A rainy day is the perfect time to relax in a cafe. A rainy day in Kyoto, is the perfect time to hide away in a tea house. When you are far from home, there is a place that is familiar, while providing a unique Kyoto experience. Come step into the time machine that is Starbucks Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya.
Starbucks Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya
Starbucks Ninenzaka manages to pull off some incredible feats. First and foremost the shop really blends into the area. Unlike in most cities, where a Starbucks could pop up with its heavy branding, in the middle of an elementary school, they kept it classy here. Lines are not even allowed to form outside the shop. On my visit, there was a man who would stop people from lining up or trying to sneak in. He even went so far as to lock the door when the place was reasonably full (there were quite a few unhappy tourists.)
Starbucks Ninenzaka had a very streamlined process once inside. I was directed by a woman in a headset to the ordering area. It was a beautiful room. After ordering we were directed down the hall to the barista area pictured above. After getting our drinks, the headset woman reappeared, asked us to take off our shoes, and then said some words into her mic as she sent us upstairs.
The amazing view from my seat
Once upstairs you could see the busy and ancient street below. The rooms were all wonderfully designed and had a great feel. Even the garbage and utensil area was immaculate. There were groups sitting on tatami mats, one group in a private room meditating, and even a family sharing a warm moment together in another private room. While the staff called this area full, It was nothing like any full Starbucks I had been to before. I was able to easily find a spot and enjoy some coffee with my girlfriend. Lost in another time we enjoyed ourselves with no interruptions or intrusions from guests or staff. I was never able to find out who the headset woman was talking to.
Instagram style pictures still work in this time machine
Starbucks Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya while being an amazing spot, is still Starbucks. Everything you like or dislike about the coffee is the same. I will say that the staff was very dutiful in their drink prep, and the ambiance made it the best cup of Starbucks I’ve had in my life.
After my trip through the Starbucks time machine was complete, it revealed the real star of the show…
Higashiyama District, Ninenzaka & Sannenzaka
what year is it?!
Walking Ninenzaka & Sannenzaka , in the rain, at dusk is probably my fondest memory of my trip to Kyoto, and perhaps, my stay in Japan so far. When I think of my imaginary version Japan, this is what comes to mind. Stuck between some of biggest and oldest temples in Kyoto, this area has been preserved as a way to remember the past. It seems that while the past is persevered in form, the area’s soul is modern. Artisans from every walk of life are creating an exciting and new future alongside the memories of the past.
I will leave some pictures below for you to get the vibe. In all these, I try to avoid showing the finer details and places, as I think this area is something to be experienced in person.