The Kyoto Station building was constructed on the 1200th anniversary of the capital's foundation in Kyoto. It was opened to the public in 1997 and stands in perfect contrast to many foreign tourists' image of Kyoto as the capital of traditional Japan.
The building's futuristic design and atmosphere was conceived by the Japanese architect Hara Hiroshi. Hara's design attempts to convey historical Kyoto through a modern aesthetic. The station's large main hall with its exposed steel beamed roof, called the Matrix, is meant to reflect both the structure of the station and the grid like layout of Kyoto's street network. Besides Kyoto Station, Hara's works include the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka.
Kyoto Station is the city's transportation hub, served by Japan Railways (including the Tokaido Shinkansen), Kintetsu Railways and the Karasuma Subway Line. It is also the site of a large bus terminal for city buses and long distance and overnight highway buses.
There are two sides to Kyoto Station: Karasuma and Hachijo. The busier Karasuma side to the north faces downtown and is named after the main street leading downtown. The main bus terminal is located on the Karasuma side, as are many hotels, shops and Kyoto Tower. The calmer Hachijo side to the south provides access to a few more hotels, Toji Temple and some more highway bus stops.
There are also two tourist information centers in the building. The general Tourist Information Center on the 2nd floor serves Japanese speaking tourists and provides basic information in English. More detailed English information is available at the International Information Center on the 9th floor. It is staffed by multilingual representatives and also provides free internet access.
Luggage storage and takuhaibin (delivery service) counters are available in the basement of the station. Coin lockers are scattered all over the building, but not seldomly fill up on busy days. Besides the station facilities, the building's 15 floors offer several other attractions and conveniences including the Granvia Hotel, an art museum, a theater and a vast array of shopping and dining options.