More than Coffee – Starbucks Concept Stores in Japan

Starbucks Coffee. Coffee Shop. Icon. Cultural. Trend.

To most people, Starbucks isn’t just a shop that sells coffee. It’s the beverage world of fashion, a symbol of urban, style, hip, and modernism. Although Starbucks originated and started in the US, I honestly have to say Starbucks Japan does a way better, and very unique (yup, and awesome) job at promoting and marketing the so-called “sbux lifestyle.” Starbucks Japan offers seasonal limited beverages, seasonal limited desserts, and the very famous seasonal limited drinkware such as mugs, tumblers, and cups. New Year, Valentine’s Day, Sakura / Cherry Blossom (this one is especially popular where most of the products are sold out the first day of release. I’ve been there and done that. A. also was forced to help when we were in Japan :P), Summer, Halloween, Christmas, and a bunch of cool regional designs that I won’t get into in this post.

Some people might question “what’s the point of going into a Starbucks store if I don’t like coffee, don’t drink coffee?” Bear with me because I don’t drink coffee either! Back in the States it was always a little awkward for me to hang out with friends at Starbucks ordering 1) water 2) orange juice 3) non-caffeine frappuccino 4) hot chocolate.

That being said, I did not care all that much about Starbucks when I first arrived in Tokyo in the Spring of 2013. The only reason I went into Starbucks at the time was mainly for the free wifi and for ordering things that I can kind of pronounce in a weird English way to get away pretending I already knew katakana. There were a lot of Starbucks stores in Tokyo. I’ve seen them everywhere, and I’ve been to a few nice ones. However, I never really paid much attention to Starbucks until I found out about the Starbucks Japan Concept Stores… Yeah, I found out about the Concept Stores exactly 1 week before I was leaving Japan. Ironic? I think yes.

There are a total of 13 Starbucks Concept Stores throughout Japan. They are known as the Concept Stores because they either carried special message to protect nature, partnered up with famous architects, historical significance, or special interior design that make them stand out from rest of the regular Starbucks store. Luckily I’ve been to a few without knowing they are one of the concept stores, and later on attempted to visit another one (I’ll reveal later!) traveling with my mom and grandma in April 2015. I don’t know when I’ll be able to visit Japan again, but checking all of the Starbucks Japan Concept Stores is definitely my goal. Notice, by checking doesn’t mean just taking photos of the architecture, but to really order something from the store, find a nice corner to sit and people watch for awhile, relax, and enjoy where you are at the moment. Trust me, totally worth it.

1. Fukuoka Ohori Park

Store Hours: 8am-10pm

Address: 810-0051 Fukuoka Chuo-ku, Fukuoka Ohori Park 1-8

Green & environmental friendly Starbucks store located at the Ohori park. Nice big windows perfect for people watch and day dream. Interior design and furnitures used in this store were made with recycled woods and recycled coffee products.

2.  Toyama Kansui Park

Store Hours: 8am-10:30pm

Address: 930-0805 Toyama, Toyama Prefecture Minatoirifune cho 5 Toyama Tomiiwa Kansui Park

One of the newest Starbucks Japan Concept Stores. Beautiful landscape and perfect location for people to gaze the sceneries and famous bridge at the park. Natural friendly designed architecture. Some people said it’s best to visit during sunset, but I feel anytime is perfect time to stop by this shop for a mini break from busy city life!

3. Ueno Park

Store Hours: 8am-9pm

Address: 110-0007 Taito-ku, Tokyo Ueno Park 8-22

I have actually walked pass the Ueno Concept Store many times when I was in Tokyo. I have noticed the beautiful design of the shop, but never bothered to walk in because there were always lines of people waiting to order something. It is located sort of at the center of Ueno Park, very close to the Ueno zoo. The Ueno shop also does super pretty sakura arrangements during cherry blossom season as Ueno Park is very famous for ohanami, also known as cherry blossom viewing.

4. Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku 

Store Hours: 8:30am-11:30pm

Address: 150-0001 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 4-30-3 Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku

Known as the ‘urban forest,’ architect Hiroshi Nakamura designed this Starbucks Concept Store at the top floor of Tokyu Plaza shopping centre. I’ve been to this store many times when I was in Tokyo not knowing it is one of the Concept Stores. It is definitely one of my favourite stores with lots of great memories… Spending time with friends, reading Japanese literature, summer evening chit chat, city view… This store has a wonderful outdoor area with lots of seating options and beautiful chairs. Harajuku is alway busy with tourists and shoppers, this Starbucks is a perfect getaway for some fresh air and relaxation. In the Summer the outdoor area occasionally does beer festival on the weekends in the evenings.

5. Kamakura Onari

Store Hours: 8am-9pm

Address: 248-0012 Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture Onari cho 15-11

Famous manga artist Ryuichi Yokoyama’s former residence. Starbucks re-designed the building a little bit, but was able to keep the pretty sakura trees, pool, and corridor Yokoyama once owned at the backyard for people to rest, enjoy the view, think about the manga they’ve read, while sipping some Starbucks. Kamakura is a historical town not too far from Tokyo. There are already lots to see within Kamakura, but be sure not to miss this gem!

6. Kobe Kitano Monogatari Museum

Store Hours: 8am-10pm

Address: 650-0002, Hyogo Prefecture, Chuo-ku, Kobe Kitano-cho 3-1-31 Kitano Monogatari Museum

I’ve been to Kobe twice and walked by this store twice… took a bunch of photos but did not get a chance to visit the store. Much regret for sure. The Kobe Monogatari Museum is considered a Japan cultural heritage site with it’s very western style architecture located at the famous part of Kobe where foreigners used to live. The museum was originally built in 1907 for an American family, and then later got purchased by a German bakery chef. Unfortunately, the entire building was torn down during the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Kobe city rebuild the famous site, and later partnered up with Starbucks to create such a unique, western-feel Concept Store that provides visitors a taste of the grand old days.

