Japan is known for its high speed Shinkansen trains that can bring you from A to B in a heartbeat and local trains along the coastline of Japan or through the mountains. The scenic views from the trains are often amazing and you can spot some of Japan’s highlights just by looking out of the window of your Shinkansen seat. For international tourists, taking the train is the best way to travel in Japan in terms of time and money. Especially because international tourists can make use of the JR Pass that allows you to travel unlimited on the JR trains and most Shinkansen for a designated period of time. Also, Japan is known for its super reliable and safe trains and other forms of public transport!
The train stations are the gate of your destination and welcome you with the Japanese omotenashi (hospitality) spirit. You may be very excited to visit any tourist spots immediately after you arrive at the station and get off the train. But, why don’t you take a short rest there and look at its beautiful looks? There are some architectural gems among the Japan’s train stations and without doubt you will be impressed or even fascinated by the elaborate appearance design, which entertains your eyes. Here are 10 examples of Japanese stations that make you want to visit.
1. Kanazawa Station
Kanazawa Station is located in Kanazawa city, the capital city of Ishikawa prefecture. The city is often referred to as ‘little Kyoto’ and it’s easy to understand why when you walk around. From Kanazawa you also have easy access to some other beautiful destinations like Shirakawago and Takayama. You can get to Kanazawa taking the Hokuriku Shinkansen and several local lines (JR West Hokuriku Main Line, IR Ishikawa Railway). The futuristic station building was completed in 2005 and shows some resemblance to a Torii gate according to many. This station was listed as one of “The World’s Most Beautiful Train Stations” by American trip magazine “Travel and Leisure” in 2011. It is said that this impressive red arch is called Tsuzumi-mon (鼓門) and was designed based on an image of tsuzumi, a Japanese traditional drum, usually used at Nogaku, one of Japanese traditional theaters.
2. Mojiko Station (Fukuoka)
The second largest island of Japan, Kyushu, is a beautiful destination known for its scenic train lines, with old steam trains and great views. Mojikō Station is one of the stunning stations in Fukuoka prefecture, known as a starting station of Kagoshima Main Line (JR Kyushu). The trainline connects Mojiko in north Kyushu all the way to Kagoshima in the south. Mojiko has a good reputation for “a place where you can feel Japanese old-fashioned Japanese atmosphere” and the exterior of this station is not an exception. Mojiko Station is a wooden architecture built in 1914, and at that time people started to accept a lot of influence from Western countries and developed it as a Japanese popular culture. Its renaissance style exterior design retains the remnants of those days even now.
3. Todoroki Station (Aomori)
A small wooden shack standing alone by the sea? Is someone living there? No, this is a remote train station in Aomori prefecture, the northern part of Japan facing the Sea of Japan. The unmanned train station is one of stations on the Gono Line, which takes you through the stunning seaside scenery of Shirakami-Sanchi, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stepping out from the train here, the vast sea is welcoming you first. Before leaving the station, you can stay there for a while to enjoy this marine beauty with a mellow sea breeze. After enjoying your sightseeing, don’t forget to drop by at sunset time. A view of the sun sinking beneath the horizon must be an impressive memory you can’t forget.
4. Kizukuri Station (Aomori)
From Todoroki Station, you can board the train following the coastal line of Aomori prefecture to another extraordinary station: Kizukuri Station. This train line, the Gono Line, is known for its series of stunning seascapes. Especially the sunset view will especially take your breath away! When visiting Kizukuri station you’ll find that this station is guarded by a huge statue of a Shakoki-Dogu. This big, peculiar stone statue built on a façade of the station is 17m (55.77 ft) long and made based on an image of Dogu, a clay figurine mainly made during Jomon period (c.14.000 – 300 BC). Kizukuri Town is well-known for Kamegaoka Stone Age Site (亀ヶ岡石器時代遺跡), an important historical site to learn lifestyles of people who lived there during the Jōmon period. This Dogu doll has several forms, and Kizukuri Station’s Dogu is said to be classified as Shakokidogu (goggle-eyed clay figure).
5. Shimonada Station (Ehime)
Shimonada Station is a train station on the Yosan Line in Iyo of Ehime Prefecture, and attracts a lot of foreign tourists for the magnificent beautiful sea views. It is the closest station to the sea, with only a highway in between, and has been featured in several tv series and movies and on promotional posters. The remoteness and absence of other buildings make it a suburb spot for filmmakers. There aren’t any other notable spots around the station, but it’s great location with gorgeous views attracts many photographers and tourists. The view of one simple train station with the sun setting in the sea in the background is just magical! If the local train is passing while you are taking a picture, that is the best timing for a photo shoot!
