Lonely Planet Writer

Starbucks opens new branch inside a beautiful 100-year-old Japanese teahouse

A new Starbucks has opened in Kyoto, Japan, and it’s the first one with traditional tea-house tatami-matted rooms. The coffee shop is housed in Nineizaka Yasaka Tea House, a historic two-storey Japanese house in Higashiyama, which is one of the most historic and well-preserved districts in the city.

Kyoto's new Starbucks branch is set in Kyoto Nineizaka Yasaka Tea House store. image: Christopher Jue/Getty Images
Kyoto’s new Starbucks branch is set in Kyoto Nineizaka Yasaka Tea House store. image: Christopher Jue/Getty Images

The new Starbucks blends in with the rest of the classically-designed temples and shops surrounding it, and it fuses the chain’s globally-recognised trademarks with traditional Japanese touches. There is no big corporate Starbucks sign outside, but the logo can be found on the teahouse’s traditional noren entrance door curtains. The walls are decorated with hanging scrolls made from locally-made kimono fabric, and they have Starbucks-themed prints on them.

Kyoto's new Starbucks branch is set in Kyoto Nineizaka Yasaka Tea House store. image: Christopher Jue/Getty Images
Kyoto’s new Starbucks branch is set in Kyoto Nineizaka Yasaka Tea House store. image: Christopher Jue/Getty Images

While there are some benches, tables and chairs for customers who want them, there are also three tatami-matted rooms, where customers must remove their footwear and sit on silk cushions on the floor.

Kyoto's new Starbucks branch is set in Kyoto Nineizaka Yasaka Tea House store. image: Christopher Jue/Getty Images
Kyoto’s new Starbucks branch is set in Kyoto Nineizaka Yasaka Tea House store. image: Christopher Jue/Getty Images

In what is probably something you don’t see too often in Starbucks, the teahouse has three tranquil Japanese gardens attached for customers’ use. They come complete with bamboo walls, concrete and grass, and stone water basins known as tsukubai.

Kyoto's new Starbucks branch is set in Kyoto Nineizaka Yasaka Tea House store. image: Christopher Jue/Getty Images
Kyoto’s new Starbucks branch is set in Kyoto Nineizaka Yasaka Tea House store. image: Christopher Jue/Getty Images

As the coffee shop is located in an area of great cultural significance, the company says it felt a responsibility to be the stewards of the building’s traditional architecture. It wants to ensure that it remains an integral part of its historic neighbourhood, so lines are not allowed to form outside out of respect for the locals and the area.