The Kyoto Train Station is the central train and bus station for the city of Kyoto, Japan. Here it is on the map. I’ve been there many times and every time it impresses me. Kyoto Station (it’s official name to the Japanese) is an immense complex. You might be tempted to call it a building but after you’ve been there you’ll drop that word. The complex rises many stories into the air and many stories below ground. It houses a very large train station, a large bus station, a shopping center with many restaurants and countless other things that would take days to explore. The underground section extends over a larger area than the part above ground. As impressive as it is, Tokyo has even larger stations.
Visiting it is an experience – a very cool one. It’s difficult for me to try and describe what it’s like to be there. It’s like someone took a space station and plopped it down in the middle of Kyoto. The station isn’t beautiful. In fact, it’s rather ugly but the immense scale of the edifice fills one with such awe that it takes time to be able to sort out opinions. If you walk in through the main entrance at street level you’ll look up to see a huge steel ceiling in the distance far above you. Gigantic steel beams and plates make up a cityscape of the future that surrounds you and, if you’re not fond of cities, might threaten to engulf you. A series of escalators and stairs form a highway that stretches way up towards a window of sky that, if followed, will take you to the observation deck on top. Once there, you can take in a great view of Kyoto in every direction in the open air.
If you can break away from the view of the city and plunge back into the station you’ll notice that escalators and walkways branch off in every direction to allow one to explore the immense cave of steel. After reading countless science-fiction novels of people building giant cities of the future it is humbling to actually stand in one. Thankfully, the many attractive shops and restaurants that abound in the station allow one to temporarily escape into more familiar settings.
A long walkway stretches the length of the station towards the top underneath the main roof. If you can find it it is definitely worth your time to walk the path. You’ll find interesting courtyards and vistas of the station at the other end. As impressive as the views can be I found the most interesting shops to be underground. After spending most of a day exploring the station I thought it rather odd that the place built to serve as a means to reach one’s destination became a destination itself. It also seemed odd that Kyoto, the city firmly and fondly linked with Japan’s past, would want to present itself as a city of the future by building such a place. I would recommend you visit it but if you visit Kyoto at all I doubt you’ll miss it.