Kyoto misadventures- 100 year old “traditional tea house” Starbucks

I like going to Starbucks, I really do. It’s usually a good spot to grab some water, try some fun unique drink only available in that country, buy my city mug souvenir, and use a (usually) nice bathroom. However Starbucks also tends to be over priced and crowded. Sometimes they do something kind of cool that draws in a huge crowd. Like in Insadong South Korea, in the traditional neighborhood there’s a Starbucks where the sign isn’t in English but in Korean because it was the only way they were allowed to open one in that neighborhood (so the rumor goes). And Kyoto had something similar happen in 2017, where a Starbucks was opened up in a super traditional neighborhood in a 100 year old building. There was a lot of hype for this Starbucks and one of my friends in our group didn’t have a lot of things she necessarily wanted to do. She was along for the ride, but visiting what we’d seen online as the traditional tea house Starbucks was her request.

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The zen garden you can’t enter or get too close to.

Some things you should probably know before going. It’s a regular old Starbucks. The drinks are the same as you’d find anywhere else in Japan. It’s not like in Jeju where they have Jeju only drinks available at the Starbucks. The travel mugs and souvenirs are also the same you’d find anywhere else in Kyoto. The only true difference is design aesthetic.

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Tatami mat areas for seating means sitting on the floor and taking off your shoes.

There are also some major negatives. The first floor is only the shop and pick up. There’s a little bit of seating available for their commonly long line but that’s it. There is one narrow staircase when you come in that goes up and another near pick up. Before you even order you should see if there’s any seats available at all. Seating is either tatami mat no shoes style or little tables and chairs. There’s some cool windows where you can look out on the traditional neighborhood it’s in is at but these spots tend to get snapped up for photo shoots pretty quickly so if you really want that spot you got to bide your time and be patient.

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There’s also only one toilet. Whole Starbucks, single toilet for everyone and it’s a bit cramped. Expect a line. They even suggest that if you’re in a rush that you run to a nearby temple and use their toilet instead. So even that whole, go to Starbucks buy a drink to use their bathroom kinda fails with this one.

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caramel s’mores frappe

It’s also not really close to public transportation and pretty much the only way to get to it is to go up hill, on a road with the occasional car, not something I suggest in the midst of summer.

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We did manage to get a seat, and I was totally knocked out. We had some mild shopping and exploring plans and I just couldn’t. My plans shrunk down to, have another drink, rest longer then meet my friends back at Kyoto station. We all reevaluated our schedules and scrapped the rest of our Kyoto trip since we still had plans to get to Tokyo that night. It wasn’t a high part of our trip, pretty low energy and feeling level at that point.

We all agreed that it was a huge missed opportunity. This Starbucks has been called a tea house multiple times, though sometimes it’s called an old town house, and I my friends were under the assumption that it’d be a tea house. With more of a variety or focus on tea, maybe some limited edition items for sale or to try. Because it’s in Kyoto, which claims Uji and it’s matcha tea fields. But instead it was a regular old Starbucks with a cooler aesthetic crammed into a 100 year old building in a busy tourist area. Maybe worth going in and looking around but not really worth even viewing as a nice rest stop if you’re in the area.

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