station building, near the department story named JR Kyoto Isetan. The center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. all year round.

DSC09229  DSC09211  DSC09212

Many people – not only foreign travelers, but also visiting Japanese – use Kyo Navi to ask some questions related to sightseeing in Kyoto, such as how to get the place you want to go, how to buy a ticket, recommend places to go, and so on. Visitors can also get information on business and family hotels, Ryokan (a traditional Japanese style hotel) and transportation routes. Moreover, Kyo Navi offers many free pamphlets of various tourist spots in Kyoto.

DSC09214      DSC09213  DSC09244

All staff can speak both English and Japanese, while many others can speak Chinese and Korean. There are even a few who can speak Thai or French, but they are not always there. are there, not every time though.


I interviewed staff members at Kyo Navi, and they gave me some interesting answers.

Q. On average, how many people visit Kyo Navi?

A. About 1,000 people per a day visit the center. In the past, only about 20% of visitors were from foreign countries. This has changed recently, however. Now, about half of people who visit us are from foreign countries, such as USA, England, China, Korea and so on. We are busy helping visitors every day and at every time. But, if you come here in the morning (before noon), you probably won’t have to wait to talk with us.

Q. What are the most frequently asked questions by visitors?

A. Well, many people ask us the way to get to the hotel that they have booked. It’s a bit complicated to take busses, trains and taxis in Kyoto, so if you know the name of hotel or the address, we can show you the best way to get there. Also, many people ask us about ATM and foreign exchange.

Q. Have you ever been asked some interesting questions?

A. Yes, we have. Some people ask us about geisha and maiko, which are traditional Japanese female entertainers in Kyoto. They wear beautiful kimono and have white faces with lots of makeup. I think most people have seen geisha and maiko before on the internet, TV or in magazines. So many visitors think it’s easy to find geisha and maiko in Kyoto. However, it’s not as easy as they think, but instead rather hard to meet them. Nevertheless, we try to tell people the best way to see them.

As you can see, the staff at Kyo Navi can teach visitors many things about Kyoto. Moreover, if visitors want to explore regions outside of Kyoto, like Nara, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Takayama, the staff can also make recommendations on the best way to get to those places and what to do while they are there.

There are so many people from other countries sightseeing in Kyoto. There are a lot of English signs in Kyoto, but not enough. So before you get lost or worried, make sure you visit Kyo-Navi at least once.

Exploring Porta

By Chihiro Nakagawa and MayaInoue

When you arrive at Kyoto Station, the first thing that will probably catch your attention will be Kyoto Tower. However, what you won’t see are the crowds of people that fill the shopping mall beneath Kyoto Station every day. Many of them are visitors to Kyoto who come here to buy souvenirs before they head home.


One of many entrances to Porta

When you arrive after a long train ride, you may feel tired. Some of you might wonder if there are any cafes, restaurants or shops nearby. By descending the escalators or stairs in front of Kyoto Station you will encounter a huge underground shopping mall with all different kinds of souvenir shops, clothing stores, restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and even a Starbucks coffeeshop. This commercial zone is called Porta.

porta entrance2

porta entrance

Porta first opened in 1980 and was the first underground shopping mall in Kyoto. Later, another underground mall was built (with parking lot and subway entrances) below Oike Street, between Kawaramachi and Karasuma streets. Porta was refurbished in 1997 at the same time the new Kyoto Station was being built. In 2009, it was also renovated again on an even larger scale. In 2014, Porta will be refurbished again. Adjoining Porta, there is a smaller shopping area whose name is The Cube.Porta and The Cube are interconnected. There are many more stores in Porta, although the Cube features more fashion shops.


suvenia shop

Also in Porta there are several stores that specialize in popular Kyoto foods and souvenirs, such as yatsuhashi (a cinnamon-flavored confection), macha (powdered green tea), baumukuchen (a western-style cake). Of course, there are not only foods and sweets but also local products such as dyed fabrics, fans, pottery, tea implements and so on. There is an information office next to the centrally located Starbucks. And nearby you can find some ATMs. The office provides guide maps to Porta in several different languages.



Here is the Porta Shopping Guide. It gives you the locations of Porta’s many shops, restaurants, and cafes.  On the left side of this map are some restaurants that offer all kinds of meals—Italian, Chinese, deep-fried pork cutlets, soba noodles, udon noodles, deserts and of course Japanese specials. You can easily find toilets that are clean and easy to use on this map. When you open the Guide further, it shows pictures of the cuisine offered by the various restaurants and cafes in the mall. This is helpful in deciding where to go and eat!





One restaurant we especially want to recommend to visitors is Harvest. This restaurant uses only natural organic foods on their large menu.

Harvest also serves vegetables made in Kyoto, which are called kyo-yasai. The menu is good and healthy. Harvest is buffet style,

 so for ¥1500 you can eat a variety of different dishes and soups and go back for more. Of course, the other restaurants in Porta are worth trying too!


Porta’s theme character is called “Portan” (see photo). Portan can be seen entertaining people up and down the mall, especially during Christmas season. You can buy goods based on this cute character in Porta.

porta subway

Entrance to the North-South subway line in Porta

As you can see, there are many attractions in here. When you arrive in Kyoto in the morning, you can pick up breakfast and have a cup of cofee before you begin your sightseeing. And when you leave Kyoto you can have dinner and pick up souvenirs. Porta is an especially convenient place for visitors who come to Kyoto by train!

Kyoto station


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.