I went to Gion, the old district of Kyoto, with a friend over the weekend. As we walked down the cobbled streets enjoying the classic style of the shoin buildings with intricate wood-work and gorgeous lanterns, we noticed a familiar logo placed in a traditional Japanese paper-board display. In the middle of a street filled with tea houses, ramen shops, and kimono specialists, was the american owned Seattle based coffee shop; Starbucks. But this Starbucks cafe was very different from its American counterparts. This store was designed in the traditional Japanese Sukiya-zukuri style. Complete with tatami mats, a zen garden, and circular wood pane windows, this Starbucks serves the zeitgeist of Edo Japan along with it’s delicious coffee.
I noticed another group of foreigners in the Starbucks besides myself and my Australian friend. However, the majority of the Starbucks patrons appeared to be Japanese customers. I wonder if this building was originally created to cater to foreign visitors looking for a familiar brand while in Japan? Or was it built to celebrate Japanese tradition while enjoying a western product?
No matter what the original goal was for creating a Starbucks with traditional architecture, this store is definitely a fun spot in Gion. So if you are ever traveling in Japan and craving a Starbucks caramel frappe, I highly recommend going to the traditional Sukiya Starbucks in Gion.