Are you a Starbucks lover? In Japan you can find Starbucks cafes at some very special places. Unique locations, with a local touch but always the same Starbucks-quality. Whether you enjoy a cup of Starbucks coffee or not, these stores are worth a visit for the location!
The first ‘Sutaba‘ of Japan opened its’ doors in 1996, in Ginza, Tokyo. Since then it has expanded rapidly throughout the country. In September 2019 the number of Starbucks outlets had reached 1.497, with the world busiest and biggest – two different outlets – located in Tokyo!
Starbucks skyrocketing popularity is partly a result of the seasonal merchandise and beverages that are exclusive to Japan. The limited edition coffee cups and tumblers designs are often based on seasonal holidays, famous landmarks, Japanese culture and even airports. Moreover, the coffee chain has found a way to adapt to local culture, creating Instagrammable, one-of-a-kind spaces at inspiring locations while featuring cutting-edge architecture and design. For some of the locations listed below, chances are, that without the Starbucks logo, you probably wouldn’t have known it was a Starbucks.
Here is our list of the sutaba in Japan you should not miss!
1. Starbucks Roastery, Tokyo
In February 2019, the fifth and biggest Starbucks Roastery worldwide was opened in Tokyo, in Nakameguro along the Meguro river. The complex comprises about 200 sqm spread out over four floors with indoor and outdoor seating. The exterior was designed by the world-renowned contemporary architects, Kengo Kuma, and the interior was created by the Starbucks community design team, but carefully selected to match Kuma’s modern Japanese architectural style.
Next to coffee, there is also tea, Italian snacks and… alcohol on the menu! On the third floor you can find the Arriviamo Cocktail Bar. Obviously, all the cocktails are infused with coffee or tea. Don’t forget to try espresso martini!
As can be expected this Starbucks is very popular – especially in spring time, when the many sakura trees lining the Meguro river are in full bloom! In the weekend the waiting time still reaches a peak of 5 hours, so be sure to come early and reserve some time in your plan.
2. Shibuya Tsutaya, Tokyo
Without a doubt the most famous Starbucks in Japan is the Starbuck overlooking the Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. People come here to watch the famous crossing, especially at rush hour when thousands of pedestrians cross the street from all directions, under the neon glow of Shibuya’s digital billboards. The place is amazing for people watching, but be warned, it is also one of the busiest Starbucks around the world! You will find there are many tourists and photographers alike who are all looking to snap the popular picture of one of the most photogenic places in Tokyo.
3. Dazaifu Tenmangu Omotesando, Fukuoka
The number one special Starbucks in Japan – arguably the world – is the outlet in Dazaifu Tenmangu Omotesando, Fukuoka. This Starbucks it located right next to the Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine, which is famous for the god of academics.
The beautiful entrance of Starbucks was designed by Kengo Kuma – who also designed the new National Stadium in Tokyo and correct, the Starbucks Roastery in Tokyo. Come for the building, stay for coffee!
4. Kawagoe Kanetsuki-dori, Kawagoe
In 2018, Starbucks has opened a store in the main shopping street of Kawagoe, next to the landmark Toki no Kane. Its design perfectly blends in with the many kurazukuri houses that Kawagoe, also known als little Edo, is so famous for.
Next to the indoor space, it has a pretty outdoor seating area with a Japanese gardens, complete with bonsai trees, a stone pathway and wind chimes for your peaceful coffee break. If Starbucks had existed already during the Edo period, this is what it would have looked like.
5. Kyoto Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya, Kyoto
Ninenzaka is the traditional area located in east of Kyoto near Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Here you can find one of the two Starbucks in Kyoto that are definitely worth a visit. The traditional-looking store opened in 2017 inside a 100-year old machiya – a traditional townhouse – from the Taisho Period. The store perfectly blends in with the neighbourhood’s historic vibe, if it wasn’t for the sign (and perhaps the people) you would probably not even notice this Starbucks. One year after its’ opening, this Starbucks outlet received the Kyoto Scenery Award (Kyoto Keikan Sho) for ‘its inspired effort in preserving and combining tradition with contemporary coffee culture’. Examples of this are two special features:
- It was the first Starbucks ever to offer tatami floor seating.
- It is the only Starbucks that has Noren “暖簾”, the traditional Japanese shop curtain.
6. Izumo Taisha, Shimane
The famous Izumo Taisha, dedicated to the Shinto deity of marriage – Ōkuninushi – is one of the most ancient and important Shinto shrines in Japan. Even though its construction date is unknown, it is widely believed that it is the oldest shrine in Japan! Next to Izumo-taisha shrine, you can find a beautiful Starbucks with a wonderful blend of traditional and modern design. The interior incorporated some Shinto elements, including wooden tables shaped like traditional magatama beads, lighting designed with the shrine’s shimenawa (woven rice straw ropes – that you can also see in sumo), and a gable roof design that shows the traditional Shinto style characteristic to the area.
When you’re there, make sure to get yourself an Izumo mug. They are designed with an agate pattern and hand-painted by craftsmen in Izumo. They cannot be purchase online or anywhere else aside from this Starbucks, definitely a great souvenir!
7. Kyoto Sanjo Ohashi, Kyoto
For the second Starbucks in Kyoto that made its way to this list, we need to explain the concept of kawadoko “川床”. Kawadoko, in Kyoto commonly referred to as yuka, are decks set up along the Kamogawa and other rivers in Kyoto. They are set up with the purpose cooling down in the hot summers, thanks to the cooling breeze and passing river below. These Kawadoko are symbolic characteristic for Kyoto. Every year, the opening ceremony on May 25th is a popular event with locals including maiko & geiko out celebrating.
Starbucks has opened an outlet along the Kamogawa river and from May till September also set up a Kawadoko. Get your cold brew and enjoy the cool breeze along the river bank in the hot Kyoto summer!
8. Kamakura Onarimachi, Kamakura
Kamakura is popular day-trip destination for Japanese, being an hour away from Tokyo. Close to the Kamakura station you can find a Starbucks in the former residence of manga artist, Ryuichi Yokoyam – making it popular with artists. Some of the artwork is on display in this modern style store. This Starbucks it’s design is dominated by wood and glass, with the high ceiling providing an open space. One of the main features of this store is engawa, the Japanese veranda with tatami mats for guests to unwind and relax, in view of the pool.
9. Ueno Park, Tokyo
This low-rise structured store, bathes in natural light and offers large outdoor eating capacity. But it didn’t make its way to this list because of its design, but because of its location. Ueno Park is one of the biggest public parks in Tokyo, famously known for its historical location, shrines & temples, museums and… sakura viewing in spring!
Ueno park is a prime-spot for Sakura viewing, with many sakura trees lined up along the main street. The Starbucks is located close to the front gate of Ueno Zoo, hence don’t be surprised to hear the lions roar while you are while sipping your coffee and watching all the people pass by.
To cope with crowds, the store has a small van outside for anyone with a tall-sized order to get in and out as fast as possible.
10. Toyama Kansui Park, Toyama
This Starbucks overlooking the Funan canal in Toyama, is known for its breathtaking beauty. The store was elected “world’s most beautiful Starbucks” at the 2008 Store Design Awards. Because of the glass-walled design, the interior is filled with light giving it a specious feeling. There is also some outdoor spacing, bordered with glass walls, that makes you feel as if you are cruising on the river.
Of course there are many more beautiful designed Starbucks stores, with stunning scenery at special locations. But these are our favourites and the ones we think you, as a Starbucks lover, should pay a visit! What are your favourite Starbuck outlets, which ones should we also pay a visit?
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