Kyoto Station is one of the major stations in the Kansai Area. International and domestic tourists will often pass through Kyoto Station because many different lines come together here including the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, and the limited express train from the Kansai Airport. But other than just catching your train here, it is worth taking some time to discover the station itself.
The station was opened in 1877 by Japan National Railways, which has now become private company JR (Japan Railways), and Emperor Meiji attended the opening ceremony. Later, the Kintetsu Line and Kyoto Subway were added to the network. In front of the station there is a big bus terminal. About 700,000 people use this station every day.
The new Kyoto Station building was reconstructed in 1997. This 60 meter-high modern construction was designed by Hiroshi Hara who won a design competition, beating 6 famous architects. The enormous atrium on the north side is an amazing spot with 4,000 glass windows.
Kyoto Station boasts plenty of options for shopping, dining, entertainment, and staying overnight. Department store Isetan is a great store to check out for those who are looking for high-end clothing or slightly more expensive and special souvenirs. Hotels Granvia and Miyako City are directly connected to the station, making them very convenient hotels to stay for those who spend only a short time in Kyoto or need to catch a train early in the morning.
Furthermore, there is a plethora of souvenir shops, clothing shops, and restaurants. One of the most popular ramen chains that actually resembles a ramen ‘theme park’ where you can try many different types of ramen noodles, Ramen Koji, can also be found in Kyoto station. In Kyoto Station, facilities are not only on the ground floor. Make sure to also check out the huge underground shopping mall called Porta. There are more than 100 shops and restaurants in this maze-like shopping paradise.
To top it all off, Kyoto Station also has a theater, museum, and, of course, a tourist information center. The museum is called Eki, and you can find it on the 7th floor of the station building connecting to the Isetan Department Store. They exhibit a wide variety of artworks, for example, paintings, photographic art, picture storybooks for children, crafts, animations, and fashion. It is open from 10 am to 8 pm (it is closed when Isetan Department Store is closed and between the exhibitions for the preparation.) The entrance fee depends on the exhibition.
Visual Art and a View
If you stay overnight in Kyoto, don’t forget to see the Big Stairs Graphical Illumination in the evening. There is a huge open-air staircase with 171 steps from the 4th floor to the rooftop. They create an animated design using 15,000 LED lights in the evening, and this design changes by the season. Cherry blossoms in spring, festival floats in July, and colored leaves in autumn, and you can see the image of popular spots in Kyoto throughout the year. You can enjoy this amazing light show for free between 5 pm and 10 pm without any break. In addition, they install a big Christmas tree on the 4th floor just in front of the staircase from mid-November until Christmas day. During the Christmas season, the area around the staircase is really beautiful.
Then there is another wonderful evening event: the illuminated fountain show accompanied by music called Aqua Fantasy. You can see it just outside of the north exit between the bus terminal and the taxi terminal. The schedule differs by the season, but you can see the show 2 to 4 times every day. For example, the first show starts at 6 pm in winter, but it starts at 8 pm in summer because it gets dark at a later time. The duration is 15 minutes per show, and there is no entrance fee.
If you go to the rooftop floor, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Kyoto from 60 meters above the ground. There is a height limit for all buildings in the city center in order to preserve the beautiful townscape and atmosphere of the old capital city. The maximum height is only 31 meters (and even 15 meters in some area). Kyoto Station and Kyoto Tower are the exceptions. This means there is nothing to prevent a great view from the rooftop.
Your Japan Tour
As seasoned Japan experts, we can help you create your perfect Japan tour including guides who can guide you through the complicated Kyoto Station and of course, historical places in Kyoto and other cities. Contact us to start planning your unforgettable holiday to this fascinating country full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, culture, history, nature, and delicious food!
Access: From Tokyo, take the Shinkansen. It takes 2 hours and 15 minutes.
From Shin-Osaka, take the Shinkansen. It takes 15 minutes.