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Kyoto Station Points of Interest: 8 Unique Things to Do At Kyoto Station,  According to Locals!

Kyoto Station Points of Interest: 8 Unique Things to Do At Kyoto Station, According to Locals!

Date published: 7 April 2020
Last updated: 3 June 2020

Kyoto Station is the first stopover for most visitors to Kyoto. Having a modern art-esque look, the large building actually has many attractions and places to visit inside.

The author, a Kyoto native, will introduce you to several special unique things to do at Kyoto Station, from spots where you can enjoy great views, savor delicious cuisine and find the perfect gifts!

Table of Contents
  1. Inside the Kyoto Station Building
  2. 1. Mister Donut: Morning Café With an International Atmosphere
  3. 2. Kyoto Station Building Roof: Enjoy the Superb View From Kyoto Station Itself
  4. 3. Kyoto Ramen: Slurp Local Noodles at Kyoto Station's Kyoto Ramen Street!
  5. 4. KATO Kyoto Station: An Exquisite Train Models Shop
  6. 5. Nakamura Tokichi: Japanese Sweets at Kyoto’s Long-Standing Tea Merchant
  7. 6. Take a Photo in Front of the Illuminated Grand Stairway
  8. 7. Sky Dining & Lounge Southern Court: Original Cocktails and Beautiful Night View from the Counter
  9. 8. Beautiful View of Kyoto Tower From Kyoto Station Central Exit

Inside the Kyoto Station Building

Inside the Kyoto Station Building

Kyoto Station Building, reflecting Kyoto Tower off its mirrored surface. The building has a grand presence and amazes visitors from everywhere!

The building itself was constructed in 1997 and was designed by Hiroshi Hara. He also worked on many innovative modern structures such as the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka and Sapporo Dome in Hokkaido.

The station concourse is spacious, where lines and curves, geometric patterns, and abstract objects are intermingled, creating a mysterious space. Hotel Granvia Kyoto is connected to the east side of the station building and JR Kyoto Isetan is connected to the west side. Between the two buildings is a large open area with a ceiling and glass wall, there is also the aerial Skyway Tunnel passageway some 45 meters above ground that connects the east and west structures.

In the Kyoto Station Building there are many facilities with plenty of things to do to spend your whole day here.

1. Mister Donut: Morning Café With an International Atmosphere

1. Mister Donut: Morning Café With an International Atmosphere

From the Central Exit take the escalator towards the Grand Stairway. The second floor is our first destination: Mister Donut with an open café style. Since Kyoto is a busy tourist location from early in the morning, the café is open from 7:30 AM for Kyoto Station Building users.

▲Doughnuts start from 108 yen; one The Chiffon start from 399 yen; Chicken Mushroom start from 421 yen; hot coffee, 388 yen (tax included for all)

I recommend the counter seat looking down at the concourse. You can feel a strange exotic feeling in the ancient city seeing many international people while enjoying your coffee and sweets. It's one of my favorite things to do at Kyoto Station, as I can relax a little while planning my trip around Kyoto.

▲Being able to charge up at the power socket is always nice
  • Mister Donut JR Kyoto Station Building Shop
    ミスタードーナツJR京都駅ビルショップ
    • Address Nanboku Jiyutsuro yoko 2nd Floor, 901 Karasuma-dori Shiokoji-sagaru Higashi-Shiokoji, Shimogyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu
    • Phone Number 075-365-3326
    • Hours: 7:30 AM – 10:30 PM (L.O. 10:00 PM)
      Closed: None

2. Kyoto Station Building Roof: Enjoy the Superb View From Kyoto Station Itself

Covering a large area, the station building has many locations offering a superb view. Oddly enough, this remains something of a secret! Getting up top for a great view of the historical city is one of the best things to do at Kyoto Station.

The first spot is Minami Yuhodo. After exiting the West Exit head right and up the stairs to the third floor. This is a hidden space where even most local people don’t know and from here you can see the Shinkansen bullet trains depart. Other than the Shinkansen that arrive every 5 to 10 minutes, you can see JR trains coming in and out. The area is spacious and receives a lot of sunlight, so it is a perfect place to relax.

Next is Karasumakoji Hiroba on the Hotel Granvia side, the 4th floor. This is one of the few spots allowing a perfect view of Kyoto Tower and I think it is probably the best public location around. This area doesn’t have much traffic and you can take your time to find the best photo angle.

