Starbucks is ubiquitous in the developed world. Wherever you go, you’ll more likely than not find a Starbucks to sell you coffee and treats for a nominal fee. There was some cheering and grumbling when a new Starbucks opened in Kawagoe’s historical district, steps away from a historic bell tower. Many were upset about corporate intrusion, while other applauded the company for making a non-intrusive store that blended in. I had an opportunity to check it out an a sleepy Friday morning, and here’s what I had to see.
First of all, many places in Japan open late and close early. The Japanese are not a “going out” type of morning people. They are up early and moving to get to their jobs, mostly, because many of their commutes are pretty long. As such, you won’t find much open before 10 AM. The cycle seems to be this: A few places open at 8 AM if they’re in a station and they have food, with the rest of them opening at 9 or 10 AM. So, if you’re up at 6 AM and need your coffee, your best bet is a vending machine.
That being said, we arrived at the Starbucks around 8:30 AM. This would be hectic, full, and boisterous for any Starbucks in America, but in sleepy Coedo, we were the third and fourth customers respectively. It was quiet and calm, with only a couple of people trickling in after us to read quietly or surf the web on their phones.
First, if you weren’t paying attention, you would probably walk right by this place and be none the wiser of its existence. The architecture mimics that of the surrounding warehouses, complete with tiered, tiled roof and wooden frame. The branding and signage are tastefully done, in my opinion. If there must be a Starbucks, it’s super nice knowing that they went through so much effort to make it fit with the neighborhood.
On that front, there’s more Japanese goodness inside! They have a small seating area to the left of the entrance that is outside, where you can sit and enjoy a bit of greenery at individual tables. The store feels very open, with its raised roof allowing for peeking light to shimmer in through the slats between the roof and the structure. In the back is the main highlight: the Japanese garden.
They’ve set up a bit of a zen garden in the back, complete with cinder and regular seating for customers to enjoy the natural garden. There’s a small stream running through a bamboo pipe, rock walkways, and iconic mosses and bonsai trees to round it out. While you can’t actually enter the garden, they do partition it off with some authentic-looking bamboo barricades.
As for the offerings, it’s typical Starbucks fare. Whatever you can get at other Starbucks, you can get here. There’s really no special menu items. If you just want to relax with your favorite branded drink in a Japanese setting, this place is definitely worth checking out!