Kyoto Station is a pretty spectacular place on its own, but it is often criticized because it is a new building that is representing a city with a rich ancient history.
But! You can enjoy this rich history and the sights of Kyoto even by taking a walk around the station area.
Kyoto Station can be a bit of a daunting building to navigate through. In the underground areas you have stores and a passage to the subway. On the ground floor you have the regular JR trains, Kintetsu Station and the shinkansen station. On one side there is the Granvia Hotel and on the other an Isetan department store. There are various areas all over the station where you can buy gifts.
Here are some gift suggestions for gifts under 1,000 yen: http://matome.naver.jp/odai/2134856803015656701
(Japanese but with pictures of products)
Some popular products are:
Yojiya-brand Facial Oil-Absorbing Sheets ｜20 sheets/340円
Green Tea from Gion Tsujiri｜8 teabags/945円
Gion Tsujiri even has a location on the 6th floor of the Isetan department store. There you can treat yourself to different green tea desserts.
If you want non-food gifts you can end to B1 to Yoshitoyo and pick up something classically “kawaii” http://www.yoshitoyo.com/index.html (Japanese)
Kyoto Tower is right in front of the central exit of Kyoto Station. There are gift shops on the bottom floor as well as a way up to the tower.
Kyoto Tower is open: 9 am to 9 pm everyday with an admission price of 770 yen.
The public bath in the basement of the tower is 750 yen and is open from 7 am to 8:30 pm.
Kyoto Takabashi Honke Daiichiasahi
7 minute walk to this garden from Kyoto Station. Free admission, open 9:00a.m.-4:00p.m.(entry until 3:30p.m.)
This garden was given to be part of Higashi Honganji in 1641 by the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu. The garden is a beautiful Japanese-style one, where each season shows a different side to its beauty.
Higashi Honganji is the eastern twin to Nishi Honganji. Nishi Honganji is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Higashi Honganji became a separate entity from Nishi Hongaji in 1602, when Ieyasu forcibly split them, many many years later, in the Edo period, it got burned down 4 times and left it as a building of lesser historical importance.
A shop that sells handmade Japanese candles.
Address: 下京区七条通り烏丸西入ル北側 (closed Sundays)
The more famous of the 2 Honganjis. There are 2 halls here, the Founder’s Hall and the Hall of the Amida Buddha. Both Honganjis are impressively large and you can wander around the grounds. Best of all, they are free.
Japanese Traditional Bean Snacks
9:00-18:00, closed on national holidays and Sundays
Shimabara is to the west of Nishi Honganji and is the old pleasure quarter of Kyoto. Instead of prostitution, the girls here were geisha and entertained the customers with song and dance.
Shimabara Omon is here. This was the old gate to the pleasure quarters. Sumiya Ageya is here as well. An ageya is a luxurious restaurant where lavish parties would take place. It is 1,000 yen to enter.
UMEKOJI PARK STEAM LOCOMOTIVE MUSEUM
Umekoji Park is to the west of Kyoto Station and south of Shimabara. There is a city park here and also an entire museum devoted to steam engines. The former Nijo Station was moved here. Admission is 410 yen for adults and 100 yen for children. 20 minute walk from Kyoto Station. 10 am to 5:30 pm.
Toji is one of the symbols of Kyoto. The most striking part of the temple is the 5-story pagoda. The pagoda is the tallest wooden structure in Japan. There is also the eastern temple which was build about 1,200 years ago.
On the 21st of each month there is a flea market held at the temple. Old kimonos, Japanese handicrafts, etc. go on sale here at that time. On the first Sunday of the month there is a smaller antiques market.
Toji is a 15 minute walk from Kyoto Station.
If you are really ambitious you can take the time and do this whole Kyoto Tower to Toji route. It may take several hours because you will stop and look at things, but if you are just wanting to quickly walk around you could do it in 1.5 hrs-2.5 hrs.