The final spot is the Skyway Tunnel. Go up the escalator at the East Square on the Hotel Granvia side and it leads to the JR Isetan 10th floor.

▲With very few tall buildings in Kyoto, you can get a great view from here.

This is one of the few spots in Kyoto that you can see the entirety of Gozan no Okuribi (commonly known as Daimonji Festival, with five large bonfires lit along on mountains during Obon season). On the explanation board, it shows you which direction the bonfires are at.

Unfortunately, general admission is not allowed during the festival and only people who have been selected can enjoy the view at the time.

3. Kyoto Ramen: Slurp Local Noodles at Kyoto Station's Kyoto Ramen Street!

3. Kyoto Ramen: Slurp Local Noodles at Kyoto Station's Kyoto Ramen Street!

Kyoto Ramen Street (Kyoto Ramen Koji) is located on the 10th floor of the station building on the south side with the Grand Stairway. Many popular ramen shops from all over Japan – even Hokkaido and Kyushu - are on this floor. Of all the things to do at Kyoto Station, be sure not to miss sampling local Kyoto ramen!

We will talk about Masutani, a ramen shop that represents Kyoto. Masutani is a long standing shop that was established in 1948, the main shop is located near Ginkaku-ji Temple (Jisho-ji) along Shirakawa Sosui canal.

▲Chuka-soba nami (medium size) (650 yen tax included) with an additional topping of onsen tamago (soft-boiled egg) (50 yen tax included)

The chicken broth-based soup with pork fat and shoyu is the original flavor for Kyoto ramen. The strong shoyu flavor and the slight sweetness of the pork fat and the tingling of the red chili pepper. The soup is rich but not heavy, which is very Kyoto like. By adding the onsen tamago, it mixes with the soup and noodles and becomes more delicious!

For people with a busy schedule and missed their opportunity to eat Kyoto ramen, this is the perfect place to get your fix.

  • Masutani Kyoto Ramen Koji Store
    ますたに 京都拉麺小路店
    • Address Kyoto Eki Biru Okaidan Minamigawa 10th Floor, 901 Karasuma-dori Shiokoji-sagaru Higashi-Shiokoji, Shimogyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu
    • Phone Number 075-365-2077
    • Hours: 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM (L.O. 9:30 PM)
      Closed: Irregular holidays

4. KATO Kyoto Station: An Exquisite Train Models Shop

4. KATO Kyoto Station: An Exquisite Train Models Shop

Located on the 9th floor of Kyoto Station Building Grand Stairway South Side is KATO Kyoto Station Store. It is a direct sales outlet for KATO, a railway model maker that represents Japan. Here they have many models on display and for sale.

This is the model of the steam locomotive exhibition that is in Kyoto Railway Museum. It replicated the semicircular garage with the D51 steam engine and others.

By the window side looking down on JR Kyoto Station, there is a moving railway model. If you press the button the trains move back and forth. The train in the photo is the rapid train for Tokaido Line. You can really appreciate the detail of the models by looking at the real trains.

Here are the top three train models that are sold. From the left is the 500 Series Shinkansen (3,240 yen tax included) and the middle is the 485 Series Express (3,996 yen tax included), which is exhibited on the main space at Kyoto Railway Museum. To the right is the Thunderbird (3,240 yen tax included), which is an express train that heads to the Hokuriku region from Osaka and Kyoto Station. All of these trains are related to Kyoto and make great souvenirs.

  • Kato Kyoto Station Store
    KATO京都駅店
    • Address Kyoto Eki Biru Okaidan Minamigawa 9th Floor, 901 Karasuma-dori Shiokoji-sagaru Higashi-Shiokoji, Shimogyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu
    • Phone Number 075-744-1374
    • Hours: 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
      Closed: New Year’s Holiday (may close on special holidays)

5. Nakamura Tokichi: Japanese Sweets at Kyoto’s Long-Standing Tea Merchant

5. Nakamura Tokichi: Japanese Sweets at Kyoto’s Long-Standing Tea Merchant

If you would like to try Kyoto style sweets, head to Nakamura Tokichi Kyoto Station Store established in 1854, a tea shop that represents Uji Kyoto. After exiting the West Exit, enter JR Kyoto Isetan and head to Restaurant Street on the 3rd floor.

