Kyoto is an important station on the JR Tokaido Main Line and Tokaido Shinkansen line; it is also the starting point of the Sanin Main Line and the Nara Line.
The first station was already built in Kyoto in 1876. The next year that station was moved to the present site and a red-brick station building was put up. Rebuiling followed in 1914 (a Renaissance-style building), 1950 (a rather utilitarian station building) and finally the fourth and last one in 1997, commemorating Kyoto's 1,200th anniversary. Built by Hara Hiroshi, it contains a hotel, a theater, a department store and countless specialist stores and restaurants. It is 15 floors high (70 meters) and has three underground floors. The underground floors connect to the Porta underground shopping center as well as to the Kyoto Subway. The north side of the station is called Karasumaguchi, the south side (where the Shinkansen lines are) Hachijoguchi. On the south side is also the Kintetsu Station with a line to Nara. The Haruka express for Kansai International Airport also leaves from Kyoto Station. In front of the station is Kyoto's main bus center.
Kyoto Station is an ambitious structure, with many modernist features. Characteristic is the cubic facade of plate glass over a steel frame and the huge staircase inside. Inside its glass dome, it has a great open air feel. Kyoto Station is fun to explore. You can climb to the top using stairs and escalators, and enjoy the variety of things to see on each floor. On the top is a sitting area with panoramic vies of the city. There is also a skyway 10 floors up. The station building resembles one of the many white-washed walls that stand around Kyoto's temples - this is most evident from the south side (from the Shinkansen platform, for example). But those walls are not only meant to hide, they are also there to entice you inside - and the station building does the same with the playful gaps in its "wall" and the unexpected vistas of the city.