A Starbucks in Kyoto’s Higashiyama district has been making headlines lately. But the attention is not because the famous coffee place has been defacing a historic landmark, but rather because it looks very much in place as a historic structure. The beautiful Starbucks does not look like the typical Starbucks, and you wouldn’t even know it was a coffee shop if not for the trademark green mermaid on the front.
The popular coffee shop is run out of 100-year old wooden townhouse. A traditional noren, or Japanese curtain divider, hangs in the entryway. The structure was renovated for modern convenience but it still holds many of its traditional facets. The shop also reflects the area’s heritage and the local culture and scenery. The interior of the coffee shop is also unique. In three of the rooms, customers can take off their shoes and sit on a traditional straw mats called tatami, with cushions made with Kyoto’s signature fabric. The ground floor also features traditional Japanese gardens with ritual stone washbasins called tsukubai.
“As this store is in an area of great cultural significance, we feel a responsibility to be the stewards of the building’s traditional architecture and ensure that it remains an integral part of its historic neighborhood for many years to come,” said Takafumi Minaguchi, the CEO of Starbucks Coffee Japan. The cultural beauty of the coffee shop has many calling it the most beautiful branch of the international franchise. The branch has been open for less than two months but has been popular on the internet and on social media sites.