Only in Japan! 6 Picturesque Starbucks Locations with Uniquely Japanese Architecture
There are over 1,400 Starbucks locations throughout Japan, including some special locations that have incorporated Japanese culture and history into their interior design and architecture. Some of them look so different from your average Starbucks location that you might not even realize it's a Starbucks! Without further ado, here are 6 Starbucks locations in Japan with a distinctive Japanese appearance.
Sep 05 2019 (Jun 11 2020)
1. Kyoto Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya Branch [Kyoto]
This is a 2-story Japanese house built over 100 years ago that has been converted into a Starbucks concept store and retained the unique atmosphere of Kyoto townhouses. It is located on the famous walking street of Ninenzaka, and is only 10 minutes on foot from Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a World Heritage site.
This Starbucks is famous for the deep indigo curtain that hangs outside its entrance, which is the first noren (Japanese curtain hung at shop entrances) to be used by a Starbucks. The building is designed in a classic Kyoto style, consisting of a front garden, inner courtyard, and back garden.
The shop interior has a somewhat mystical atmosphere that comes from the combination of the lights from the bar counter and inner courtyard, a design element that was inspired by the light-themed Kyoto Higashiyama Hanatouro event that takes place each March. You can admire the view of a traditional Japanese garden while you wait for your drink after ordering from the bar counter.
The 2nd floor seating area includes three types of tatami seating, which require you to take off your shoes as is typical for Japanese-style seating areas. Many of the materials used in this room come from Kyoto, such as the seating cushions that use materials from Tango Province and the hanging scrolls made with techniques and materials from Nishijin District. It's a great place to get in touch with traditional Japanese culture as well as coffee culture in a unique space different from most cafes.
2. Kyoto Uji Byodo-in Omote-sando Branch [Kyoto]
This Starbucks branch is located along the omote-sando (pathway leading to a temple) of the Phoenix Hall of Byodo-in Temple, a World Heritage site. This location is characterized by its gabled roof and impressive single pine tree.
The interior of the cafe is a wide-open space with tall ceilings that is well lit by the natural light coming in from the spacious windows. You will enjoy casually spending time in the modern and Japanese-inspired space outfitted with plenty of seating.
There is also a Japanese-style rock garden located right outside the cafe, giving the Starbucks an atmosphere reminiscent of a Buddhist temple. Here, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of Japanese flora that changes with the seasons.
There is terrace seating located in various spots around the cafe, so you can enjoy the view of the garden from multiple different angles. Insider tip: the seats in the very back of the store near the miniature garden are the most quiet!
3. Kawagoe Kanetsuki-dori Branch [Saitama]
Kawagoe, Saitama, nicknamed Koedo ("small Edo"), is a city where you can enjoy an atmospheric kurazukuri-style (warehouse) townscape that harkens back to the Edo era (1603 - 1868). The Starbucks Kawagoe Kanetsuki-dori Branch is located near Toki no Kane, a bell tower constructed at the beginning of the Edo period that remains an iconic landmark of Kawagoe to this day. It's easy to get to this Starbucks location, as it's located near Hon-Kawagoe Station, which is connected to Seibu Shinjuku Station on the Seibu Shinjuku Line.
The design of this Starbucks allows it to blend in perfectly with all the other old-fashioned buildings in the area, as the signboard and other design elements are all made out of wood. The product shelves and the area behind the counter were inspired by the white plaster used to make the warehouses of Kawagoe, and the area underneath the bar counter was inspired by the black plaster of the Edo era. On top of that, the backs of the bench seats are covered with a type of weaved fabric from Kawagoe called "Kawagoe tozan." Cedar trees from Saitama Prefecture were used to supply the lumber for the outside of the cafe, so it is plain to see that this location was built to have a strong connection to the surrounding area.
Painted sliding doors that date back to an old family from the Taisho era (1912-1926) are displayed in the rear of the cafe, the frames of which were also constructed from cedar trees from Saitama. Despite using a variety of traditional Japanese materials, the design of this Starbucks is overall quite modern.
There is a small enclosed garden in the central area of the cafe as well as terrace seating in the back, from which you can get a stunning view of Japanese scenery throughout the seasons. If you visit at the right time, you can even enjoy your drink while listing to the ringing bell of the Toki no Kane.
4. Izumo-taisha Branch [Shimane]
This Starbucks branch is located just in front of the Seidamari Gate that leads into the famous Izumo-taisha Shrine. The modern Japanese exterior design is characterized by latticework and the tile roof. Once you enter the cafe, look up to admire the ceiling that was inspired by Japanese gabled roofs.
There is a chandelier in the center of the seating area that is based on the shimenawa (rope used to cordon off consecrated areas or as a talisman against evil) of Izumo-taisha Shrine and a large table for community seating that is shaped like a magatama (comma-shaped jewel). The interior design was conceptualized around the idea of combining Japanese and Western aesthetics.
You can enjoy a view of the shrine from the 2nd floor of the cafe, so why not enjoy the sights while sipping on your beverage?
There is also an IZUMO mug that is only sold at this location. It comes in three colors (red, white, and green), which were inspired by naturally occurring meno (agate) stones that can be found in Shimane Prefecture. As Izumo-taisha Shrine is associated with en-musubi (creating marriage bonds), the mugs were designed to stack on each other to connect into one. They make the perfect souvenir to buy for your significant other!
5. Meguro Branch [Tokyo]
The Starbucks Coffee Meguro Branch, located in the Shin-Meguro Tokyu Bldg., is actually considered the main branch of Starbucks Japan, and its interiors were designed with the motif of Japanese sliding doors.
The product shelves use kumiko-zaiku (traditional Japanese craftwork that fits small pieces of wood together) made to look like hemp leaves, giving the cafe an impressive Japanese atmosphere. There are also comfortable chairs set up near the windows from which you can enjoy a view of a Japanese garden while relaxing.
The Meguro branch serves Starbucks Reserve coffee, which is made from carefully selected, high quality coffee beans. They also offer two types of handmade Mino ware mugs for you to choose from. The taller mug is called Aroma, as it allows you to enjoy the scent of your beverage, and the shorter mug is called Body, as it best allows you to enjoy the flavor of your coffee. There are only a limited number of locations within Japan that serve Reserve coffee, so drop by this branch to try it while you have the chance!
6. Hirosaki Koen-mae Branch [Aomori]
This Starbucks is located in Hirosaki Park, famous as a place to view cherry blossoms. The cafe building is even registered as a Tangible Cultural Asset of Japan!
The building was originally constructed in 1917 as an official residence for a military division commander, and is charactrized by its fusion design that adds Japanese-style sliding doors to a Western building.
The Tsugaru region of Aomori Prefecture is famous for the Tsugaru Koginzashi style of embroidery that has been practiced for around 300 years, and a portion of the seats in this Starbucks incorporate that style of embroidery into their design. Enjoy a delicious cup of coffee while appreciating the aesthetics of this historical building.
Although there are over 20,000 Starbucks Coffee locations around the world, these select branches were designed with charming Japanese aesthetics, creating a completely new and unique Starbucks experience that you've never encountered before. Why not look for one of these cafe locations to get a taste of Japanese culture and history?
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Title Image: Michael Gordon / Shutterstock
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.