Don’t Overlook Kyoto Station as an Underrated Tourist Attraction

When visiting the historic city of Kyoto, most travelers have their sights set on the iconic temples, shrines, and gardens that make Kyoto famous. However, one of the city’s most impressive and overlooked attractions is its central railway station, known simply as Kyoto Station. Built in 1997, this futuristic architectural marvel is a destination in itself that deserves dedicated time during any visit to Kyoto.

A City Within a Station

At first glance, Kyoto Station appears to be just a regular transportation hub. But this gargantuan complex, the second-largest station building in Japan after Nagoya Station, contains a mind-boggling array of amenities spread across its 14 floors (11 above ground and 3 basement levels). The station essentially functions as a self-contained city with shopping malls, department stores, restaurants, bars, a hotel, theaters, museums, and more.

Architectural Marvel

The station’s striking post-modern design by architect Hiroshi Hara is a feat of engineering in itself. The magnificent curved steel roof arches over the main terminus like a futuristic wave. Inside, the soaring ceilings and open layouts create a sense of majesty. One of the station’s highlights is the Skyway on the 7th floor – a suspended pedestrian corridor that soars over the main concourse, offering panoramic views.

Shopping Galore

Kyoto Station houses not one but three major shopping malls – the Isetan department store spanning 10 floors, The Cube underground mall, and Porta underground mall. These malls contain hundreds of shops selling everything from high-end fashion and Japanese crafts to cosmetics and electronics. You’ll also find plenty of souvenir shops for those last-minute omiyage gifts.

Dining Paradise

With over 50 restaurants representing Japanese, Asian and international cuisines, Kyoto Station is a foodie’s paradise. From affordable fast food to high-end dining, there is something for every taste and budget here. Don’t miss the depachika (basement food halls) which are a candy land of bento boxes, sweets, and other culinary delights perfect for picnicking or eating on the go.

Nighttime Illuminations

After dark, Kyoto Station transforms into an illuminated wonderland. The station’s grand staircase on the west side dazzles with over 15,000 LED lights choreographed into mesmerizing displays that change with the seasons – cherry blossoms in spring, fall foliage in autumn, and Christmas trees in winter. The Sky Way is also illuminated at night, giving it an ethereal, futuristic vibe.

Panoramic City Views

For unbeatable panoramic views over Kyoto’s cityscape, take the elevators or stairs up to Kyoto Station’s rooftop garden. This little urban oasis offers 360-degree vistas taking in Kyoto Tower and landmarks like Toji Temple in the distance. It’s particularly magical at dusk when the city lights start twinkling on.

While first-time visitors to Kyoto may be tempted to limit their explorations to Kyoto’s famous historic sights, Kyoto Station itself stands as an iconic modern-day attraction not to be missed. Set aside a few hours to wander through this “city within a city” – an unmissable portal into both Kyoto’s future and its deeply-rooted cultural past.

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