One of the things that I desperately wanted to try out when I visited Kyoto was a traditional, Japanese tea ceremony, so before I flew to Japan, I booked a one hour, tea ceremony/kimono experience for my first morning in town.
The location of the ceremony was fairly close to my hotel, so I didn’t want to stray too far away from the area to grab my morning coffee. I half-expected to find in my Google search that the only places nearby that were open that early would be Starbucks or some other chain, but to my surprise, Google Maps showed a small little coffee shop, Acorn Coffee Stand, just a block away from my hotel. Score!
Walking out of the hotel that first morning though, I found the streets to be nearly empty and oddly quiet. It was such a shock because just the night before I was barely able to navigate my suitcase through all of the people in the area, but as I passed by closed store after closed store that morning, I began to feel very out of place, and I fervently prayed that the open hours listed online for the coffee shop weren’t wrong. How embarrassing would that be if they were?
To my relief though, the small little coffee stand was open for business, and I walked through the sliding glass door proudly. In fact, I was so pleased with myself at that moment that it took me a few seconds to realize that the shop inside was as empty as the streets outside. No customers. Not even a barista in sight.
With the streets and the shop being so empty, I couldn’t help but wonder if the zombie apocalypse or rapture had happen earlier that morning.
Before my imagination could get too out of control though, a small woman, probably in her seventies, waved at me through a window in the back of the store and told me she was coming.
As I waited for her to make her way to the front of the store, I perused the menu and was actually very pleased with its food and beverage offerings. Not only was there coffee and espresso drinks, but smoothies, pastries, and sandwiches were all available for sale.
I, of course, ordered my usual (a black coffee and what was the closest thing to a breakfast sandwich) before taking a seat on one of the barstools standing by a small countertop to my right.
As the woman set to work on my sandwich, I glanced around the shop taking in the various signs and pictures posted to the walls, most of which were obviously hung for the tourists that visited. A small shelf underneath the countertop held a variety books for adults and children alike, so I grabbed one of the books written on coffee, hoping to test out the small bit of Japanese I had learned to read before flying out of the country.
Turns out I only know one word: コーヒー. Koh-hee. Coffee.
After eating my sandwich and sipping my cup of java in the quiet of the empty shop, listening to music playing at a low volume somewhere in the back, I waved goodbye to the woman manning the counter and stepped outside into the bright morning that was already indicating a very hot day. Pleased with my full stomach and realizing that I still had some time to kill before my tea ceremony, I headed into the streets of Gion and towards the Yasaka Shrine, no longer creeped out by the lack of people milling about. I actually felt relaxed and ready for another day.
If you ever find yourself in Kyoto, near the Gion area, I highly suggest checking this place out. It’s very unassuming, and while there are many other coffee shops in the region that are more popular, I loved being able to spend a quiet morning with one of the locals. The coffee was good. The food was good. It was all good.
Until next time,
The one and the only Pookachino