I’m not a morning person. I mean, I am really not a morning person. With a long history as a thespian starting back in high school, my idea of a great schedule is going to sleep at 2 am and waking up 9 am at the earliest.
That said, I rarely keep such late hours when I’m traveling. I often wake up to catch the morning light for photography. And, when I’m in a city, I like to watch the city wake up. My husband, who is a morning person, taught me this long ago on a trip to Venice. Our first trip there was way back in the late 1980s, and, as usual, Venice was overcrowded with tourists. My husband liked to get up early each morning of our stay to walk the deserted streets and watch Venice come to life. He exorted me to join him one morning to see how it was for myself. Sick of all the throngs of tourists, I joined him, and it was a wonderful, eye-opening experience.
Ever since, I like to wake up early when traveling and walk the streets of a town or city as it wipes the sleep off and wakes up. I did just that in Kyoto this morning (second morning that I’ve done it this trip; I’m with a small group of lovely people, but walking alone to “get coffee” is my me-time). I enjoyed watching merchants opening their shops, people rushing to work, and bike ladies (and gentlemen) whizzing by with purpose on their bikes. The beginning and end of my walk was the Royal Park Hotel in Central Kyoto, near the Teramachi shopping mall.
I actually do get coffee on these walks as well. Japanese hotel buffet machine-coffee is just OK, and why settle for just OK coffee when traveling? My go-to chain coffee shops in Japan are Dotour and Tully’s. Dotour opens pretty early, and that is where I got a lovely cappucino on my first walk. This morning, I wanted to try the local Ogawa coffee shop that my guide had recommended. I arrived at 8am, only to find that it wasn’t open until 9am! Who opens a coffee shop so late? Evidently the Japanese do, since they seem to enjoy tea in the morning and then coffee later in the day.
I can pretty much confirm this hypothesis (about coffee being a later-thing in Japan) since I then went to the Kyoto Starbucks by the Kamo River and the Sanjo Bridge. If you’ve
been to Kyoto, you know this Starucks; it has gorgeous views and it is perfect for people-watching as people jog, ride bikes and walk themselves and their dogs along the river. Later in the day, this Starbucks is packed, and it is really hard to get any seat, much less a seat by the window. Well, at 8am (when the Starbucks just opened) I was the only person in there. Seriously, crickets. So I got a cappucino, got some photos to prove how empty it was, and took my seat by the window for some glorious people-watching.
By 8:30 the streets start to lose that early morning character, and at least in Kyoto by 9am it’s all opened up and awake. I’m so glad I got to see this part of the character of Kyoto.