Aomori’s beautiful WWI-era Starbucks revamped with local artisans

Translation by Satsuki Uno

Starbucks has its own characteristic, if not inert, atmosphere and design, making more people feel welcome. But due to its Seattle, Washington roots, the company has been looking for ways to tap deeper into Japanese neighborhoods, and has been erecting unique cafes in historic buildings.

The Starbucks Hirosaki Koen-mae Cafe in Aomori Prefecture not only preserves the detailed, historical artistry of the building, but taps into local artists and local craftsmen in its renovation.

Retro vibe with a cup of coffee

565911870242816057656062425169925701241594183680

Hirosaki Koen-mae’s Starbucks is characterized by the Taisho Era’s transitional design, with the mixture of traditional shoji screen windows and Western architectural design from the early 20th century, and became recognized as a Tangible Cultural Property (yukei bunkazai) in 2003. It was formerly known as Daihachi Shidanchou-kan, and was built as a Japanese military commander’s residence.

513829164076236857495633317068805759409141579776

Unlike the normal open-spaced layout of a conventional Starbucks, the Hirosaki Koen-mae shop kept the separated rooms with open-doors to maintain the quality of the original building. Interior lamps and furnitures are made from local Tsugaru artisans, while Bunaco lamp and chairs are hand-crafted from the buna trees grown in the woods of Shirakami Sanchi, a renowned UNESCO Natural Heritage spot in Japan. Embroidered sofa cushions from traditional Tsugaru Koginzashi intermix with modern furnishings. 

5762529972191232

Once the sun sets, the warm tones of the building match with the scenic nature of Aomori.

Hirosaki city in Aomori is a favorite spot for locals, but isn’t a typical tourist destination. In area where people lined up when a new 7-eleven opened, the Starbucks is anything but generic.

Licensed material used with permission bycafe.to.zakka, goma_ponne, oan.nao, tsuru_xoxo, neko_meshi31, misamu2, aporock, vii_y111___, k5acu
JAPAN LOCAL's guide to Shibuya, Tokyo
On the surface Shibuya is a neon-bathed urban hub, with swarms of high-schoolers and business people flocking to mega department stores, multi-stor...
Spring Valley Brewery's craft beers and food are fitting for Kyoto, the Old Capital's Kitchen
Kyoto’s Nishiki Market, fondly known as the Old Capital’s kitchen, is a highly popular spot for eating and walking, known for the quality of its fo...
Book Lab Tokyo cafe provides a recharge, refuge from the mayhem at Shibuya scramble
There’s no shortage of shops or cafes in the heart of Shibuya, but one surprisingly difficult commodity to find is a reprieve—a quiet, comfortable ...
For the best seafood when traveling, head to the local fish market
In Nichinan city of Miyazaki Prefecture--famous for its pole-caught katsuo (bonito)--there are any number of spots where you can find great seafood...
Tech meets tradition: Revitalizing a community with Nara’s Yoshino Cedar House
“Technology × Tradition.”  While it’s an oft-explored concept, the collaboration of “Airbnb × Yoshino Cedar” aspires not to merely pique interest, ...
Budget souvenirs that don't suck at Shibuya's Maruara
Plastic katanas—the Japanese canary in the coal mine for kitsch souvenir shops.For years I’d walk down Inokashira street, one of the arteries of Sh...
Obi, a castle town where tradition, modernity and art meet
Standing at the batter’s box overlooking the field, I see stone walls of an old feudal-era castle on the other side, along with a historic-looking ...
Cafe Subaco embodies the chill Okinawan life.
I dreamed of working remotely from here.Cafe Subaco is at top of the hill of Kitanakaguson, a small town known for its residences resembling someth...
Forget coin lockers: Store luggage in a cafe while sightseeing in Japan with ecbo cloak
There's nothing more stressful than going sightseeing with a giant piece of luggage in hand.It's slightly more tolerable when you're in an area tha...
5 seaside stations worth visiting in Japan (part 2)
Travel enthusiasts usually have their niche, and for Taku Muramatsu, he’s passionate about train stations--in particular, only those by the ocean. ...
Take Eat Easy. Diner with local Miyazaki flair
There's a bar in Obi, the heart of Nichinan city in Miyazaki prefecture where people involved in regional and traditional housing revitalization pr...
Kurousagi's goya chanpuru challenges Okinawan fast food culture
Following the Second World War, Western-influence into Okinawan food is undeniable. According to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, "U.S food p...
8 stunning mirror-like water destinations in Japan
Japan’s photogenic spots typically are more characterized by compact spaces than vast expanses, whether it’s capturing the neon city lights of Kabu...
Tokyo gift shop showcases unique local goods from all 47 Japanese prefectures
Even if you’ve been to mega malls around the world, the scope and number of department complexes in Shibuya, Tokyo is staggering—you have the two T...
Finding a cool hangout cafe in the most unexpected of places in Okinawa
Chatan is a town that sounds almost as alien to the ears of Japanese as it is to foreigners, since the “cha” and “tan” come from irregular pronunci...
Campy signs you may encounter when you visit Iwate in Japan
According to the Japan Tourism Agency, Japan has reached 20 million oversea visitors in 2017, and we’re two years away from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics...
5 delicious sweets made from Kanoya’s acclaimed Beni Haruka sweet potatoes
Kagoshima Prefecture, located at the southern-most tip of Kyushu, ranks as the top producer of sweet potatoes in Japan. In Kagoshima, they find a w...
Shibuya’s T4 Tokyo serves hardcore ping pong, mixed reality and fine dining
In the midst of the fury of Shibuya’s scramble with bright, stadium-sized LED screens vying for your attention, finding cutting-edge hangout spots ...
These beachside Airbnb rentals in Japan have stunning ocean views
Tourists often visit Japan during summer to experience cultural traditions in major cities, like the Obon festival or firework festivals. But it’s ...