Starbucks’ adaptation to foreign cultures reaches Kyoto, Japan

Recently, Starbucks announced their intention to open a store in Japan’s ancient capital, Kyoto, that has tatami mats and other local adaptations. Having recently visited Kyoto, CoffeeMan1 wondered about how the chain’s iconic colors and modern design would fit into such a lovely historic city.

Koffee Kompanions has long understood the special draw of Japanese culture and design. That's why we make an insulated French press cover with Asian garden fabric and a Tea Tabard tea cozy from Asian flowers.  

Starbucks has been in Japan for some years now and has made an effort to adapt their menus to Japanese tastes, but many of the stores in Tokushima, Tokyo, or Osaka have the same basic design as those in the United States. For Kyoto, though, CEO Howard Schultz understood the need to adapt their design to the city’s blend of modern and historic impulses.

Starbucks Coffee Japan said the shop will use a two-story Japanese home that was built more than 100 years ago near the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kiyomizu temple. The second floor will feature three rooms with tatami, or straw matting, traditionally used as a floor covering in Japanese homes.

The shop will face Ninenzaka, one of the popular streets leading from Kiyomizu temple to Kodaiji temple, which is lined with traditional shops. That location has led Starbucks to say they won’t allow people to form lines in front of the shop and will also restrict the number of customers during peak hours to avoid disrupting the quiet atmosphere in the area.

A maxim for business, even small businesses like Koffee Kompanions, is adapting designs to customers’ needs or interests. That’s why we’ve added to our products a Kup Kap insulated cup lid with Asian flowers and cherry blossoms, as well as Japanese games and cherry blossom Kup Kollar drink sleeves.

The reactions to Starbucks’ plans for Kyoto have been mixed, with some commenters considering the idea “cool” and others thinking of it as a “desperate attempt to be relevant.” But the $14-billion international corporation’s interest in adapting to foreign cultures isn’t new. As an example, we’ll talk about their local touches in India and partnership with Indian coffee roaster Tata Global Beverages in a future blog post, so stay tuned.

Perry LuckettComment