Along with the iconic orange torii-tunnels of the Fushimi Inari Taisha, the picturesque Gion District, and the dozens of gorgeous temples, one of the hallmarks of Kyoto are its machiya, or townhouses. These buildings were traditionally the homes of merchants and artisans from the Heian period on, and their elegant simplicity is part of what gives Kyoto its charm.
Some of these traditional townhouses have been converted into hotels, but Starbucks has just opened its newest Japanese location in a Kyoto machiya, on Ninenzaka Street, not too far from Kiyomizu-dera. And from the pictures we’ve seen, it’s pretty gorgeous, from its noren (the traditional curtain that is hung in front of doorways) to its bar counter that reminds us of a paper and wood lantern.
There are 1,260 Starbucks shops in Japan (and now 27 in Kyoto), and the country is the fourth largest market in the world for the coffee purveyors. Given this country’s love of aesthetics, there are some pretty impressive Starbucks around Japan already – one of our favorites is this one in Fukuoka – but they’ve raised the bar this time.
In keeping with the traditional surroundings, this might be the only Starbucks that we know of where you have to take off your shoes, which is what you’ll do if you’re sitting in the tatami-floored rooms on the second floor of the cafe. The ground floor has a counter and three courtyards with gardens and tsukubai – traditional stone water basins.
This is not the first historic neighborhood opening in Kyoto for Starbucks. When they wanted to open a shop alongside the Kamogawa, they had to wait a few years before the neighborhood association would allow them in. Perhaps what’s most impressive about this new location is just how well it fits into its surroundings. We’re looking forward to our next trip to Kyoto even more now…
Main Image: Instagram user @smile_yorkie