Starbucks may well have coffee shops in around sixty countries and regions worldwide but other than North America, Japan is the first to reach 1,000 branches. Despite being seen initially as a more luxury and stylish coffee shop in Japan, now the chain is about to challenge Doutor, which has around 1,100 outlets.
Sometimes the situation is getting ridiculous. There are almost half a dozen Starbucks within a few minutes’ walk of each other in the Omotesando/Minami-Aoyama/Kotto-dori area.
The first Japanese branch opened seventeen years ago and the chain is present in almost every prefecture in the country.
Starbucks also likes to indulge in specially designed and localized coffee shops, such as the one in Ueno Park, the Kuma Kengo-designed branch in Fukuoka, or the popular outlet on Sanjo in Kyoto with a terrace that overlooks the Kamogawa river.
The Starbucks Coffee Japan headquarters recently moved to Meguro in March and has also opened a new “concept store” on the ground floor to celebrate.
Drawing inspiration from traditional Japanese architecture and gardens, the drink counter and other elements of the store feel more like a chashitsu tearoom than an American coffee shop. Check out the wooden walls, the Japanese plants and the paintings with their distinctly “Oriental” air. There are also screens like shoji sliding doors and other partitions that recall Japanese spatial design.
Any branch of Starbucks will feature a line-up of mugs and thermos flasks for sale. The new Meguro store, though, sells Japanese ceramics-inspired mugs for when you want a splash of wa in your latte.
We also love how a third of the branch’s sixty-nine seats are designed for solo customers — perfect for metropolitan people who like to visit Starbucks to get some work done rather than chat with a friend.
It opened on May 11th a few minutes from Meguro Station and has been packed ever since.
The Meguro area is actually full of traditional crafts and design shops, so this is a very appropriate move by Starbucks. Meguro is also the home to the Japan Folk Crafts Museum, which is no stranger to modern chic either. In 2012 it appointed top designer Naoto Fukasawa to be its head.
As we’ve mentioned previously on JapanTrends, the Tokyu Toyoko line has recently merged with the underground Fukutoshin subway line at Shibuya Station. The merge has made the commute from outside of the city faster, and the Fukutoshin a little more useful. It’s also left a pretty hefty space left wide open in Shibuya station.
Whether you live in Tokyo, or not, it’s safe to say you know what a crowded city it is. There are literally millions of people in the streets at all times. Shops, restaurants, vending machines and train stations occupy every tiny space. If you want to get really particular, there are even all of the above within the train stations. Finding space for a new shop in Tokyo can be a pretty tough job.
So, in the spirit of no space wasted, UNIQLO has opened a pop-up t-shirt shop called UNIQLO UT POP-UP! TYO on the Toyoko platform. Literally on the platform.
While you’re sifting through hundreds of t-shirt designs, if you take a moment to look down, you’ll notice that the tracks are right below your feet. Or that you’re walking along the yellow line you’ve been so conditioned to stay behind.
The shop has more than 1,000 varieties of UNIQLO t-shirts, and boasts an inventory of over 12,000 garments on hand for sale. Given that this is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for a shop like this to exist, UNIQLO is launching 100 new designs while the shop is open.
UNIQLO actually has a history with train stations, having for a few years now already been operating mini branches (more pop-in than pop-up) inside the ticket barriers of major terminals, including JR Shibuya. This is also not the first store dedicated to its UT (UNIQLO T-shirts) line either, though it is the biggest.
The Toyoko Station pop-up is only open until April 7, so get down there and see it for yourself. And, you can get a t-shirt too!
Shinto, the native Japanese (quasi-?)religion, has never been averse to merchantile environs. Major corporations have their own shrines (jinja) and department stores may often have one on their roofs. No Jesus cleansing the traders out of the temple in this religion, that’s for sure.
Until Valentine’s Day, Tokyu Hands Hakata (Fukuoka) is also showing no qualms about bringing a jinja into the “den of thieves”.
In the store visitors will find a torii gate like the kind you pass through at the entrance to a Shinto shrine. The heart-themed design of the fake shrine is a copy of the actual Koinoki Jinja, the shrine for lovers located elsewhere in Fukuoka prefecture.
At the “shrine” you can buy a love fortune (omikuji) for ¥100, write a message and then post it on the heart-shaped board. At the end of the promotion, all the “offerings” will be collected and taken to the real Koinoki Jinja.
The same area of the store has also been holding chocolate-making workshops for those girls who want to give something unique on February 14th (in Japan, the women give the men something on Valentine’s Day, and then the men return the favor on March 14th).
Other than Koinoki Jinja, shrines famed as places to acquire fortune in romance include Kuzuryu Shrine, near Mt. Fuji, and Kasuga Taisha in Nara. Tokyoites can console their lonely hearts by heading to Imado Jinja in Asakusa or Tokyo Daijingu in Iidabashi.
Apple is proving that despite being a foreign brand in Japan, it takes its local customers very seriously.
The manufacturer’s legions of Japanese fans can get their hands on Apple Lucky Bags on January 2nd, available at the seven Apple stores in the country for one day only.
Lucky Bags (Fukubukuro) are a stable of Japanese New Year traditions and are often a fun way to get a great deal.
While it might not be a new iPhone release, we still anticipate that there will be long lines from the early hours, filled mostly with guys, no doubt, hungry to land whatever goodies are inside the lucky bags.
There were long queues braving the cold at the Ginza and Shibuya stores last year when Apple did the same thing.
Could it be an iPad? A MacBook?
For ¥33,000 (about $390) you could get a real bargain — or it might just be a load of cables.
Still, there is apparently at least one guy already waiting…
Lawson, Japan’s second biggest convenience store, has a good knack of adapting itself to fit its surroundings, a kind of chameleon chain.
We noticed one great example of this recently.
Hikarie, the swanky shopping plaza that opened this spring in Shibuya, is not above offering its patrons the delights of the super cheap products you can browse in a conbini. But the store itself on the eleventh floor of the complex still has to fit in with the rest of the decor.
Lawson did this par excellence here, adding Swarovski Crystal-style glittering diamonds to create a “gorgeous” luxury-looking branch that Hikarie’s largely female shoppers will love snapping shots of with their iPhones.
Saying that, it also slightly resembles a starry night sky — ironically, since, Hikarie is owned by Tokyu, which also operates the popular planetarium in Shibuya that you can see from the windows of the new shopping mall.
We also like the designer Lawson on Inokashira-dori, near the plush Yoyogi Uehara neighborhood, which is on the ground floor of a fancy condo and thus has spruced itself up to fit in — even emitting gentle blue lights that seem to hum in the night like an illumination show.