I really don’t frequent Starbucks here in Tokyo, mostly because it will drain your wallet. However, I do go once in a blue moon and when I do, I make sure it’s either conveniently located or just a particularly awesome Starbucks. Of course, I have favorites, and I will risk sounding like a disgusting yuppie by telling you about them.
3. Shinjuku Southern Terrace Starbucks
The Starbucks at Shinjuku Southern Terrace is one of the busiest in the city. Located just across the street from Shinjuku Station’s JR South Exit, it sits at the head of the Southern Terrace, just before Krispy Kreme. Why do I like it? It has a great outdoor patio area where you can sit and watch all the people pouring out of the busiest train station in the world. On a nice day, you can watch everyone heading to the Odakyu Southern Tower, Takashimaya or just around the neighborhood for a stroll. As I recall, I spent about two hours of my 2009 Thanksgiving day writing at this Starbucks.
2. Tokyo Midtown Starbucks
This place has significance to me because my friend Sunyoung was a barista there for several years and didn’t leave until late last year. One day last fall before school began, I went to see her there and stayed all day studying Japanese while sipping coffee. That particular day, Mercedes of Tokyo was putting on an exhibition at Midtown Plaza [in which Starbucks is located], and I went outside several times to ogle the $200,000+ AMG Benzes and even sit in them. This really is the highest-class Starbucks I’ve seen anywhere in the world, inside and out. It lives up to the Tokyo Midtown reputation.
1. Shibuya Crossing Starbucks
I really like the Tokyo Midtown Starbucks and there is no doubt that it’s the swankiest that the company has to offer. But the Shibuya Crossing Starbucks makes number one because of where it is. Located just across the scramble crossing from Shibuya Station’s Hachiko Exit, this store is at the center of activity in the district. From its second floor windows, one can see the streams of people at every red light.
I said before that the Southern Terrace store is one of the busiest in Tokyo; this one is a constant contender for busiest Starbucks in the world. What makes it unforgettable is what you see out the plate glass windows of the second floor. This Starbucks is high-traffic because the area is high-traffic. It’s known as a hub of fashion for young people and as a district with a prolific night scene.
Japanese Starbucks is just a little bit different. For one, they offer a “small” size — that is, smaller than a “tall” size, which is usually considered the ‘small’ one, right…? Anyway, it’s really bitty, no more than a few gulps. For those Japanese girls who don’t have much room after they finish their finger sandwich, it’s perfect. But for practical purposes, it’s about enough caffeine to keep a mouse awake for around 20 minutes.
The other major difference is that flavors are more Japan-centric. For instance, matcha [finely-ground Japanese green tea] makes its appearance in beverages and food. What’s more, the limited-offer beverages are Japanese too! Most recent was the line of sakura [cherry blossom] items. The line included a sakura steamer, a sakura cream frappucino, sakura chiffon cake, sakura shortbread and a set of accessories. I didn’t try any of it.
That did make me feel yuppier than usual, but if you find yourself around any of these places, drop in and see what I mean!