The recent detections of gravitational waves (GWs) reported by the LIGO and Virgo collaborations have made a significant impact on physics and astronomy. A global network of GW detectors will play a key role in uncovering the unknown nature of the sources in coordinated observations with astronomical telescopes and detectors. Here we introduce KAGRA, a new GW detector with two 3 km baseline arms arranged in an ‘L’ shape. KAGRA’s design is similar to the second generations of Advanced LIGO and Advanced Virgo, but it will be operating at cryogenic temperatures with sapphire mirrors. This low-temperature feature is advantageous for improving the sensitivity around 100 Hz and is considered to be an important feature for the third-generation GW detector concept (for example, the Einstein Telescope of Europe or the Cosmic Explorer of the United States). Hence, KAGRA is often called a 2.5-generation GW detector based on laser interferometry. KAGRA’s first observation run is scheduled in late 2019, aiming to join the third observation run of the advanced LIGO–Virgo network. When operating along with the existing GW detectors, KAGRA will be helpful in locating GW sources more accurately and determining the source parameters with higher precision, providing information for follow-up observations of GW trigger candidates.