Wooden Starbucks sign out in the front of the building.

Wooden Starbucks sign out in the front of the building.

Located a mere 10 minute walk away from Kiyomizu-dera, Starbucks Kyoto Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya mashes traditional Japanese style with international coffee shop sensation, Starbucks.

While it’s similar to most other coffee shops, there are a few things visitors should know before heading in to enjoy their refreshing cup of coffee. 

First, this location is liable to get crowded quickly. With limited seating and a small interior that doesn’t allow for much loitering, there’s a good chance that guests will have to wait outside. Ninenzaka, the street it’s on, is lined with shops to explore while waiting, but it’s a smart idea to bring an umbrella, fan and water to stay cool and hydrated during the warm summer months.

Once inside, guests will find a dimly lit interior with walkways wide enough for only one person. They have a dessert case stocked with seasonal treats, as well as a refrigerated section below with the usual items – bottles/boxes of water, fruit and other pre-packaged foods.

Before ordering, guests can ask employees at the counter for a “reserved table” sign to put on a table upstairs. This is definitely recommended, as the store gets crowded quickly and leaving a bag on a chair might not be enough to deter other guests from using a table.

Their menu is a bit smaller than Starbucks in the United States, but still offers plenty of variety for guests to choose from; it’s definitely worth checking out online ahead of time if you’re worried about being unable to get your usual drink! The same goes for their food items.

It should also be noted that their drinks are cheaper than their American version; a grande iced chai latte in Japan would run customers ¥500, or about $3.85 USD, but the same drink in America is about $5 USD. The Starbucks app is not accepted here.

After ordering drinks, guests will be directed down the hall to another room where drinks are made and given out. Floor-to-ceiling windows line the wall on the far end of the room and gives guests a view of a small rock garden complete with pagodas. A large table on the left side of the room has all of the sweeteners, stir sticks, napkins and other usual add-ins. Next to this table is a one-way staircase going up to the next floor.

Guests make their way up this tight corridor to find themselves a seat. The options include a slightly concealed room with tatami mat flooring, a raised platform lined with tatami mats, an alcove with more comfortable chairs to lounge in and a separate corner with window seats and a few sets of tables and chairs.

Japan is a quiet and respectful country, which usually makes it easy to hunker down in a café and get some work done. However, this Starbucks is primarily visited by tourists looking to admire its novelty, so trying to work in peace may be difficult. As mentioned earlier, this location is liable to get crowded quickly, and guests will start piling up in the upstairs lobby, so it’s polite to have a drink and a small chat before heading on your way.

Between the raised tatami mat platform and lounge chair alcove is the trash containers. This looks like most other Starbucks with openings for trash and napkins, stir-sticks and sweeteners.

It’s a bit different in Japan. Like most places in Japan, there are a few different trash cans with different purposes (i.e. food waste or paper waste), and there’s room to leave trays, different sized plates and the “reserved table” sign. 

Guests can make their way out via another one-way staircase to the left of the aforementioned trash cans. This leads them back to the front of the restaurant where they came in. They can shop for Starbucks mugs and cups, as per usual, admire a rock garden next to the front door or head back out to Ninenzaka street to continue their shopping. 

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