Starbucks Kyoto Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya
☕ Tatami Coffee Time
Starbucks Kyoto Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya is the American brand’s 1rst coffee shop established in an authentic traditional Japanese house, located in Ninenzaka street in Higashiyama, in the east of Kyoto. Tourists flock here to enjoy a latte while comfortably sitting on cushions laid on the tatami mat flooring.
The famous American mermaid brand opened its 1rst cafe in a traditional Japanese building in 2017. The former imperial capital is indeed the ideal place to try a new coffee shop concept associating Japan’s regional heritage with international consumption trends. Starbucks has been deeply rooted in the archipelago since the 1990s and demonstrated perseverance to finally blend into the Japanese historical landscape.
The challenge was met successfully considering the city’s requirements for the renovation of its historical architecture. In the heart of the authentic Ninenzaka street that leads to the very touristic Kiyomizu-dera temple, Starbucks has settled in an over 100 years old sukiyaki-zukuri style residence build during the Taisho Era (1912 - 1926). From outside, the brand’s logo is barely noticeable as the facade was designed with sobriety, in the same manner as the surrounding houses. No flashy green sign here and one must know the address to realize that this is the place one were looking for.
The Japanese experience of a traditional decor
The coffee shop’s decoration was thought in the same vein: elegant and minimalist, the very characteristics of Japanese interiors. Natural and noble materials are ubiquitous, such as wood and lime walls. Washi paper dims the light and the sudare bamboo shades filter sunlight in summer. Such arrangement creates a subdued atmosphere, and time seems suspended for a moment. The artworks and furniture displayed are mostly made by Kyoto’s artisans.
The upper floor of the house is intended for customer to sit and enjoy their order, which is to be made at the ground floor. There, 2 counters are available: one at the entrance for purchasing and a second one at the back to collect the order. In the same manner as town houses at the times, the long corridor is running throughout the space to a small inner garden that makes the wait more pleasant.
After collecting your order, take the narrow stairway to the upper floor to settle in one of the available spaces:
- At the front, 3 rooms on an elevated tatami floor. Take off your shoes and sit on one of the comfortable cushions and enjoy your latte while admiring the tokonoma decorative niches, with seasonal flower arrangements or hanging kakemono with motifs related to water and coffee making process;
- At the back, a more conventional area, with tables and chairs or armchairs. This space benefits from the window side of the building, with a diving view on the shopping street, the passersby and the traditional roof tiles of the surrounding buildings.
As for the menu, you will find the same drinks and snacks as in any standard Starbucks in Japan, at the same prices. Starbucks Kyoto Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya is mostly interesting for its authentic and refined setting that reminds of old-times Japan.
A touristic and popular address
The inner space and stairways are so narrow that customers must follow a defined path, with only one direction from the entrance to the exit. Unfortunately, the building is not equipped neither spacious to properly receive clients with reduced mobility. Likewise, suitcases or large bags are not allowed.
Note that it is forbidden to queue in the street at the entrance of the cafe; a waiting area is available inside but once it is full, no new customer is allowed. There are only about 50 seats available and it is highly recommended to avoid the touristic peaks times to try Ninenzaka’s Starbucks, that is to say:
For the best experience, we recommend going on a weekday, at the cafe’s opening time or in early evening when the neighboring touristic shops close and the night starts to fall 🍁.