Kyoto station will celebrate its tenth year in existence next year. Opened in 1997 to celebrate the 1,200th anniversary of the foundation of Kyoto (Heian) as the capital of Japan, the 15-story, glass-plated gray monolith, designed by Hiroshi Hara, certainly has its critics. Alex Kerr lambasted it in his book Lost Japan as a monstrosity and the reason he finally packed his bags and left town.
Still nearly ten years on and the building seems to have become a generally accepted part of the Kyoto landscape. Kyoto receives nearly 50 million tourists a year, 99% of them domestic, mostly day-tripping, Japanese visitors, and it certainly would seem a gigantic station is necessary to deal with them all.
Hara's ambitious design replaced an ugly 1950s concrete building, after the quaint, though aging Renaissance style structure, built in 1914 had burnt down in 1952. This in turn had superseded the original 1878 Meiji-era station.
Kyoto station's stats are impressive - it comprises a huge 60 meter tall atrium, measures 470 meters from east to west, with a total floor space of 238,000 square meters. The building includes a department store, the Granvia Hotel, a theater, exhibition space as well as numerous shops and restaurants.
The area around Kyoto Station has a good number of economy hotels and cheap guesthouses and is a good area for a visitor to make a base for any visit to the city. All city buses radiate out from the station's bus terminal and there is a lot to see within easy walking distance of Kyoto Station itself.
Higashi and Nishi Honganji Temples and Shosei-en Garden (Kikokutei) directly to the north, Sanjusangendo Temple and the National Museum to the east across the Kamo River, Toji Temple and its famous flea market to the south and the Umekoji Steam Locomotive Preservation Hall to the east. For old station buffs, Umekoji Steam Locomotive Preservation Hall preserves Nijo Station, the oldest wooden railway station in Japan, which was built in 1904 and replaced in 1996 by an equally fine modern building.
Love it or loathe it Kyoto Station will be with us for a few more decades before something equally controversial no doubt replaces it.
Hotels in Kyoto
Japan Travel station