Kyoto Station is one of the largest buildings in Japan, encompassing a modern transportation hub and an entertainment complex. The futuristic building was unveiled in 1997, on the 1,200th anniversary of the foundation of a Japanese capital in Kyoto. In this expansive 15-floor building you can connect with a network of local buses, long-distance railways and high-speed bullet trains, as well as discover large department stores, shopping malls, a cinema and a hotel.
You will probably first encounter Kyoto Station if you arrive by train to the city. Put your bags into the luggage lockers in the basement level and take some time to explore the extensive complex before heading out into the city. Marvel at architect-and-creator Hara Hiroshi’s grand concept, which responds to Kyoto’s dignified history through the lens of a more modern aesthetic. Look up from the main hall of the station to see the exposed steel beams of the roof. Named The Matrix, this ceiling structure mimics the city’s grid-like structure and the design of the station. You might recognise Hiroshi’s architectural style from his Umeda Sky Building in Osaka.
There are three different shopping malls in Kyoto Station: Isetan Department Store, Porta Underground Shopping Mall and The Cube Shopping Mall. Each provides a wide selection of goods and services, including fashion, electronics, souvenirs and dining options. You can also take in excellent views of Kyoto from the Observation Deck on the building’s top floor and the Skyway passage, a glass tunnel that extends along the length of the station. Both are free to visit.
Plan your visit to Kyoto with the tourist information centers on the 2nd and 9th floors of the station. These facilities have tourism brochures, multilingual staff and computer access. Exit Kyoto Station either via the north-facing Karasuma side, which leads to Kyoto’s downtown area or on the Hachijo side, which opens up onto quieter streets with hotels and the Toji Temple.
Kyoto Station is served by several railway, subway and bullet train lines, as well as buses and taxis. Many establishments within the station close in the evening; however, there are a handful of diners and internet cafés that operate 24 hours.