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Starbucks comes to Tottori; poster compares it to Perry arriving in Japan

43 Comments
By Casey Baseel, RocketNews24

With Starbucks having won the loyalty of so many customers in so many countries, sometimes it seems like the Seattle-based coffee giant has a location in every corner of the world. There’s still at least one place that’s Starbucks-free, though, and that’s Tottori, the last prefecture in Japan without a branch of its own.

The situation is about to change, though, as Starbucks is set to open its first Tottori location this week. Local coffeehouse chain Sunaba Coffee, whose name is almost an exact copy of Starbucks’ Japanese nickname, is bracing for the impact of its new competitor by guaranteeing its product tastes just as good as Starbucks’, while making the humble request that customers get one out of every three coffee fixes at Sunaba.

In Sunaba’s defense, the chain’s name, which means sandpit, is ostensibly a reference to Tottori Prefecture’s sand dunes, a unique bit of geography in humid, forested Japan. Still, like we talked about when the local chain first got started in April of 2014, it’s pretty obvious that Sunaba is also supposed to be a play on words on Sutaba, the Japanese nickname for Starbucks.

Sunaba’s had Tottori to itself for the past year, as it’s taken Starbucks until this month to get around to the rural prefecture located on the country’s main island of Honshu along the Sea of Japan. But on May 23, Starbucks will be opening a 71-seat cafe not far from Tottori Station in Tottori City.

Realizing its business climate is about to change dramatically, Sunaba Coffee has responded with an equally dramatic poster.

Splashed across the top of the ad are the exterior of the first branch of Sunaba Coffee, on the left, and the American flag with a painting of one of the “black ships,” as U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry’s naval expedition, that played a major role in ending Japan’s period of forced isolation, is called by the locals.

But just as Perry’s arrival didn’t result in military hostility between the U.S. and Japan, Sunaba Coffee isn’t looking to declare war against Starbucks. Instead, it’s simply asking that customers continue to support the chain by choosing Sunaba one out of three times they go out for a cup of coffee. Sunaba is even sweetening the deal with its triple-pronged “Big Pinch Campaign.”

Between May 23 (the day of the opening of Starbucks’ Tottori branch) and May 27, the first 30 customers at the Sunaba Coffee Tottori Station branch will receive a free Sunaba Coffee mug. Sunaba also seems to respect its new rival enough to understand that people will be tempted to try it out, but is promising half-off discounts on blend coffee for anyone who comes in with a receipt from “the American coffee shop.”

Sunaba isn’t trying to defy the invisible hand of the free market system by relying on pity purchases to keep it afloat, though. It stands by the quality of its blend coffee, and during the campaign any customer who tells the staff it tastes worse than Starbucks’…sorry, “the American coffee shop’s,” won’t be charged a single yen for their Sunaba coffee. So go ahead and order with confidence, and while you’re at it, you might want to order a tuna cutlet sandwich, plate of shrimp curry, or stack of pancakes, all menu items Sunaba offers and Starbucks doesn’t.

Restaurant information Sunaba Coffee Tottori Station Branch / すなば珈琲 鳥取駅前店 Address: Tottori-ken, Tottori-shi, Eirakusencho 152 鳥取県鳥取市永楽温泉町152 Open weekdays 8 a.m.-8 p.m., weekends 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Sources: Hamster Sokuho, Fashion Press

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Is this new coffeehouse in Tottori Prefecture out to screw Starbucks? -- Tully’s Coffee checks off every last prefecture, set to open store in oft-forgotten Tottori Prefecture -- Starbucks close to total Japan domination

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43 Comments
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Got to give them credit for their marketing campaign. Personally speaking here if their coffee is anywhere decent I am quite sure that folks with "taste" will continue to buy their coffee from them.

Starbucks is WAY overrated and over-priced as well.

2 ( +10 / -8 )

I love Starbucks. Great coffee....and an oasis of tobacco-stench-free air.

4 ( +11 / -7 )

Stackbucks? It's like the McDonalds of coffee chains. Nothing to be proud about.

0 ( +11 / -11 )

Does anyone remember the pre-Starbucks days?! When your choices were Doutor, if you could find one and could tolerate the cigarette smoke, one of the millions of kissaten where you also had to deal with the cigarette smoke AND really expensive cups of Key coffee or some such, a hotel cafe, and McDonalds. Oh, and Mister Donuts, if you could find one.

My choice then was always Mister Donuts. Decent coffee, cheap, and free refills. And still a pretty good bet, but you won't find any in central Tokyo.

I am not necessarily a fan of Starbucks, but I do think the competition has resulted in more and better choices for consumers.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

I love Starbucks. Great coffee....and an oasis of tobacco-stench-free air.

