It’s safe to say that railway stations are not usually top of the “must see” lists for visitors
anywhere. But Kyoto’s spectacular steel and glass edifice is worth the effort, particularly if you are not arriving by train. It’s not just a place of transition, but a stunning monolithic and monumental work of art by Hiroshi Hara, seen by many as one of the world’s most influential post-war architects. If burdened with suitcases it’s definitely worth stashing them in the individual generous lock up boxes and take time to enjoy the sheer sense of space in the main concourse area under the soaring Cathedral like roof. There’s a skyway on the 11th floor which you can access and look down on the travelling world. The 10th and 11th floor of the building also house a great selection of restaurants serving really good traditional food (the tempura at Tenichi was fabulous).
As the Board entrusted with coming up with a winning design for the fourth incarnation of the station since its initial construction in 1877, explained: “Kyoto is gateway to history. History can be understood from a geographical perspective … the architecture of Kyoto Station is intended as a formalisation of this statement through the realisation of the Geographical Concourse, the primary expression of the gate. Every day, people will traverse this 27-meter wide, 60-meter high, 470-meter long concourse as if travelling down the side of a mountain into the valley basin.
The glass shelter over the concourse represents the traditional Japanese aesthetic of a boundary, yet not a boundary. A person traversing the station will recollect the sky. The formalization of the gate is like designing Kyoto’s sky.The matrix is a podium supporting the gateway … It’s random column spans and frame delineate not only the infrastructure and various functions of the station but those of the city and their delineation by its grid patterned streets.“