Two New Starbucks to Open at Historic Sites in Japan

Itsukushima Shrine

Two new Starbucks branches are set to open at Miyajima’s famous floating ‘torii’ shrine gate and Dogo Onsen, the bath house that inspired Spirited Away.

Japan is already home to several Starbucks coffee shops housed in interesting and unusual buildings, including the “world’s most beautiful Starbucks”, an outlet on the canal banks in Toyama Kansui Park which scooped first prize at the 2008 Store Design Awards. Now there’s set to be even more competition among Starbucks shops at coveted locations around Japan, with the opening of two new stores at two of Japan’s top tourist spots.
 

Starbucks Itsukushijima Omotesando

Miyajima Starbucks

Starbucks Itsukushijima Omotesando will open on Miyajima Island in Hiroshima, known for its giant ‘floating’ torii shrine gate, on Wednesday 22nd November. Since the 30 km sq island’s only link to the mainland is by ferry rather than bridge, it will be the first Starbucks outlet in Japan that is accessed by boat.

The new store will be located in the Omotesando shopping arcade leading to Itsukushijima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the home of the celebrated ‘floating’ shrine gate. Starbucks customers will be able to admire sweeping views of the shrine gate set against the backdrop of the Seto Inland Sea from the shop’s glass-walled upstairs.

The coffee shop will share its premises with a brewery restaurant, complete with in-house brewing facilities, by Miyajima Brewery. The brewery is one of Hiroshima’s foremost craft beer companies and was founded on Miyajima.

Miyajima Starbucks

The new shop’s interior design will be based on the concept of “passion brewery”, encapsulating both Starbucks’ and Miyajima Brewery’s shared vision of passion for their respective brewed beverages as well as the local area of Miyajima.

Downstairs, baristas will enthusiastically prepare drinks from behind a wood-panelled and -topped counter occupying a bright and welcoming space. Meanwhile, the upstairs will house the customer seating, with room for forty coffee-lovers at a time in a spacious, open-plan area with specially designed flooring.
 
The bespoke flooring will feature an original design incorporating the Starbucks siren’s scales and ‘shamoji’ - traditional wooden rice scoops which are a local craft product of Miyajima -  and is designed to represent passion for coffee as well as connections to the local area. 
 
Miyajima Starbucks
 
Miyajima is known as one of Japan’s three best views, along with Amanohashidate sandbar in Kyoto and the pine-tree clad islands of Matsushima Bay in Miyagi Prefecture. Eat-in customers at the new Miyajima Starbucks will be able to take their beverages upstairs and enjoy them while basking in the famous ocean views from a choice of indoor or outdoor seating locations.

Customers will be able to sip their beverages while admiring fantastic views of Itsukushima Shrine’s giant torii against the ever-changing backdrop of the Seto Inland Sea from the shop’s glass-walled interior. Alternatively, they’ll be able to go al fresco, soaking up views of the boundless ocean scenery from a large balcony on the seaward side of the building.

 

Miyajima Starbucks

Visit Miyajima, aka ‘Shrine Island’

Itsukushima Shrine Gate ©Hiroshima Prefecture

Itsukushima Island is a small island in Hiroshima Bay, about an hour’s travel from the centre of Hiroshima, that is most famous for UNESCO-listed Itsukushima Shrine and its giant ‘floating’ torii shrine gate. In fact, the island’s identity is so closely linked to Itsukushima Shrine that it is more commonly known as Miyajima, which literally means ‘shrine island’. 

Itsukushima Shrine’s bright orange shrine buildings are suspended over water on wooden boardwalks and pillars going down into the sea - much like a British amusement pier - while the giant torii gate rises up majestically a couple of hundred metres away out in the bay. 

There are a few different ways to enjoy the iconic sight of the torii gate standing proudly out in the bay. At high tide, visitors can follow the paths around the inlet and enjoy the views out to sea. Alternatively, short boat cruises whisk passengers around the bay and sometimes through the torii gate itself. At low tide, the tide goes out completely, and it is possible to walk out across the mud and admire the gate from up close - don’t forget your wellies! 