This is unfortunately exactly why I choose Starbucks over other places. The smoking culture remains heavily entrenched, in spite of the changes amongst younger generations. You can find a few non-chain spots with non-smoking, but they are far and few between; the places where they make the attempt to segregate smokers, the glassed-off sections are so ineffectual you end up stinking of smoke anyways, or smell the waft in the air.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

My choice then was always Mister Donuts. Decent coffee, cheap, and free refills. And still a pretty good bet, but you won't find any in central Tokyo

Um, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Sangenjaya, Shibuya........ Aren't they central Tokyo?

It's true, pre-Starbucks days were dismal. Much better now. Even if you don't like them you have to give them credit for giving the old coffee shops here in Tokyo the motivation to improve atmosphere, prices and options

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I love Starbucks. Great coffee....and an oasis of tobacco-stench-free air.

The coffee I can take or leave. I'm NOT somebody who can even taste the difference between good coffee and bad coffee.

But the ATMOSPHERE, specifically the smoke-free atmosphere, is very welcome in Japan.

Even in Doutour, which tries hard to be a starbucks copy, has a smoking section, and no matter how many air filters you put in you simply can't get that smoke smell out.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

tobacco-stench-free air.

Unfortunately still many starbucks where the smoking area outside is right next to the entrance :/

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Unfortunately still many starbucks where the smoking area outside is right next to the entrance :/

Good point. It's annoying how the selfish smokers then come back inside and waft their stink around the interior.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Stackbucks? It's like the McDonalds of coffee chains.

I consider that a good thing. I can go anywhere in the world and get a cup of coffee that is reliably....adequate. We pay a premium for this consistency. This also means that I get more than a bit irritated when I'm traveling, go to a Starbucks, and it's nasty.....as in "canned coffee from Family Mart is an upgrade over this" nasty.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Great coffee

Only someone who knows not much about coffee would call charbucks "good coffee"..

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

Does anyone remember the pre-Starbucks days?!

Yep, and did the same thing then as I do now if I want great coffee....make it myself!

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Only someone who knows not much about coffee would call charbucks "good coffee"..

There's always one snob.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

@Yubaru,

On making it yourself, fair enough! But, if you DID have to have coffee outside of your house (am assuming you don't carry ground coffee, a hot pot and a french press around with you when you go out), what would you do?! :-)

Curious, when you make it yourself, what coffee bean do you prefer? Hopefully its not Blue Mountain.... that can get pretty expensive!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

You'll never forget the taste of a Chemex (or even a Japanese Kalita) made coffee (by someone who knows what she/he is doing). Unfortunately, afterwards you'll also never enjoy Charbux again ;) .

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Curious, when you make it yourself, what coffee bean do you prefer? Hopefully its not Blue Mountain.... that can get pretty expensive!

I have relations here that own a coffee company and they import raw beans and roast them and sell them. Personally I like Toraja but typically I drink killimanjaro.

When I am out, (besides suffering) I run by FamiMart and get their blend for 100 yen!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Actually the 7-11 coffee is really excellent as well, at 100 yen it beats many 3-400 yen/cup shops...Don't mistake snobism with love for quality, and don't think quality has to be expensive...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I actually prefer the heated tins of coffee you get from vending machines in Japan to Starbucks. I like mild coffee and I can't stand their stuff.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I drink my coffee at home in the morning, occasionally at a bread shop I frequent so they offer me one on the house all the time!

No need for starbucks or any other chain really, mostly a waste of money

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Actually the 7-11 coffee is really excellent as well, at 100 yen it beats many 3-400 yen/cup shops...Don't mistake snobism with love for quality, and don't think quality has to be expensive...

Sadly we dont have any down here, because I agree, 7/11 is excellent too! People it seems get caught up in the flashy atmosphere of Starbucks and a lured in by the "surface", what's underneath leaves a pretty bitter taste in the mouth.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

There is the old saying "different courses for different horses." That comes to mind here.

So many factors drive people's preferences when it comes to coffee.

Do you want to sit down and drink your coffee or are you taking your coffee to go? What kind of coffee do you like in terms of how the beans are roasted? Do you drink it black or with milk/cream? If you want to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee, are you a smoker or not a smoker? Are you there by yourself and need to get some studying or work done? Or are you meeting someone for a chat?

What I would say is this. Whatever you think of Starbucks, compared to the pre-Starbucks era, there have never been more choices, whether dine in, take out, or even beans that you can buy in supermarkets. So, whether one likes Starbuck or not, one should recognise the impact they have had. Sort of like Citibank changing the whole ATM culture in Japan. Sort of.

@Yubaru and @Ebisen: I definitely drink my fair share of 7-11 and Family Mart coffee. As well as McDonalds. When I am on the go. I even do the jidouhanbaiki coffee machines in the SAs/PAs on the expressway, the ones where you can see the machine grinding and making your coffee!