▲The interior of the store. Outside the store they have items for takeout
Recommended dish, Namacha Jelly (matcha flavor) (1,051 yen tax included)

The recommended dish is the Namacha Jelly (matcha flavor) (1,051 yen tax included). The brilliantly textured jelly has a strong matcha aroma and an elegant flavor. It matches shiratama (rice flour dumplings) and matcha ice cream. Stop by to experience a different type of Kyoto sweets.

  • Nakamura Tokichi Kyoto Station Store
    中村藤吉本店 京都駅店
    • Address JR Kyoto Isetan Restaurant-gai, In front of JR West Exit, East Paradise 3rd Floor, Karasuma-dori Shiokoji-sagaru Higashi-Shiokoji, Shimogyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu
    • Phone Number 075-352-1111
    • Hours: Café 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM (L.O. 9:00 PM), Sales 11:00 AM – 9:15 PM
      Closed: Irregular
      Phone: 075-352-1111 (JR Kyoto Isetan main line)

6. Take a Photo in Front of the Illuminated Grand Stairway

6. Take a Photo in Front of the Illuminated Grand Stairway

You could say that the Grand Stairway with 171 steps is the symbol of Kyoto Station Building. Take the escalator on the west side after exiting the Central Exit and the Grand Stairway on the 4th floor in front of the Muromachi-koji Square. This large space has about 15,000 LED installed to beautifully illuminate the area using different designs representing the four seasons of Kyoto.

▲There were many people taking photos this day

For each season they have different themes for the illuminations and you can see what will be on display on their homepage. The illumination time will also change depending on the season: in winter it will start from 3:00 PM, in spring at 4:00 PM and at 5:00 PM in the summer.

This is one of the major photogenic spots around Kyoto Station Building and don’t forget to share the awesome photo you took!

  • Graphical Illumination Plus
    グラフィカルイルミネーションPlus
    • Address 901 Karasuma-dori Shiokoji-sagaru Higashi-Shiokoji, Shimogyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu (Kyoto Station Building Grand Stairway)
    • Phone Number 075-361-4401
    • Hours: Illumination from 3:00 PM – 10:00 PM (winter season) *time will vary depending on the season

7. Sky Dining & Lounge Southern Court: Original Cocktails and Beautiful Night View from the Counter

7. Sky Dining & Lounge Southern Court: Original Cocktails and Beautiful Night View from the Counter

Sky Dining & Lounge Southern Court on the top floor of Hotel Granvia Kyoto (15th floor), is one of the few places in Kyoto – a city known in Japan for having building height restrictions – where you can enjoy the night view. Here, counter seats face the large window which provides a night view of Kyoto’s south side all the way towards Osaka.

This facility has a full bar and also servers 500 yen a la carte dishes and draft beer (glass). As a resident of Kyoto, this place (and its budget-perfect prices) makes me want to return frequently.

▲Original cocktails of the past season. This time strawberry was the theme

The bar offers various drinks like the standard beer, wine and whiskey, but I strongly recommend the seasonal original cocktails. Make sure to try these original cocktails if you stop by.

  • Hotel Granvia Kyoto Sky Dining & Lounge Southern Court
    ホテルグランヴィア京都 スカイダイニング&ラウンジ サザンコート
    • Address Hotel Granvia Kyoto 15th Floor, Karasuma-dori Shiokoji-sagaru Higashi-Shiokoji, Shimogyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu
    • Phone Number 075-342-5523
    • Hours: 7:00 AM – 11:00 AM (L.O. 10:30 AM), 11:30 AM – 3:30 PM (L.O. 3:00 PM), 5:30 PM – 11:30 PM (L.O. 10:30 PM *food, 11:00 PM *drinks)
      Closed: None

8. Beautiful View of Kyoto Tower From Kyoto Station Central Exit

8. Beautiful View of Kyoto Tower From Kyoto Station Central Exit

The last entry is viewing Kyoto Tower from the front after exiting Kyoto Station Central Exit. The tower has an impressive red and white contrast with beautiful curves. The view during the daytime is nice but at night the spectacle of the illuminated tower is something special.

If you look back near the city bus boarding area heading towards Kyoto Tower from the station, you can see a clear reflection of the tower on the station building.


We hope you enjoyed our guide of Kyoto Station Building with many hidden spots that even many locals don’t know about.

Nowadays there are even stores where you can rent kimono and yukata – you can certainly add to your Kyoto experience in that way as well!

If you have time between trains or are looking for something different to do, you could add a few hours of quality time just by exploring the station building and discovering your own favorite spot.

Text by:Myogaya Nobuhisa

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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