6. Kyoto Station
Kyoto is the best place to experience various kinds of Japanese traditions and culture with the largest amount of historical temples and shrines, food, and service. Kyoto is an absolute must-visit if you come to Japan, Kyoto is full of beautiful places and hiddens gems. Kyoto Station is the very gate which leads you to the world of Japanese traditions, but the station itself will have you think you are in a completely different city. Take a moment and look at the design of its internal structure and amazing architecture. Look up at the marvelous concourse constructed of so many steel and glass parts. The station was built to celebrate the 1.200th anniversary of the foundation of Kyoto with a cutting-edge design that takes full advantage of the massive space inside the station and creates a futuristic vibe. You can access the roof terrace from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Kyoto. Don’t miss this huge contrast with the other traditional buildings, Kyoto is known for.
7. Tokyo Station
Tokyo Station, where many local and shinkansen lines gather, has played an important role in welcoming many visitors from everywhere in Japan and has been a great symbol of Tokyo. Surrounded by the tall commercial buildings of Nihonbashi and Ginza, the appearance of Tokyo Station, an old-fashioned Western building style, stands out. The station was built in 1904 under an order that Japanese government wanted it to be a Western-style station. Standing in the center of Tokyo for over 100 years and going through collapse and repair several times, Tokyo Station became a train station loved by a lot of Tokyoites. The station is also within walking distance to the Imperial Palace and the beautiful Imperial East Gardens. You can visit there at any time, however, visiting there at night is the best. Around sunset you will see photo shoots taking place in front of the station, literally every day. After the sunset, Tokyo Station is illuminated beautifully by some white lights. Enjoy your drink at any café or restaurant where you can see the front of Tokyo station at night, and you can make your night in Tokyo more wonderful.
8. Uji-yamada Station (Mie)
If you prefer a retro style station to a modern one, Ujiyamada Station will be a good recommendation for you. The station is location in Ise Shima an area in the southern part of Mie prefecture which is known as as a region full of beautiful scenery and interesting spots. UjiYamada Station has two platforms, Yamada line and Toba line (Kintetsu Railway), and is a terminus nearest a famous tourist spot Ise Grand Shrine, one of Japan’s most sacred Shinto shrines. You can get there by a taxi or bus from the station. Ujiyamada Station is mainly constructed of concrete and a romantic terracotta style is designed at the exterior. After exploring the magnificent Ise Grand Shrine, shopping at Time’s Place UjiYamada will be a perfect trip course for you. Time’s Place Uji Yamada is a shopping district consisting of 13 shops where you can buy local foods and souvenirs. This district adjoins the station building, which is very convenient for all tourists.
9. Okuoikojo Station (Shizuoka)
Make your trip more wonderful by getting on Ōigawa Railway bound for Okuoikojo Station in Shizuoka Prefecture, halfway between Tokyo and Kyoto. This station is surrounded by breathtaking nature and sits perched on a cliff in the middle of the Oi River! When you get to Okuoikojo Station, you will find yourself surrounded by a beautiful emerald green valley. Make your way to the observation deck for some sightseeing and overlook the area of one of Japan’s most treasured railways. Ōigawa Railway is the only one railway company which provides steam locomotive service (SL) besides local trains in Japan! If you want to experience this SL service , make sure to book a seat in advance at their official website.
10. Hoshakuji Station (Tochigi)
The last recommendation is Hoshakuji Station as a junction station of Tōhoku Main Line and Karasuyama Line. An impressive gate decorated with a warm wooden ceiling which has a characteristic design welcomes you first when arriving there. This station was designed by Kengo Kuma, a Japanese architect who also designed the National Japan Stadium, Tokyo’s Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Nakameguro and the Kabukiza theatre in Ginza. With this beautiful design, Kuma aimed to reconnect the neighbourhoods east and west of the station that has lost their link and connectivity.
Since train stations are regarded as a gate of a town or city, many of them have tried to reflect their local features on exterior design to appeal to tourists. Did you find your favorite train station design in this article? Not only the stations mentioned above are worth a visit, Japan has many more characteristic stations. All excited for the next part of their trip, people tend to miss the design of any train stations. But don’t forget to enjoy the surroundings of the station too. All train station designers want to welcome you and want you to come back again someday through their designed train stations.
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Mao Goto is a Japanese freelancer who was born in Hayama, Kanagawa prefecture, and raised in Tokyo. Since 2016 she lives in the Taito Ward, home to a lot of Japanese culture hotspots such as Asakusa, Akihabara, and Ueno. She has been interested in the field of English education of Japan and got her Master’s degree in March, 2020. A lover of photography, travel, sweets, and cross-stitch. Contact her via Facebook.
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