Friday, April 17, 2015

Photo Friday #5: Kyoto Station! フォト金曜日#5:京都駅!

フォト金曜日#5:京都駅!Photo Friday #5: Kyoto Station!

If you're a regular visitor here, you'll notice that I like to discuss how Japan's juxtaposition of old and new makes the country a fascinating place to explore. As a Millennial American, I come from a country that was still adding states to its roster after my parents were born, so the fact that Japan's oldest companies have been in business for more than a millennium is a concept almost too foreign to comprehend.

In previous Photo Friday posts, I've shared some of my photos of Kyoto with you: first, we visited Heian-jingu, a "new" shrine by Japanese standards; then, we explored Kinkaku-ji at Rokuon-ji and learned about its rich history. Although both of these historic sites feature new construction--fires are problematic for wooden structures!--they're still basically indistinguishable from centuries-old shrines and temples. If I only shared photos of Kyoto's traditional architecture, I'd only be doing you a great disservice and furthering stereotypes about the city. With that in mind, here's this week's photo:

京都駅: Kyoto Station
Considering my previous posts, you might think this is a photo of a busy train station in Tokyo, but it's actually a shot of the interior of Kyoto Station (京都駅 or Kyoto-eki), taken in March 2013. Modern and bustling at all hours of the day, this structure stands in stark contrast to how many people, even today, view Kyoto: it's not all temples, teahouses, and geisha.

The first Kyoto Station opened by imperial decree in 1877, and since then has undergone several facelifts and additions, whether out of necessity--as the station was destroyed by fire in 1950--or modernization--as the subway line opened in 1981. Built in honor of the 1,200th anniversary of Kyoto's founding as the capital of Japan, today's Kyoto Station--its fourth iteration, opened in 1997--is a result of a design contest won by Japanese architect and professor Hiroshi Hara. All of the contest entries were modern in design, and as this 1991 article from The New York Times explains, not everyone was happy about it: its detractors claimed that its ultramodern design didn't represent the old soul of the city, but its supporters argued that such a bold look was necessary to keep the city abreast of changing times.

The photo above is a view of Kyoto Station's Karasuma Gate, the north side of the station, as seen from a couple floors up near Cafe du Monde and Mister Donut. It's busier than the Hachijo Gate on the station's south side, and offers lots of things to see: it's home to Porta and The Cube, two underground shopping malls; an 11-story Isetan Department Store (with two underground levels); souvenir shops and convenience stores; hotels and restaurants; a post office; and the city's bus terminal. In the winter months, the station can get quite chilly, especially in this section: it's open to the elements, and even clerks and shopkeepers wear coats inside their stores.

Google Maps version of a typical Kyoto tourist map
For many Kyoto tourists, Kyoto Station sits at the bottom, or south end, of much of where they'll do their sightseeing, as many of Kyoto's temples, shrines, and places of interest lie northward. Indeed, most of the tourist maps provided free of charge in Kyoto show the station as one of the southernmost areas. The map to the left approximates a real-world view of these tourist maps, which are sometimes squished to fit on a certain size paper or pamphlet. I've added markers for a few places I've discussed here on meauxtaku: the yellow marker at the top is Kinkaku-ji, the brown marker to the southeast is Heian Shrine, the red marker southeast of center is Kyoto Station, and the orange marker southeast of Kyoto Station is Fushimi Inari Taisha. To give you an idea of scale, it's just over four miles (as the crow flies) from Kyoto Station to Kinkaku-ji. Between the city buses, subway, and trains operating out of Kyoto Station, reaching any of these places is a breeze.

Despite the controversy of building such a state-of-the-art structure in a city known for its antediluvian architecture and traditions, Kyoto Station provides the perfect place to disembark on a Kyoto journey: its glass and steel facade is the shining face of modern Japan, its innumerable shops and stores a staggering testament to the country's retail culture...but walk a few minutes in any direction and you're sure to stumble upon one of Kyoto's thousands of shrines and temples, transporting you to bygone eras rooted in ancient rituals. History is alive and well in Kyoto, but thanks to structures like Kyoto Station, perhaps no other city in Japan offers such a stark contrast between archaic and futuristic.

No comments:

Post a Comment