Kyoto Station is more than just a place to catch a train. A massive ultra-modern complex of glass and steel, it was designed by the award winning architect Hiroshi Hara, and houses an incredible range of shops, restaurants, and recreational facilities. Our article Kyoto Station Map – Finding Your Way explains the general layout of the railway station itself and how to find your train. In this article we will introduce some of the facilities and services that make the Kyoto Station Building itself a popular recreation center and tourist attraction.
Kyoto Station Building has two main entry points on the north and the south.
The north side of the station is called the Karasuma side. This side faces onto Kyoto Bus Station, Kyoto Post Office and Kyoto Tower. You will find the main Central Gate (also called the Chuo Gate) for the JR train lines here. The Karasuma side of the building is dominated on its eastern flank by Hotel Granvia Kyoto and the Kyoto Theater. On its western flank are thirteen floors of shopping in Isetan department store.
The south side of the station is called the Hachijo side because it faces onto Hachijo Street. This side of the station faces onto shopping malls and hotels. Here on the building’s southern flank you can find Asty Road and Miyako Michi which essentially form one long arcade of shops and restaurants.
To move between the north and south of the station building you can use a pedestrian walkway on the second floor, to the west of the Central Gate. This runs north to south past the Isetan department store, and then past the station’s West Gate, as far as Asty Square on the Hachijo side of the station.
There is also an underground passage on the east side of the station which connects Asty Road on the Hachijo side to Kyoto Subway Station and Porta underground shopping mall.
Kyoto Station Building Information
This booth has multilingual staff who can help you with queries about Kyoto Station Building. They can also give you a free English language “Guide Map” to the building which is handy for locating its various facilities and which also contains a useful map of the surrounding area. The booth is situated on the second floor, on the north side of the station. To find it take the escalator on the west side of the Central Gate and you will see Mr Donuts on your left and beyond that the Information booth on your right.
Open: 10:00 – 19:00 every day.
Kyoto Tourist Information Center
Multilingual staff can give you information on sightseeing spots, events, activities, accommodation and transport. Free wi-fi and an internet service for a fee are also available. The center is situated on the second floor pedestrian walkway.
Open: 8:30 to 19:00 every day.
Kyoto Prefectural International Center
The friendly multilingual staff at the International Center provide advice and information mainly aimed at expat residents, but they do have some cultural activities that tourists might find useful. An internet service is also available for a fee. The International Center is situated on the ninth floor of the Isetan building, on the south side of the “Daikaidan” Grand Stairway. Use the elevator on the south-east side of Isetan department store.
Open: 10:00 -18:00. Closed on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month and national holidays.
Information and Lost & Found for the Shinkansen
On the south side of the station in Asty Road there is another information office dedicated to queries about the shinkansen bullet train. The shinkansen tracks are located on the south side of the station too, so this office is handy for shinkansen passengers. There is also a Lost & Found counter here for items left on the shinkansen.
Open: 5:45 – 23:45. English language assistance: 10:00 – 16:00
Kyoto Central Post Office
In addition to the usual postal services, the ATM machines at Kyoto Central Post Office accept foreign credit cards and can be used 24 hours a day.
Kyoto Theater is in the station building’s north east corner. The theater hosts a range of (Japanese language) theatrical and musical productions and is also a concert venue.
Opening hours vary.
The Museum “Eki” Kyoto
The Museum “Eki” Kyoto is an art gallery on the 7th floor of the Isetan department store. The gallery hosts an impressive variety of exhibitions such as traditional Japanese art, European old masters, photography and manga illustrations. Check the official website for the current show.
Open: 10:00 – 20:00
Plazas & Walkways
The station building has many public plazas and walkways in which you may enjoy the futuristic vision of its architect, Hiroshi Hara. On the north east side of the building is the East Square. Musical events are occasionally held here.
From the East Square you can access the Skyway tunnel which leads you across the top of the building above the central hall and into the restaurant area on the 11th floor of the building’s west wing. The views along the way are spectacular.
On the 15th floor of the west wing of the building is the Sky Garden & Happy Terrace. It is a pleasant spot in which to rest, and enjoy spectacular views over the city.
The “Daikaidan” or Grand Stairway runs from the 4th floor of the west wing of the station all the way up to the Sky Garden on the 15th floor. People often use the steps of this stairway as seats. There is a stage on the 4th floor at the base of the stairs on which concerts, comedy shows or dance performances are given and people view it from the stairway much as they would from an amphitheater.
Since 1998 an annual race has been held on the third Saturday of February from the base of the Grand Stairway to the top. Teams of runners dash up 171 steps over a distance of 70 meters and a height of 35 meters in an event that has come to be seen as one of modern Kyoto’s harbingers of spring.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.