Starbucks Coffee is known worldwide for having stylish stores with a comfortable atmosphere. But in Kobe there is one store that is secretly rumored to perhaps be the most stylish of all. Being the Starbucks regular that I am, I made my way to Kobe to check it out.

The Starbucks in question is the Kobe Kitano Ijinkan Store, and is located in a beautiful, 19th century Western style building that is actually one of Japan’s Tangible Cultural Properties.

Heading North from Mitsunomia Station and making your way up Kitanozaka, you will find the store at the corner of a long row of similar Western-style buildings. It is painted the same white and dark green as the colors in the Starbucks logo. This makes it rather easy to recognize, and truly stands out against the surrounding buildings as a figure of unparalleled refinement.

The two-story wooden building was erected in 1907 for Americans residing in Kobe at the time and was originally called the “Kitano Monogatari-kan” (lit: Kitano Story House)

After being damaged in the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, the building was donated to the city of Kobe, which then dismantled it and preserved the materials. In 2001, it was relocated to its present location, reconstructed and then opened as a Starbucks in March, 2009.

As you enter the building it feels as though you’ve slipped back into the early 20th century. There are a total of 7 rooms including a lounge, dining room and guest room, all fully furnished with goods from that time.

After placing your order at the first floor bar, you can choose from a variety of rooms to enjoy your drink in. There’s a spacious lounge, a dining room complete with cupboards, and even a small study that feels just like your own private refuge.

The sun room is the most popular – especially with couples – and offers a space where you can relax and enjoy the outside scenery. Each room has its own charm and I had a hard time deciding which one to choose.

Despite the unique variety of places to sit, the menu of this Starbucks remains unchanged from that of a normal store.

Eventually, I became so relaxed while sipping my coffee and savoring the building’s atmosphere that I stayed much longer than I had originally intended. This is definitely the kind of store that makes you want to come back just for the ambiance.

Starbucks Coffee has set up a number of other ‘Concept Stores’ across the country. Perhaps there is a not-so-everyday Starbucks experience waiting near you!

Translation: Steven


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