In Japan, shopping streets that run towards major shrines or temples are quite common and often known as omote-sandō or nakamise. Quaint and busy, they typically boast a number of souvenir shops, teahouses, and restaurants, some of which may be more than a century old.
Even on such streets, international chains such as McDonald’s and Starbucks are not uncommon. But some of their outlets, such as the Ninenzaka location in Kyoto, go the extra mile to fit into the area, incorporating unique designs. Such Starbucks outlets are officially called Regional Landmark Stores and currently 28 of them exist across Japan (out of 1,800-odd locations).
The Dazaifu Tenmangu Omote-Sando location, however, stands out with its striking modernist design. Jutting out of its façade is an interwoven web of cedar timber, slotted together diagonally and leading visitors into the dreamlike interior.
Designed by renowned architect Kengo Kuma, the bizarre lattice was made using a traditional method of Japanese architecture called kigumi. By slotting cut pieces of wood together, it can create the framework and keep it solid without the use of nails, making the structure especially durable and resistant to rust.
Natural and soothing, the creamy brown timber seems to radiate illumination all by itself… and it does. Almost. Some of the lights are actually embedded in the tip of the wood, such as those hanging above the counter.
In addition to the lighting, Kuma also took charge of the interior design down to the smallest detail, from the miniature garden at the entrance to the comfortability of the couches. At the back behind a glass wall is another garden, where a plum tree—the symbol of Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine—stands, also doubling as a smoking area.
Know Before You Go
The Starbucks will be on your left hand as you walk up the Omote-Sando street towards Tenmangu Shrine from Dazaifu Station—it’s easy enough to spot.
While you’re there, don’t forget to try umegae-mochi rice cake at one of the shophouses along the street as well; it’s a local specialty tricky to find elsewhere.