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Shibuya’s frantic nightlife not complete without a shot of caffeine 

Photo by Yoshikazu TAKADA on flickr 

This is a typical night at Shibuya’s famous “Scramble Crossing,” where hordes of cellphone-wielding, fashionable people aren’t just breezing by–like so many others in so many big cities, they also take time for a bit of coffee and a snack at the Starbucks you see there, which I’ve heard gets more business than almost any other Starbucks on the planet! Just below and to the right of their uber-logo, you can see the name of another company, TSUTAYA, which has been partnering with Starbucks for at least a couple of years now. It looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship–read on to see what I mean!

Kind of pathetic, isn’t it? 

Photo by Kuruman on flickr

When I first got to Japan in 1999 (yikes!), I learned very quickly of TSUTAYA’s status as Japan’s Blockbuster. Simple logo, simple purpose: DVD/CD rental. What more could you need? 

TSUTAYA was the single-guy paradise….

Photo by Dick Thomas Johnson on flickr

A single guy living his own version of Lost In Translation, I was only too happy to negotiate through the maze of movies and dramas, rental or bargain bin, to reclaim some sense of cultural balance. I found plenty of standard Hollywood fare, as well as the Japanese “love dramas” (basically, soap operas) that would become my study material in those olden days. TSUTAYA was a pretty happening place in my small town, and usually went nearly every week–nerd alert, no surprise! Anyway, TSUTAYA still does the movie rental gig, but like any company, it has struggled to survive into the digital age. Just a couple of years ago, wandering through our sagging local branch, my wife and I wondered whether TSUTAYA was headed into the void. 

 …that’s recently gotten a serious overhaul! 

Photo by shinji_w on flickr

It was while tromping through Roppongi with my cousin in tow that I first saw the above logo (this is a different location, with the same atmosphere), and knew that something was afoot! Not only had TSUTAYA decided to diversify beyond DVD rental, but it had also chosen to partner with a world-renowned coffee company. Coffee and books, a match made in heaven!

These orange bits rock…try em! 

Photo by MsSaraKelly on flickr

So not only can I continue to experience flavors such as the above coffee, which I think actually has orange peel on top…

Not just green, but tasty!

Photo by Danijel J on flickr

…savor the flavor of a Macha Frap, hands down one of the best combinations out there, or…

I do love me some fruit danish! 

Photo by shinji_w on flickr

…indulge in more standard fare like this devilish danish, I can also do something else at Starbucks: READ! FOR FREE!

Go ahead…read me (if you can handle Kanji)!

Photo by Richard, enjoy my life! on flickr

It would take more than one cup of coffee to get that far into a book… 😉 

Photo by snogglethorpe on flickr

You read right: At Starbucks-TSUTAYA combined locations, you can take books directly off the shelves, go into the coffee area, sit down in a plush chair, and read. BEFORE BUYING! If you can’t read Kanji, have no fear: There’s usually an English section somewhere in the store, even if it’s teeny-tiny. Just ask, “Sumimasen…yosho wa doko?” (excuse me, where are the English books?) and somebody will help you. My wife, who is very neat, is a huge fan of this books-and-coffee service. I, on the other hand, will stick to bringing my own books until I can figure out how not to spill coffee all over everything! 

The single-guy paradise is now…not one!

Photo by chinnian on flickr

The Starbucks-TSUTAYA hybrid atmosphere has upped the ante a bit, and suddenly women and girls (with cute bags, all) have decided to invade the single guy haven! Which, as far as I’m concerned, isn’t a bad thing at all. Maybe some of those guys might actually have a date for movie night now, eh? 😉 

Maybe a total rebranding is in order? 

Photo by katsuma on flickr 

It’s a very old idea with a new twist. People love to drink coffee while reading books, so it seems as if the Starbucks-TSUTAYA fusion thing is truly ahead of the curve. Maybe a rebranding is in order. Why not call it StarBooks Coffee? OK, I tried. I’ll stop now!


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