When I was in Kyoto, at first I passed by the Starbucks in Gion. But I’m glad I went inside. The Gion Kyoto Starbucks, aka Kyoto Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya is unique.
I’m from Seattle, the land of Starbucks — where it began, and where there seems to be one on every corner. I actually saw two of them across the street from each other (yes, one closed soon after).
So when I travel, I tend to stay away from the sign of the siren. I can at least tell myself I’m trying to get away and live (superficially of course) “like a local.”
However, I’m glad that I ended up wandering into the Gion Kyoto Starbucks (officially called the “Kyoto Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya Tea House.” Starbucks often does try to adapt the appearance of its shops to match the local appearance, but I’ve never been in a Starbucks like this.
Located in a traditional house in the Gion district, it features tatami floor seating, low lights, and garden elements as you make your way to the stairs to go up to the tatami room. Shoes off before sitting on the floor to enjoy your coffee.
The environment lends itself to quiet conversation. There’s nobody here playing their videos out loud for everyone else to “enjoy” (you know who you are!)
The menu is, of course, different than what you’ll find in the US. I had the extra-shot matcha cream frappuccino, and I now note they have a lemon creme yogurt fermented frappuccino. It might be delicious, but I doubt you’ll find that in Seattle anytime soon — though I’ll admit I could be wrong.
If you visit Gion, you might also want to visit one or both of the Studio Ghibli stores located there. You can read more about them in this post.
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