10 Unique Starbucks in Japan

by Tom Roseveare
Japan Travel

Starbucks Japan has exploded since originally launching its first coffee shop in Ginza in 1996, with now well over 1,000 stores spread across the country. Whilst the chain is particularly well-known for its seasonal drinks and merch unique to the Japanese market, some of the stores themselves also deserve special attention. Whilst most of them perhaps arguably don't deserve a second look, when it comes to locating in traditional areas or cultural districts, Starbucks Japan has done a great job of harmonising their concept store design with the local culture and traditional symbols.

Here's our top 10 'Sutaba' stores worth checking out:
 
1. Starbucks Dazaifu Tenmangu Omotesando, Fukuoka
The beautiful facade of Starbucks Dazaifu. (Photo: Lester Goh)
 
Designed by world-renowned architect, Kengo Kuma, Starbucks Dazaifu is located along the main street leading up Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, in Fukuoka. The architecture here is nothing short of astonishing – over 2,000 wooden cedar batons are interwoven into lattice structures using traditional kigumi woodwork techniques (interlocking joints).
 
Address: 3-2-43, Saifu, Dazaifu-shi, Fukuoka 〒818-0117. More info >
 
2. Starbucks Kitano Ijinkan
Kitano Ijinkan Starbucks location—definitely different (Photo: Manish Prabhune)
 
This Western-style building in Kobe's Kitano district is a registered Tangible Cultural Property originally built in 1907, as the Kitano Monogatari-kan for an American resident, MJ Shay. During the 1995 earthquake, the premises became damaged and destined for demolition, but the structure could largely be preserved when it was transferred to its current location in 2001, before becoming a Starbucks in 2009.
 
Address: Kitano Monogatarikan, Kitano-cho, 3-1-31 Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo. More info >
 
3. Starbucks in Kawagoe
Starbucks has taken on a Edo period theme in its cafe in Kawagoe (Photo: Jianne Soriano)
 
Opened in March 2018, this Kawagoe branch on Kanetsuki Dori is within spitting distance of Kawagoe's primary landmark, the Toki no Kane bell tower. As is expected for Kawagoe, the store blends seamlessly with the area's Edo-era aesthetic, with Kawagoe typically referred to as Koedo—little Edo—for its resemblance to a bygone era. The interior's tones pay homage to the region's Kurazukuri heritage.
 
Address: 15-18 Saiwaicho, Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture 350-0063
 
4. Starbucks Hirosaki, Aomori
Starbucks in Hirosaki
 
Occupying a building registered as a Tangible Cultural Property in 2003, this Aomori Starbucks is located opposite Hirosaki Park. Exuding a Taisho era ambience, the original property was built in 1918 as the Daihachi Dancho Kansha – an official army residence, before finding its way to its current location, opening as a Starbucks in 2015. True to Starbucks tradition of harmonising their stores with local culture, several elements have been preserved, such as the doors, and there is a nod to local inspiration, be it Tsugaru Kogin-zashi embroidery or light fixtures made in the local Bunaco-style, using beech wood from the abundant forests of Tsugaru's Shirakami Sanchi.
 
Address: 1-1 Kamishiroganecho, Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture 036-8207
 
5. Starbucks Izumo Taisha, Shimane
Starbucks Izumo Taisha in Shimane (Photo: Y. Kato (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0))
 
Located at the southern tip of the Izumo Taisha shrine complex just across from the entrance, this Starbucks in Shimane is endowed with an impressive wooden lattice design adorning the facade's second-floor windows. The interior also provides several nods to Shinto inspiration, including wooden tables shaped like traditional magatama beads, lighting designed with the shrine's shimenawa (woven rice straw ropes), and a gable roof design that evokes the traditional Shinto style that is so dominant in the area.
 
Address: 841 Taishacho Kizukiminami, Izumo, Shimane Prefecture 699-0711
 
6. Starbucks Kyoto Sanjo Ohashi
Wooden decking above the Kamo River at this Sanjo Ohashi coffeeshop (Photo: Chris Gladis (CC BY 2.0))
 
One of two stores worth noting in Kyoto, the store here at Sanjo boasts elegant decking overlooking the Kamogawa River. Called 'Noryo yuka', which literally means 'cooling floor', this traditional-style deck helps cool down customers thanks to the cooling breeze and passing river below. It's open during the warmer months of the year: May/September: 11:30–22:00, June/July/August: 16:00–22:00
 
Address: 113 Nakajimacho, Sanjo-Kawaramachi-Higashiiru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, 604-8004
 
7. Starbucks Kamakura Onarimachi
A great place for sitting outdoors and sipping your coffee (Photo: Larry Knipfing)
 
Just a few minutes from Kamakura station, the location here is popular with artists, being the former residence for manga artist, Ryuichi Yokoyama – some of whose artwork is now proudly on display. This Onarimachi store's design is dominated by wood and glass, with the high ceiling providing an open, spacious interior. Outside the veranda provides tatami mats for guests to unwind and relax, in view of the pool – which hints at the lifestyle of the area's former owner.
 
Address: 15-11 Onarimachi, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture 248-0012. More info >
 
8. Starbucks Toyama Kansui Park
Overlooking Fugan Canal (Photo: Richie Chan/Shutterstock.com)
 
Located at Toyama's Kansui Park, this unique Starbucks store provides great views of both Fugan Canal's waters and the nearby Tenmon-kyo Bridge. Its glass-walled design helped it win the '2008 Store Design Awards' – quickly christening it the 'world's most beautiful Starbucks' at the same time. The award-winning store is a natural rest point for Kansui Park visitors, and is located just a 10-minute walk north of Toyama station.
 
Address: Kansui Park, 5 Toyama Fugan Canal, Minatoirifunecho, Toyama-shi, Toyama, 930-0805
 
9. Starbucks Coffee Kyoto Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya
A unique Starbucks in Kyoto's Ninenzaka (Photo: Starbucks)
 
Located in Kyoto's historic Ninenzaka district to the east, this traditional-looking store opened back in 2017 inside a 100-year old traditional townhouse, proving to be the first store globally to offer tatami floor seating. It is perhaps one of the best examples of Starbucks attempting to preserve everything about the original structure and harmonise its design with the local Kyoto environment. The entranceway is dominated by a traditional blue noren curtain, and this structure is the only remaining one on this street to retain its original walled-fence (daibei). The ground floor offers a bar counter and inner courtyards complete with Japanese gardens, while the second floor leads to multiple rooms with tatami mat flooring and zabuton cushions for guests to relax.
 
Address: 349 Banchi, Masuya-cho, Shimogawara Higashi-iru, Kodaiji Minamimon-dori, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
 
10. Starbucks Shibuya Scramble Crossing
Almost time for the cars again (Photo: Anne Lauenroth)
 
Perhaps a sneaky entry into the list, there's no denying this unique Starbucks naturally draws Shibuya newcomers who are looking for the ultimate view over the district's legendary scramble crossing. It's almost a rite of passage to take a break here while people-watching at the busy intersection below during the evening rush hour under the neon glow of Shibuya's digital billboards.
 
Address: QFRONT 1F, 21-6 Udagawacho, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0042
 

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