A Simple Tour of the Kyoto Railway Museum

About the Kyoto Railway Museum

Newly opened just in 2016, this museum is probably one of the largest of its kind not only in Japan but in the world. In Japan, there are three railway museums and the Kyoto Railway Museum is one of the largest. The other two are JR East’s Saitama Railway museum and the other is JR Central’s Nagoya Railway Museum.

By Toshinori baba [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

The Kyoto Railway Museum, along with the other two great museums, is a way for visitors to understand and appreciate how much the railway industry in Japan has developed. It exhibits how much technology has improved in the past few centuries and how much transportation has changed the Japanese economy.

The museum covers a total of 30,000 square meters and is home to more than 50 retired trains all of which have been refurbished and arranged by age. Although visitors cannot enter and explore all the trains, some of these are open to the public. This is so that visitors can appreciate the engine size, engine function, and speed of the train.

Other than the exhibit of retired trains, the Kyoto Railway Museum also exhibits dioramas of train operations. There are exhibits of old tools and gadgets used in operating a railway. On top of that, there are also interactive exhibits like the ‘drive-a-train simulator’.

Travel tips to the Kyoto Railway Museum

Kyoto Railway Museum Opening hours

The Kyoto Railway museum opens at 10:00 AM and closes at 5:30 PM. They accept entry from visitors until 5:00 PM in the afternoon. The museum is open most of the year except for Wednesdays for maintenance and cleaning. They are also closed during the New Year holidays. However, they tend to have a slightly longer operational hours during Spring and Summer school holidays.

Kyoto Railway Museum Ticket Price

The cost of the ticket inside the Kyoto Railway museum is around 1,200 yen. Junior High school and High school students can pay the tickets for only 1,000 yen. Elementary students should only pay 500 yen and children younger than that should only pay 200 yen. Regardless of the price, the exhibits and displays inside the museum are sure to make every yen spent worth it.

There are additional fees for special features of the museum. For instance, coin lockers range from 200 to 500 yen depending on location and size. There are also additional costs ranging from 100 to 300 yen for the ‘SL Steam’ or the steam locomotive ride inside the museum.

Access to Kyoto Railway Museum

The museum is conveniently located near the retired Nijo Station and can be reached via a 20-minute walk from the Kyoto station. The building is located on the Umekoji park near the Kyoto aquarium. It is located to the west of the Kyoto station. People who prefer taking the bus can get down at the Kyoto station bus stop and get down at the Umekoji Koen mae bus stop. The entrance to the museum is just adjacent to the park.

English Access inside the Museum

The difficult part about visiting many museums in Japan is the fact that most of the exhibits and displays are in the Japanese language. Only some of the displays have English translations in them, the good thing is that there are audio guides available in multiple languages like in English, Chinese, and Korean. This is an additional cost to the ticket of about 500 yen.

Like other museums in Japan that has digital English guides, the Kyoto Railway museum is mostly food for the eyes the audio guides are simple explanations of the displays. The good news, however, is that there are tour groups available in the English language which makes a trip to the museum enjoyable but slightly more expensive. 

By Toshinori baba [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Features of the Kyoto Railway Museum

First Floor Features

The first floor is the largest space in the museum, it is home to all the retired trains which were refurbished. This includes steam locomotives, diesel locomotives, electric locomotives, shinkansen display, EMUs, DMUs, coaches, and freight trains. The oldest of these trains go back to the late 1800s (particularly the JGR Class 7100 Train Number 7105 which could be dated back to 1880). This display can surely help people understand the evolution of trains and railway technology.

On this floor is a vehicle structure display that people can explore to understand the inner works of steam trains. There are also dioramas, scale models, and even railway tools and gadgets on display. There is also a display of a section of a railway vehicle factory showing the inner works of engine manufacturing.

Second Floor Features

The floor area on the second floor is much smaller than that of the ground floor. Despite this, the area is still a great place to explore. For instance, it is home to a number of railway dioramas displaying the life and works of people and trains through the centuries. It could be seen here as well where train technologies are used beyond the railway like how steam was able to power ferries and boats in the earlier times.

Other than that there is a Kid’s park or children’s playground on this floor intended for small children. There are also special exhibit rooms for which displays vary depending on season and time of the year. There are also exhibits of how much the railway system changed the society of Japan.

There are also interactive activities on the second floor. For instance, there is a large working train set that visitors can control through interactive means. There are also driving simulators on this floor, the actual training simulator that train drivers used to learn how to operate a train.

