Watching Kyoto Wake Up

Kyoto Arcade, Early Morning

Just Me and the Pigeons, Kyoto

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.

Doutor Coffee Shop Kyoto

Doutor Coffee Kyoto

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 Continue reading

Lovely Kyoto in Winter

Crowds in Kyoto

Crowds in Kyoto

I have been to Kyoto previously in Summer, Fall and Spring. This is my first time here in the Winter; the weather is high 30s to high 50s, which with a good coat is not bad at all. I greatly prefer it to the damp and muggy Kyoto Summers.

I have lots of places, events and experiences to share with everyone from this trip, but it is hard to find time to blog when you are with a group. It is a small group (17 including the tour operators and experts) but a group nonetheless, and it is very hard to get a moment alone to write. Or, really, to want to write, because there is so much to do and so many people to enjoy being with! Not to mention that we have truly had a busy and eventful trip with minimal down time!  I have had the time (and the WiFi thanks to my mobile WiFi unit) to post some Instagram photos and micro blogging while on the road (which has been great).

After my quiet moment in Wakayama, we attended the marvelous Hina Matsui (Girl’s Day) ceremony at the Awashima Jinja Temple.  This wonderful, unique temple ceremony involves filling and then floating three boats of dolls into the ocean in Kada. We then traveled to Kyoto where I am now. Kyoto, with it’s 1000 shrines ad temples, great shopping and endless restaurants has, as always, been marvelous. Sadly, Winter has not lessened the huge crowds of tourists. We were at Kiyomizu-dera temple yesterday and it was wall-to-wall people walking up to the gate area of the temple.  The throngs of tourists include groups of Chinese tourists all dressed up in Kimonos and Hakamas. We also visited the Kyoto National Museum and were very honored to later get a private showing of a Gosho Ningyo artisan’s home, collection and workshop. A Ningyo is a doll; my niche tour group are all avid antique doll experts and collectors.

After all this, I should mention the very fun conveyor belt sushi restaurant dinner (6 plates of sushi, a small beer and some green tea ice cream for under 2000 yen! Then talking to my roomate and dear friend Julie and falling into bed; so basically on the go from 8 in the morning to 11 at night.

Ok my bus leaves in 10 minutes…but you can read more about my time in Kyoto in my new blog post, Watching Kyoto Wake Up