The Futuristic Gates Into The Ancient City
Unlike the majority of Kyoto’s visitors, we had a luxury of 10 more weeks staying in the Land of the Rising Sun. There was no need to pack everything the ancient capital has to offer in one-, two- or even three-day trip. We could come as many times as we want to patiently discover all the treasures. Hence, we agreed that our first visit would be a reconnaissance mission: how far can we walk in a stifling heat of a city jungle, would a bicycle be a better choice to move around the city or would we need a bus to speed up our excursions.
Ultimately, we failed to fulfill the purpose of the trip. We arrived by train to Kyoto Station. Walking through the platforms, we noticed a sign Sky Garden —>. Brilliant! Who can resist taking a look at the unfamiliar city from above? Breaking from the crowd determined to leave the building as soon as possible, we crossed the atrium and started the ascent to the garden by riding a seemingly endless succession of escalators.
An accidental look around… Ok, to say that my jaw fell to the floor would be an understatement. I think that this gem of modern architecture must be listed as one of the main attractions of the centuries-old city. Interestingly, I found it to be more exciting from inside. The exterior looks contemporary without too much flare. Though, after the sunset, the reflection of the Kyoto Tower superimposed on the facade made it the perfect postcard-like picture.
Back to daylight, the interior of the building is stunning. An intricate lace married an industrial efficiency of space engineering, and here is their offspring. The mirrored walls multiply reflections for even more striking effect. It is the feast for the eyes.
The life story of Kyoto Station began in 1877 when a modest red brick building marked the new step in the technological progress of the time. The opening was a big event attended by the Emperor. The number of passengers steadily grew during next few decades demanding a more suitable facility.
The second Kyoto Station was built in 1914 on a much grander scale. It was a spacious and elegant wooden Renaissance style building considered an object of pride by the national railway. Unfortunate choice of building material (cypress wood burns easily) caused complete destruction of the station in 1950 when somebody forgot to turn off an electric iron in one of its changing rooms.
The replacement was built in a hurry. It was a functional concrete structure that served its purpose but was as exciting as a pile of bricks. With Shinkansen (bullet trains) and subway coming to the city, Kyoto needed a more visually appealing station.
The new building was designed by the architect Hiroshi Hara and was completed in 1997. It was constructed to celebrate the 1200th anniversary of the foundation of the city. The enormous futuristic glass and steel structure was like nothing Kyoto had ever seen before. Even the architect himself admitted that perhaps the avant-garde complex was too ambitious for the ancient city at the time.
Years passed, strong feelings somewhat subdued, although the building still has its critics. Nowadays, the majority of people see the 15-story station as a stunning way to arrive in the city of Kyoto.For more photos and the practical advice about visiting the station click here.