Miyajima Fireworks Festival

However, by far the best and most romantic way to enjoy Miyajima is to stay overnight on the island in one of its ryokan (traditional inns). The crowds of daytrippers vanish with the last ferry back to the mainland, leaving overnight guests to commune with the island’s permanent population of humans, monkeys, and semi-wild deer. After sunset, the shrine buildings and torii gate are lit up until 11pm, providing yet another option for enjoying the famous scenery. 

Miyajima’s highest peak, 500 metre tall Mt Misen, has been worshipped by local people since as long ago as the 6th century. Visitors with time to spare can follow one of the island’s hiking trails up to the summit, passing sights such as the Tahoto pagoda, several scenic lookout points, clusters of cherry trees in spring, and autumn foliage-filled Momijidani (Autumn Leaf Valley) in autumn.

 

Pagodas on Miyajima Island Credit Colin Sinclair

 

Starbucks Dogo Onsen Station Building

Dogo Onsen Starbucks
 
Hot on the heels of the new Miyajima outlet, Starbucks is set to open another new store at Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama, Ehime, on Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, on Friday 22nd December. Said to be the oldest onsen (hot spring) in Japan, Dogo Onsen’s charming, rustic public bathhouse is said to have inspired the bathhouse in the Studio Ghibli anime film Spirited Away.
 
The new Starbucks will take up residence inside the former station building of Dogo Onsen Station in Matsuyama, Ehime. Beloved of locals and tourists alike, the Meiji period (1868-1912) western-style building is a two-storey wooden replica of the original station building - first built in 1911 and rebuilt and restored in 1986 - that oozes authentic, old-world retro charm. The new Starbucks will preserve many of the building’s Meiji period features so that customers can continue to enjoy the old-time atmosphere of the building.
 
Dogo Onsen Starbucks

Based on the design concept of “Line to Coffee Travel”, the new outlet aims to offer a relaxing space that invites customers to embark on a journey into the worlds of coffee and rail travel. 

Downstairs, baristas will whip up a never-ending stream of lattes and macchiatos from behind a bar counter made of repurposed railway sleepers. Behind the bustling baristas there will be a glass window enabling customers to enjoy the nostalgic sight of trains coming and going as well as the reinvigorating smell of coffee while they wait for their drinks. 
 
The upstairs will house two seating areas - one with sofas and one with tables - and will be a continuation of the journey from downstairs, with interior design based on the keywords of ‘coffee’ and ‘railways’, including passport-themed artwork and furniture made from repurposed railway sleepers and rails. The store will have seating for 53 people (45 seats inside and 8 terrace seats). 

 

Dogo Onsen Starbucks

Visit Dogo Onsen

 Dogo Onsen
 
One of Japan's oldest and most famous hot spring towns, Dogo Onsen’s beautiful bathhouse and many ryokan (traditional inns) have long been patronised by domestic travellers seeking rest and relaxation - including Japan’s most prestigious guests, the Imperial Family.

The main attraction in the town is Dogo Onsen Honkan, a wooden public bathhouse dating from 1894. The inside of the bathhouse is a labyrinth of winding and interconnecting corridors, stairways, passages and rooms that bustle and teem with bathhouse staff and bathers during opening hours. This lively, bustling backdrop is said to have served as the inspiration for the bath house in Studio Ghibli’s immensely popular animated film Spirited Away.
 
Dogo Onsen Honkan
 
Another bath house, Asuka no Yu, a tasteful homage to the Honkan built in 2017 stands a couple of minutes walk away. At night, overnight guests staying at Matsuyama’s many ryokan (traditional inns) often venture out for an evening stroll clad in yukata (cotton kimono), only adding to the town’s charming, rustic atmosphere.
 
Matsuyama is also home to several other attractions, making it an ideal overnight stop on a tour of central Japan. These include a busy shopping arcade, Dogo Park, Botchan Karakuri Clock - a musical mechanical clock that chimes on the hour - and several interesting shrines and temples, such as Ishiteji Temple, which has a three-storied pagoda and a hidden cave.
 
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