Photo:idua_japan on Flickr

Japan vs. America: How Different are the Starbucks?

The famous coffee chain Starbucks was founded in 1971. As of June 2015, the company has 22,519 shops around the world. 1165 of those shops are in Japan (data collected from December 2015). Starbucks arrived in Japan in 1995, but quickly gained a great amount of popularity due to Japanese people's obsession with the magic bean drink. People call it shortly スタバ(sutaba) and make it the country’s largest coffee chain, due to the combination of energizing coffee, amazing designs and artwork in their stores, and excellent marketing skills.

Leonemoff on Flickr

The Shibuya scramble crossing also has one of the most famous Starbucks shops. It is located inside Tsutaya building, which itself is a massive paradise of music and movies. It is considered to be the world’s busiest Starbuck’s.

Ashley on Flickr
Marc Buehler on Flickr

Since the company was established in Seattle, WA, I decided to compare the original shop with the Shibuya one.

1. Busyness


Dick Thomas Johnson on Flickr

The Shibuya Scramble Starbucks shop has two counters: shop and take-out. That makes it less packed. Yet it is very hard to find a seat, so I recommend doing it prior to ordering coffee. Unlike many other coffee shops in Japan, the staff does not assist in reserving seats.


Liz Lawley on Flickr

In Seattle's Pike Place Market Starbucks, you will not find any seating, as it is a very small room.  This small original location is focused on selling coffee and merchandise which commemorates it being the original store.  And with so many Seattle visitors for that day being in line to say they went to the first Starbucks, you can expect to wait in a short line outside the door before there is room to get to the counter.

2. Menu Items


Ari Helminen on Flickr

Shibuya has a variety of drinks, including Japanese tea latte options. As most of Starbuck’s in Japan, there is a wider variety of teas than in America, there is also a seasonal limited time one. As for the food, the choices are not that much either. You can either get a small sweet snack such as a pastry or a box of little cookies.


Andy on Flickr
ljv on Flickr

In Seattle, menu options are a bit further limited, due to the focus of the store and its small size.  Many customers will want the commemorative mug or tumbler which features the original brown logo and branding.  This and some special commemorative bags of beans they have for sale pretty much prevents them from having space for food.

3. Other

Of course there is free Wi-Fi in the shops, and it’s pretty fast and very convenient. The Shibuya shop also offers all kinds of items, such as Japan/Tokyo/cherry blossom-themed (during the season) cups and tumblers. I haven’t seen a Starbuck’s geisha though!


shinji_w on Flickr

But most important, both shops do offer an amazing view? The Shibuya shop is just in front of the famous busy scramble crossing, and for the urban lover, a view like that can't be beat.  Even if the weather is not warm, there are always lots and lots of people crossing all ways. Vibrant. Exciting. Worth photographing.


jpellgen on Flickr

The Starbucks in Seattle's Pike Place market may not have a view with such a small location, although you'll exit out onto the market's pedestrian street amongst Seattle's busiest area too.  Get your coffee, take a sip next to one of the buskers by the front door, and then take just a few steps to look across the city skyline and the beautiful Elliott Bay.

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