During the new year holiday, I visited the town of Dazaifu which is about 30 min by train outside of Fukuoka City. On my way to the famous Tenman-gu Shrine for the new year prayer, I stumbled upon a brand new Starbucks coffee shop.
The pedestrian road leading to Tenman-gu was busy and they were plenty of shops offering the usual touristy souvenirs and Japanese snacks.
The busy shrine.
Seeing a Starbucks in this traditional setting came as a surprise, but the design was so far out and original that I just stood for a while looking at it. I often drink Starbucks, at least when I can’t find other options, so I am well accustom to their formulaic design.
The cafe was actually designed by Kengo Kuma, a Japanese architect with a reputation for designing modern buildings with a traditional Japanese architecture flair.
The wooden structure which comes out of the front window looks like a modernistic skeleton supporting this minimalist space.
The use of unpainted timber seem to be popular lately, I noticed that a brand new elementary school where I work is simply decorated with hundreds of pieces of timber.
Timber are a definite reminder of traditional Japanese carpentry.
There is also a small bamboo garden in the entrance which reminds us of Japanese nature.
This uncommon building aesthetic is almost an excuse for the infringement of this traditional Japanese area by the corporate giant. They might be peddling coffee, but they are doing it in a mighty classy building.
The irony of it all is that I had just finished drinking a big cup of Starbucks coffee which I had bought before boarding the train and I actually didn’t buy anything…