My father came to visit me in Japan for a few days, and even though he saw many marvels of Japanese engineering (Kansai International Airport, Osaka Castle, etc), he still claims that Kyoto Station was the coolest thing he saw in Japan.

To put it into perspective, the station has a line of outdoor escalators set in a huge stairway that runs ten stories in a single flight. At Christmastime, they put up an enormous Christmas tree at the bottom of the stairway, and it looks tiny from the top. Actually, when I first reached the top of the stairs, the first words out of my mouth were "Man, they should have a rock concert here."

And it's all glass and steel truss. Every freaking inch of it. Stepping off the JR train and going through the exit turnstile is like going through the looking glass. Come to think of it, when you see the Nozomi Shinkansen run past, with Kyoto Station in the background, it feels like being in Blade Runner. Swear to God. You'll begin wondering where the Replicants are hiding.

Seeing as virtually every visitor to Kyoto has to pass through Kyoto Station, it goes without saying that you must see this place when you come to Kyoto. This is what the twenty-first century should look like. Amen.

Kyoto Station first opened in 1877. It is located on the Tokaido Shinkansen, Kyoto Line, Biwako Line, Nara Line, Kosei Line, and Sagano Line, and also has underground connections to the Kyoto subway and to the Kintetsu Railway.