March 2023

Back to Issue 13

Station Frenzy 

By Jean-François Vernay

 The Kyoto railway station, like others of its kind, is the place where

you are sure to come across the greatest number of foreigners. Each of

them goes his or her own way, at a pace more or less hurried, and each

 inhabits the space in their own way too, without any order or se-

quence, logic or priority except that of arriving safely. Waiting and

 boredom coexist with urgency, creating unusual tempos and erratic mi-

gratory flows, even though we are a long way from the relentless

crowds encountered at Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing. Even within this cos-

mopolitan architectural space, designed by Hiroshi Hara, the Japanese

– so fond of domestic tourism – outnumber the foreigners. Admittedly,

this building is not as spectacular as the same architect’s Umeda Sky

twin towers, but at the same time it is no less impressive than the flu-

id steel and glass lines of Kanazawa Station. But now, as you set about

obtaining your ticket, a difficulty emerges as distracting as a small

stone in your shoe: speaking English is not a skill universally possessed

by the ticket-sellers. Apologetically, you improvise a mime so as to be

understood as best you can. In this sanitized, clean universe, peculiar

to public spaces conceived by contemporary architecture, people per-

form an urban, railway station ballet as their steps — determined, er-

ratic, weary, indecisive, contemplative, or even idle – jostle one an-

other. But at this moment, each of them is engaged in printing out a

sense of direction for their life.


Translated by Kevin Lane and Dr Christopher Ringrose.