Kyoto Station (京都駅) is Kyoto’s (京都) main transportation hub and in contrast to the general city image as a historical old-town, this station is designed quite modernly.
It was opened in 1997 to celebrate the 1200th anniversary of Kyoto’s capital foundation.
The Japanese architect Hara Hiroshi, who also designed Umeda Sky Building in Osaka (大阪), constructed the idea of Kyoto Station’s design.
Kyoto Station is one of the major train stations in Kansai (関西) and one of the stops of the most populated Shinkansen (新幹線) line, the Tokaido Shinkansen (from Tokyo (東京) to Hiroshima (広島)). Japan Railways, Kintetstu Railways and the Karasuma Subway Line are the main railway lines serving the station.
Besides that, Kyoto Station has a huge bus terminal in front of its northern exits, supporting the city’s main means of public transport.
Two sides of the same station
Here, several highway buses also depart and arrive to and from destinations like Shinjuku (新宿) in Tokyo.
Generally, the northern side, called Karasuma, is where most of the action happens and where you can access Kyoto Tower for example.
Hachijo, the southern side, is a lot quieter but also offers the necessary facilities like bus stops and hotels.
Now, let’s take a look at Kyoto Station’s various shopping, dining and entertainment options. It has 15 floors in total and in some places, you could think that the whole transportation thing is just a side business and the building is really a shopping center.
You might have heard of this one before. It’s a famous corridor in the station’s 10th floor consisting of several Ramen (ラーメン) restaurants right next to each other.
Close to 10 of those establishments are ready to serve you some of Japan’s (日本) best Ramen. The catch is this: Each of the restaurants specializes in a different kind of Ramen from all over Japan.
Ever wanted to try the popular Hokkaido (北海道) or Fukuoka (福岡) Ramen but can’t make it there? Here, you can taste them all in one place.
Definitely a must-visit for Ramen lovers.
Now, this might not be good for a dinner, but it certainly is for breakfast or a quick snack in between. Mister Donut is a popular chain selling all kinds of donuts for usually around 100-150 Yen (0,76€/$0.89-1,15€/$1.34; exchange rates as of October 2018) each.
The one in Kyoto Station lies to the left shortly after you enter through the central northern entrance. When I was in Kyoto in July 2017, I spent one week doing day-trips to nearby cities with my Japan Rail Pass.
Because we left pretty early in the morning, there wasn’t much time to get a fancy breakfast. This is where Mister Donut came in very handy. We would grab a few donuts and be on our way to the tracks, very convenient.
I ate my very first Japanese curry at this restaurant and it was very good! So good, that we came back here just 3 days later and had another plate.
I tried Katsu curry (カツカレー) and the one with beef, both top-notch. The thing I love about Japanese restaurants is that in 99% of the time you get free water with your meal. There is no need to pay for a drink if you’re fine with water. You can of course buy a coke or soda, but the ice-cold water provided did it for me. Goes very well together with curry.
The restaurant is located on the same floor where all the JR offices and ticket stations lie. It’s the perfect stop when you’re waiting for your train or have just arrived after a long train ride.
There are 3 big shopping centers in and around Kyoto Station.
Let me give you a quick rundown of the three:
The Cube Shopping Mall
This shopping mall makes up two of Kyoto Station’s basement floors, offering all kinds of local specialties like sweets or snacks.
As per usual shopping mall, you can purchase lots of fashion goods as well.
Hours: 8:30 – 20:00 and 10:00 – 20:00 (21:00 on weekends) for the fashion shops
Isetan Department Store
Big chain Isetan has a 10-floored department store in the western area of the station. You can expect their usual products here, ranging from food items to clothing.
The art museum on Kyoto Station’s 7th floor and some of the restaurants on floor 11 are also part of Isetan.
Hours: 10:00 – 20:00
Porta Underground Shopping Mall
Yet another basement dweller is the Porta Shopping Mall. This one is likely the biggest of the three and is actually not directly under Kyoto Station itself, but rather under the bus station on Karasuma side.
You can find entrances to the mall right after you exit the station building on the northern side.
Over 100 shops and restaurants are located here, you will have plenty to choose from!
You can also access the Karasuma Subway Line through this complex.
Hours: 10:00 – 21:00; Restaurants: 11:00 – 22:00
Other Attractions and Services
Besides all the shopping and dining opportunities there are still quite a lot of things to discover.
The Skyway for example, where you can walk the entire length of Kyoto Station 45 meters above the central hall, looking down through its windows.
Kyoto Station also has an open-air Observation deck on the roof top. There a couple benches and plants around, making for a relaxing stopping point in between your visits. Unfortunately, it does not offer the best views of the city though, I recommend Kyoto Tower as an alternative for this!
As previously mentioned, Kyoto Station also houses a small art museum on the 7th floor as well as a theater and a hotel.
You can of course find the usual services of big train stations here, things like JR offices, Tourist Information Centers and rental shops for cars/SIM-Cards/Pocket-Wifi.
How to get to Kyoto Station
Depending on where you are in the station, it can easily seem like a small amusement park or a shopping center rather than a train station.
Even though Kyoto’s main method of intercity travel is the bus (バス), Kyoto Station is your go-to destination for any day trips to nearby cities I highly recommend you do.
Also, from the bus stations on the northern and southern side of the station, you can get pretty much anywhere in the city.
I don’t think I need to tell you why that is, just read the many articles about the city I already released. 😉
If you have the time to do both Tokyo and Kyoto in one trip, definitely do so. This way, you will naturally encounter Kyoto Station and be as fascinated as I was the first time I came here!
That’s it for this article, thank you very much for reading!
Next up is the highly appreciated Tokyo garden Shinjuku Gyoen!
See you there!