Low-Key Dying in Kyoto

So there is nothing more frustrating than waking up in the middle of an expensive and highly anticipated vacation to a heavy head and severely sore throat, but unfortunately, on the day I was scheduled to leave Kyoto and head to Osaka, that is exactly what I experienced.

I was originally in massive denial about it. The air conditioner in my hotel room had been blowing cold air into my face all night long, so I got dressed and packed up my bags assuming that with a glass of water I would be raring to go. After downing a few cups though, my throat was still feeling raw, and I was growing more and more concerned by the minute.

But I couldn’t just stay in bed all day. I was checking out of my hotel and heading to another city, so mustering what little strength I had, I left my bags at the front counter and headed towards a coffee shop that I had been alerted to by YouTuber, Paulo fromTOKYO.

I mean, coffee of course would make me feel better, right?

So I began my trek in the direction of Nineizaka where the famous Kyomizu-dera temple is located as well as the Starbucks Coffee Kyoto Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya.

That’s a really fucking long name, right?

For all the negative blog posts that I write about Starbucks, I’m sure you are wondering why the hell I would choose to go to one in a historic area of Kyoto instead of something local, but I was very interested in visiting this particular location because it is built in a traditional machiya-style home.

Machiya what?

Well, machiya homes are a traditional style of home in Japan that have functioned as part house and part storefront/workshop beginning back when the merchant and artisan classes existed. They typically sport tatami floors and are often built completely out of wood, so they are maintenance nightmares, but machiya-style homes are uniquely Japanese and quite beautiful in my opinion. So when I heard that Starbucks had opened a store in the machiya style, I had to check it out.

And regardless of how awful I felt after walking completely uphill to reach the store, I was definitely pleased the moment I stepped through the front door. While the first thing that greets you are line barricades and the standard Starbucks counter, the lighting is low and warm, the wood and decor dark but simple. The design immediately sets a quiet and almost zen tone to the space.

Since I was early (at least in comparison to Japan standards), there was no line, and I was quickly able to order a grande coffee, a green tea biscuit, and an earl grey tea creme doughnut.

Quick side note: Those earl grey tea creme doughnuts in Japan are the shit. I miss those fuckers every single day.

Anyway, once I was handed my tray, I quickly headed to the steep stairs and climbed them to the second floor in search of the traditional seating areas. I excitedly found an open spot, took off my shoes (gotta protect those tatami floors), and settled into the large, flat pillow that served as my chair next to the small table holding my breakfast.

And once I was down, I did not want to get up. Sure, I wasn’t feeling 100%, and the warm coffee was doing a wonderful job of soothing my sore throat. The pastries were delicious, and I wanted to savor every little bite, but there was more to the space that was encouraging me to stay a bit longer than I normally would have.

As I lounged back into my spot and journaled, I felt that sense of peace and calm that always seemed to find me wherever I went in Japan. Not wanting to waste the wonderful vibe of the space, I decided to take a few, solid moments to really appreciate how far I had come and all that I had seen. I also allowed myself to take the time I needed to find the reassurance that, even with a sore throat, I was in good enough shape to continue with my adventures.

And in all honesty, by the time I had finished my last sip of coffee, I was ready to start exploring Kyoto again.

I really have to give props to Starbucks for this location. Never once did the atmosphere divert from the warm and zen tone that was set upon entry (well, except for the bathroom, which was ridiculously small), and I feel that it is a very successful attempt in merging the old world with the new. Not only did it have the tatami floor nooks for traditional seating, but there were other areas with Western tables and chairs for those who preferred it. I highly recommend visiting this store, and I’m sure it’s even more fun if you go while renting out a kimono.

Blog with y’all later,

The one and the only Pookachino

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