Kyoto may be the 1200-year-old home of Japanese classical arts, but you wouldn't know it when you first get here.
Built in 1997 by Hiroshi Hara, Kyoto Station is a stunning living monument to modern Japan. A hub for multiple regional and local train lines, it's also home to great restaurants and multiple shopping centers. Travelers step off the bullet train, wind their way to the Central Gate, and emerge into a 60-foot atrium made of a glass and steel. It's remarkably quiet for a station so big, and so busy. But this is a space that was clearly built to keep the people passing through it breathing deeply and looking all around them -- especially up: on one side of the main arrival hall, an escalator stretches up to the 15th story, a beautiful outlook over the city.
But I think my favorite part of being in Kyoto Station is the way the building becomes even grander when glass/steel reflects off of itself, creating the illusion of even more gravity-defying shapes.
Apparently, when the station was finished, the locals were none too happy with it. And I've heard that some Kyotoites suffer from a sort of second city syndrome which manifests as snootiness. Could it be that they're just suspicious of something so modern shifting the city's action away from its temples? (Because it is.)
Whatever, I say. This place is fantastic and should be praised as Kyoto's newest crown jewel. I'll be back tomorrow.
- Jenny Lawton