Translated by Greg
A Retro Atmosphere At Starbucks Coffee In Hirosaki, Aomori
Written by Ai Yoneda
In Aomori prefecture's Hirosaki city, there's a Starbucks Coffee shop that is the second one in Japan to be built inside a Tangible Cultural Property. Let's stop in for a visit and savor its retro Taisho era atmosphere.
Aomori prefecture, part of the Tohoku region, is situated at the northernmost point of Japan's main island of Honshu. But did you know that in this place where several meters of snow accumulates every winter, there's also a strikingly elegant cafe?
Hirosaki Koen Mae's Starbucks Coffee Shop, following in the steps of Kobe Kitano Ijinkan Starbucks, is the second Starbucks in Japan to set up shop in a Tangible Cultural Property. In addition to an atmosphere that reflects the Taisho era, there are many features of this cafe that allow visitors to enjoy themselves. Today we'll introduce some of these features to you.
Why Are Cultural Properties Being Turned Into Cafes?
Aomori prefecture's Hirosaki city, where this Starbucks is located, is a famous place known for its cherry blossoms. In the springtime, onlookers from around the world flock here to see the cherry blossoms blanketing the whole area, in and around Hirosaki castle. It's also one of Japan's coldest regions, with several meters of snow accumulating during the winter.
In what was formerly used as a meeting room, there is now cafe seating.
Here you can see pictures of Hirosaki city dating back to when the building was the residence of a Japanese military commander.
The building which houses Hirosaki Koen Mae Starbucks Coffee shop, was built in 1918. It was called Daihachi Dancho Kansha, or the official residence for the commander of the Japanese 8th division. In 1951 it was sold off to the city and subsequently used as the mayor's residence, and in 2003 was registered as one of Japan's Tangible Cultural Assets.
With an inherent desire to effectively utilize the building's existing unique features, the city of Hirosaki sent out an invitation to interested parties who then submitted proposals on how they planned to use the building. The Starbuck Coffee Shop's proposal for a cafe was accepted and in April 2015, Hirosaki Koen Mae Starbucks officially opened.
Starbucks' commitment to building shops that are in harmony with the local region, and Hirosaki city's desire to take full advantage of this cultural asset's attractive features were a good match for each other and was a big reason why this cafe became a reality.
Different from a regular Starbucks, this shop in Hirosaki city is comprised of several different separated spaces, making full use of the former building's architectural layout.
The doors have been preserved in their original state. From the sliding door and traditional shoji sliding door tracks (grooves) to the carved door knobs, one can catch glimpses here and there of the subtle introduction of Japanese-style elements amid the original western-style construction of the building.
An Interior That Brings Out Hirosaki's Charms
Characteristic features and traditions of the Hirosaki region are seen throughout the shop's interior.
This is the counter service area. It was originally a meeting room in the former building, and perhaps for that reason the room has high ceilings, creating a spacious, open feeling.
The light fixture hanging directly above the ordering counter is made with bunako (a beech wood product). The beech raw material is cut into thin, tape-like strips and coiled up into a flat roll. Rolls of bunako are hand-made one by one and used in making various woodwork products including some of the light fixtures in this shop.
Aomori prefecture has the largest reserves of beech trees in Japan, and its world heritage region, Shirakami Sanchi, is a vast natural beech forest. The birth of bunako arose from a desire to use Aomori's beech in a creative manner.
This was formerly used as a Japanese-style room. From the window you can peek into the garden.
The light fixture hanging above the 8 person table is also made from beech. During the cold months of the year, the soft light coming from this wooden fixture casts a warm illumination over the room and welcomes cafe guests.
If you look at the seats in the back of the room, it becomes apparent that the backrest cushions are made with a light blue-colored material and covered with some patterns and designs.
This is tsugaru koginzashi, a traditional embroidery passed down in Aomori's Tsugaru region. Its characteristic feature is a geometric print highlighted with diamond-shaped motifs. Due to its reinforcement and heat retention capabilities, women on farms stitched this material into their clothes, starting this long lasting tradition. In the 1880s kimonos hand stitched with koginzashi were widely seen and became in vogue. For a certain time it went out of fashion but around 1930 its beauty was rediscovered and it regained its popularity. Since then up until the present, koginzashi has been and continues to be loved by a legion of handicraft fans.
A Tangible Cultural Asset, reborn into a cafe popular with all the locals and visitors alike. When you're traveling through the Tohoku region and would like to take a break, just remember that Hirosaki Koen Mae Starbucks Coffee Shop is the ideal spot to go!
Hirosaki Koen Mae Starbucks Coffee
Hours: 07:00 - 21:00
Holidays and closures: Open every day
Credit cards: Most major cards accepted, except for China Union Pay card
Menus in other languages: English
Nearest Station: Chuo Hirosaki Station (Konan Tetsudo Owani line)
Access: 18 minutes on foot from Chuo Hirosaki station
Price range: From 900 yen
Phone number: 0172-39-4051
Website: Starbucks Coffee, Hirosaki Koen Mae