Third Floor Features

The third floor of the main building contains the gallery. These are artworks, photographs, plans, and the like pertaining to the development of the Japanese railway system through the centuries. This floor is also home to the museum’s library archives which could be entered for a special fee. Also, only students and academic can enter the library with a purpose as the archived materials should be protected and well-taken care of. The main highlight of this floor of the museum would be the Sky Terrace. This is a garden where museum-goers can stay in to relax and enjoy the amazing view of actual, working shinkansen rail lines.

The Round House Platform

This platform was built in the early 1900s and is known as the Roundhouse platform. It is a massive round platform that has a turntable in the middle and buildings which could hold about 15 steam locomotives. This was an old train depot with which steam locomotives were serviced during the earlier times. What makes this building special is the fact that it is the oldest reinforced concrete train depot in the entire country. It was declared as an Important Cultural Property.

Special Rides

Known as the SL Steam, this is a 10-minute ride on a steam locomotive which costs about 300 yen for adults and 100 yen for young kids. Its iconic train whistle is what makes the experience absolutely authentic. This steam train goes a short distance around the vicinity of the museum.


Kyoto Railway Museum Shop

There is a small café inside the museum which has a wide ranged menu fit for both adults and children. It has an amazing view of the Kyoto skyline and an incredible view of operating train lines in the city. For those who took food with them, there are dining cars on the ground floor of the museum where light meals and packed lunches could be enjoyed.

There is a museum shop inside the museum as well and they offer interesting merchandise unique only to the museum. There are train sets and train models which could please both children and adults alike. There are books about railways, postcards, and many more.

Nijo Station Building

The old Nijo Station is located in the compound of the Kyoto Railway Museum. It is a two-story building which was de-commissioned as a railway station in 1996. This was not actually the original location of the building, it used to be a part of the old Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum. The building is old fashioned and has the 1900s, early Japan industrialization age.

It is one of the oldest train stations in Japan as it was built in 1904. It is made of wood with oriental designs from that period. The building cannot be entered anymore, but it is quite picturesque on the outside with cherry trees blooming during springtime. The building’s lights are also open at night and it gives an amazing glow to the structure. This is one of the real treasures of Japan’s transportation history.

Umetetsu and S-maru

The Kyoto Railway Museum has two mascots named Umetetsu and S-maru. Umetetsu is a bird, a swallow according to the website, which is dressed in the traditional outfit. He adorns a train driver’s hat and a brown bag to carry his stuff.

As the story goes, this young swallow fell in love with the steam locomotive displays and the railway in Kyoto. He has vowed to be the protector of knowledge and share his passion and love for railways with people. Most of the displays and guides around the museum are designed with his image. Also, many of the museum’s merchandise are designed with this character. S-maru is known as the official deputy mascot and he is a model 230 – 233 steam locomotive, according to the website. S-maru and Umetetsu work hand in hand in creating a child-friendly museum.

Kyoto Railway Museum Reviews

Kyoto Railway Museum Blog

Based on a number of blogs and websites on the internet many people did not have high hopes for the Kyoto Railway Museum. According to them, it could just be any boring museum showing displays of Japan’s history and the like. However, they were quick to admit that they were wrong.

The display of gigantic trains upon entry to the museum is sure to wow anyone. It is highly recommended for families with young kids as the place is a great way to learn about transportation. It also shows a great chunk of Japan’s history and their development towards industrialization and modernization.

Kyoto Railway Museum Pantip

There is a review of all three railway museums from Pantip, a popular Thai review site. This is one of their most recommended places to visit in Kyoto after going around all the historical sites in the old capital city. Why not enjoy the evolution of Japan’s history until modern times like how it was exhibited in the museum?

Kyoto Railway Museum Trip Advisor

The Kyoto Railway museum is rated 4.5 out of 5 in Tripadvisor. Because of its large size, many visitors are wowed by all the displays inside. For such an affordable price, full-scale or real life trains make the visit absolutely worth it. According to Trip advisor, the museum is enjoyable even for young children. Reviewers also claim that half a day is enough to fully explore the museum. A hidden gem in the old capital, the Kyoto railway station does not disappoint as it is a porthole to Japan’s incredible transportation history.

There are actually very little bad reviews from Tripadvisor for this particular museum. They claim that it is enjoyable even for older kids and adults. There is a museum just next door and both attractions can be visited in a single day.

For accessibility, it is hidden adjacent to a park and there are no direct transportation means to reach the museum. Walks are required especially from nearby hotels and establishments. There is a temple near the museum but might take a few minutes of walking as well. There is also an imperial palace, known as the Nijo castle nearby. There are also restaurants and café around the area for lunch and dinner. Eating in the park is a good experience as well. For those who would travel from faraway places like Tokyo, don’t forget to place this on the itinerary.