“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” - James Michener
Saturday, December 01, 2012
Main Hall of Kyoto Station
When Hiroshi Hara conceived his plan for Kyoto Station, he thought about "geographical perspective" and Kyoto's grid patterned streets. I am reminded of Piet Mondrian's painting, Broadway Boogie Woogie, which is based on the grid pattern of the streets of Manhattan. Hara had essentially incorporated old Kyoto in his design. But his futuristic ideas met resistance from locals who viewed his modern aesthetic plan for the station as a threat to the traditional landscape of Kyoto.
I felt dwarfed by the immensity of the main hall with its glass and steel beamed roof. Standing in the center of the hall, I looked around in wonder and wondered where to begin my exploration of this city within a city. Here's where three rail lines converge. There's a bus terminal on the north side of the station and a mall in the basement called Porta Underground with about a hundred shops and restaurants. No need to search far for lodging. The Granvia Hotel is inside the station and many more hotels are within walking distance. Isetan, a department store, takes several floors on the west side of the station. And they have an art museum on the 7th floor if you'd rather not shop. Time on you hands before you catch your bus or train? There's an in-house theater too.
Straddling the east and west sides of the station is the Skyway tunnel which is 45 meters above the main hall. There's a great view of Kyoto Tower from here. At the end of the Skyway, on the west side, are more restaurants and a tranquil rooftop garden.
Once when I got off the train from Fushimi Inari, I took a different exit and found myself in another basement which was unfamiliar to me. This turned out to be The Cube Shopping Mall. But the restaurants here were full so I walked across to Porta to get some lunch there at the "all you can eat buffet". It was pricey but the selection was quite good and I was famished.
On some days when I had to take the bus from the station, I would stop and check the grocery store for snacks but what really caught my eye were the bakeries and pastry shops that carried green tea cakes. One afternoon I stopped for tea at Lipton where the price of tea is at a premium but it was well worth it after a day of sightseeing. And I lingered over tea and an apple tart while I checked my email. Wifi is conveniently available and free at Porta Mall.
Most visitors to Kyoto fly into one of three main airports - Kansai, Osaka or Nagoya and connect by train to Kyoto. These trains, including the shinkansen from Tokyo, arrive at Kyoto Station. There are two tourist information centers to aid travelers - one on the second floor and the International Center on the 9th floor which has a multilingual staff.