7. Kyoto Sanjo Ohashi

Store Hours: 8am-11pm

Address: 604-8004 Nakagyo-ku Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture Sanjodori Kawaramachi Higashi Nyuru Nakajima-cho 113 Omiya Building 1F

Located close to the Kamo river, the Sanjo Ohashi store is a perfect location for people to visit during the hot summer days where people can sip icy cold beverages at the outdoor area looking at all the fun summer activities provided and performed at the Kamo river. Perfect for summer breeze, and just enjoy the beautiful historical sites Kyoto provides to visitors.

8. Kyoto Karasuma Rokkaku

Store Hours: Monday-Friday 7am-10pm Saturday, Sunday, and Holidays 8am-10pm

Address: 604-8134 Nakagyo-ku Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture Rokkaku-dori, Higashibora-in, Nishiiri Donomae cho 254

This Concept Store is located at a business building. What makes it special? The glasses provides the best view to see through one of the many famous historical sites in Kyoto called “Rokkaku-dou.” The store can be seen as a clash between the old and the new. Fancy tall business building surrounds and stands right next to the traditional buildings at the old capital.

9. Fukuoka Dazaifu

Store Hours: 8am-8pm

Address: 818 – 0117 Fukuoka ken Dazaifu-shi Saifu 3 – 2 – 43

The moment I saw the image of this store at Starbucks’ website I knew I have to be there. I was very lucky to finally visit this store in April 2015 with my mom and grandma. (yes, it is this one!!!) The store is rather small, and full of people. It was actually quite difficult to find a place to sit and enjoy the beautiful architecture designed by famous Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. This is another environmental friendly store using lots of wood and recycled products to make the furnitures. A touch of zen, a perfect combination between nature and strength, and a very nice and quiet little shop hidden on the side of busy street leading to Dazaifu. I am so satisfied I got to see this place. Bucket list checked off.

10. Izumo Taisha

Store Hours: 8:30am-6:30pm

Address: 699 – 0711 Shimane ken Izumo-shi Taisha-chō Kidzukiminami 841

This Concept Store is very different compared to the rest of the concept stores in Japan. It was designed similar to the old Edo period housings. A very classic Japanese style building using lots of Japanese element. The way of wafu. This is the next concept store on my list to visit if I get to visit a different part of Japan sometime in the near future.

11. Meguro

Store Hours: Monday-Friday 7am-10pm Saturday, Sunday, and Holidays 8am-9pm

Address: 141 – 0021 Tōkyōto Shinagawa-ku Kamiōsaki 2 – 25 – 2 shin Meguro Tōkyū biru

Located at a pretty high end neighborhood in Tokyo, it is actually kind of difficult to discover the Meguro Starbucks because it is hidden inside a business building. I got to visit this pretty Starbucks store my last week in Tokyo. Since it is located in Tokyo city I figured I should go check it out not leaving regrets! I went during the cherry blossom promotion, so as you can see, the store was decorated with cherry blossom branches – lovely and romantic for girls, and for everyone! Starbucks lover can also purchased limited Meguro edition mugs only at this store. I kind of regret I didn’t purchase it… though my luggage were all close to explosion by the time I left Japan :O Maybe next time!

12. Omotesando B-Side

Store Hours: 8am-10pm

Address: 150 – 0001 Tōkyōto Shibuya-ku Jingūmae 5 – 11 – 2 B – SIDE

Accidentally passed by this store walking with A. around Harajuku one winter night. We actually commented about the unusual appearance of this store, but again, did not bother to walk in because neither of us knew it was one of the Concept Stores… The store is designed by trendsetter Hiroshi Fujiwara. His idea was to create a hidden oasis at Aoyama for art lover and trendy people to enjoy coffee. According to website, even the menus were hand drawn and written – definitely a unique and perfect Starbucks for art lover. To my memory the store kind of looked hip-hop-ish, trendy, and more like an urban coffee shop. Anyways, not a typical Starbucks store for sure. B-Side is located fairly close to the Tokyu Plaza Starbucks Concept Store, only a few streets away within manageable walk distance. If you are a fan of Starbucks Japan Concept Store, you can easily check off those 2 on the list in one trip 😉

13. Ginza Maronie-Dori

Store Hours: 7am-10:30pm

Address: 104 – 0061 Tōkyōto Chūō-ku Ginza 3 – 7 – 3 Ginza ōmibiru 1 F

I know… This store doesn’t look as special or unique as the other Starbucks Japan Concept Store. However, what makes the Ginza store special is… want to take a guess? Yes, this is the very first Starbucks store that opened in Japan in October 1995. Because this is the first store, Ginza Starbucks also holds occasion art exhibition, coffee talk and research, live music, and art discussion. Pretty cool eh?

http://www.starbucks.co.jp/store/concept/

Whew, quite a list huh? 🙂 Now that I’ve given you a bit of information on the 13 Starbucks Concept Stores in Japan, which one do you want to visit the most? Which one do you think is the prettiest?

So far I’ve walked passed 3 stores, and properly visited 3 stores. Still a long way to go to complete my list, but hey… dream big and make it happen right? It’s going to happen… because lately I’ve been missing Japan terribly.

Travel often, and enjoy Starbucks (stores, and maybe coffee 😉 )

Thirsty for coffee Thursday? Cheers!

k. 😛

*Photos from Google Image, and instagrammer klisbeth831 (follow her!)

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