20120406

Frappuccino at the Shrine or Kengo Kuma's Fukuoka Starbucks

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I've already linked a post about the Starbucks at Dazaifu here. Now i had the chance to go and see it with my own eyes. Dazaifu is a city in Fukuoka Prefecture and not least known for its wonderful Shinto shrine, Tenman-guu. Like so often a equally wonderful street, flanked by small shops selling souvenirs and snacks --- all more or less traditional and run by the owner ---, is leading straight to the sacred site.

Kengo Kuma, the architect, you may know. And, if not, you'll easily find information about him. He has done so many great works, elaborate structures, which however bring to mind the beauty of nature and tradition. About the Starbucks project you can read here, for example.

So, what can i tell you about Dazaifu's coffee shop? It's a rather small and narrow place, at first not very impressive, but the interior with its jointed wood sticks create a special and intimate atmosphere, ... cave-like, forest-like. Nonetheless: it is and it remains a Starbucks. On the one hand, i'd say, Kengo Kuma & Associates have done a very good job to integrate the coffee shop in this historic and provincial surroundings and to provide the visitors a particular experience. On the other hand (and i do not have any aversion to Starbucks), i don't like it that much: I somehow didn't realize before that the building is so very near to the shrine. It may be my romantic foreigner's point of view, but i cannot do otherwise than thinking that this isn't the right place for a coffeehouse chain. It's akward. But it's the truth and the only thing that helps a bit is saying to myself that Tenman-guu is a shrine where students come to pray for success. Sure, that many of them spent a lot of time at coffee shops while studying. Conclusion: Kengo Kuma's Dazaifu Starbucks would be a fantastic place, if it only was located two or three blocks away from the main lane leading to the shrine.

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