@Yubaru: Thanks for those tidbits on the coffee beans you use. Sometimes I'll splurge and buy Lion Coffee beans. To drink out of my Lion Coffee mugs. A little flavour of Hawaii in Japan. And then there is Inoda Coffee from Kyoto. Just sort of something different. And I love visiting the Inoda cafe when in Kyoto.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

In many parts of Japan, Starbucks is the only clean place to eat or drink. The more they open, the better.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I even do the jidouhanbaiki coffee machines in the SAs/PAs on the expressway, the ones where you can see the machine grinding and making your coffee!

Yeah but do you dance to the music while waiting for the brew, THATS the question! My wife hates it when I start to get down to that music LOL!!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sometimes I'll splurge and buy Lion Coffee beans. To drink out of my Lion Coffee mugs. A little flavour of Hawaii in Japan. And then there is Inoda Coffee from Kyoto. Just sort of something different. And I love visiting the Inoda cafe when in Kyoto.

Well said Zones! I think part of the appeal of Starbucks isnt the coffee really, it's the atmosphere, the "cafe", the lounge chairs, the sofas, the place to sit and relax.

If Starbucks would serve a decent cup of coffee at a fair price, chances are I would go to meet a friend or just sit and read a book.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Japan will be taken over by chain stores. When I was a kid there were still mom and pop shops, but the kids don't want to take over. They would rather work in a big company than do something unique. Why?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@GW: LOL! No, but I must admit my 2 year old son has been known to do a little jig to the tune. I think the flashing lights that go with the music help get him in the mood!

@Yubaru: Yup, exactly right. I think people pay up for that. And, honestly, the no smoking thing. Particularly younger people/students. And women. Not to be sexist, but pre-Starbucks, where would women go to meet up for a coffee or a chat? It certainly wasn't Doutor!

@Gokai: My goodness. That is a separate topic in and of itself. But when it comes to coffee shops and mom & pop operations, I think there are three factors. First, it is just hard to make money these days. And kids see their parents going through that and just decide its not for them. Second, I think most kids want their own life. And running a coffee shop just may not be they life they want. At least, not when they are found. Finally, its a jidai thing. In the Showa era, running a mom & pop kissaten was what some people had to do to make a living. Their children have different choices because of education, etc. And, more importantly, the demand for those establishments have changed. As with so many other businesses. How many shotengai around Japan are dead or dying?! It is just a reality.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"Sunaba isn’t trying to defy the invisible hand of the free market system by relying on pity purchases to keep it afloat, though."

SURE sounds like it is with the, "Please buy at least one of three coffees from us, please please please!! We'll give you a free cup!!"

CGBSpender: "Stackbucks? It's like the McDonalds of coffee chains. Nothing to be proud about."

As opposed to what? Doutor? I suppose if you want lung cancer with your coffee, yeah. Mr. Donuts? Feel free to tell us what readily available chain is so much better. As for individual little Kissa, sometimes there coffee is a lot better, but again you're dealing with dingy old places with tobacco-stained walls and air that'll age you before you can finish the overpriced cup of Key coffee. Starbucks isn't the best coffee by any means, and is expensive, but as a chain it beats anything domestic Japan has to offer.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

"Stackbucks? It's like the McDonalds of coffee chains. Nothing to be proud about."

Obviously you have never been to STARBUCKS!

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Tottori already has great coffee shops run by local entrepreneurs. Much better and classier than Starbucks any day. Tottori was the last holdout. I was hoping it would stay that way.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

it’s pretty obvious that Sunaba is also supposed to be a play on words on Sutaba, the Japanese nickname for Starbucks.

Don't you hate it when the the japanese go around slashing English names (such as Starbucks) to suit their pronunciation, let alone taking on an original name like Sunaba. How pathetic-

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I never go to Starbucks - The coffee is nothing special and I like to relax in a coffee house where we can smoke.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I know people that hate Starbucks because smaller coffee shops lose their business when they open up. However same can be said about any shop or restaurant when a famous chain moves in.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I think the problem that Sunaba might have is not the fact that People are attracted to the lure of the American coffee chain, but by the fact that they are trying to charge Latte prices for drip coffee (486yen for a large drip coffee!). Most people who go to Starbucks in Japan do so for the coffee flavoured dessert drinks and possibly the cappuccinos/lattes. But mainly the cups of sugar and cream with a bit of caffeine in them.

So you are dealing with different customers. I doubt they have a chance with the dessert drinkers, and they shouldnt be trying to compete with nostalgia/pride (they are only a year or 2 old!). But in the drip coffee department, at least they should be able to compete with the price (SB's drip coffee is 432yen for a Venti, which is probably much bigger than Sunaba's "L" cup).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Starbucks just opened a shop in our local shopping center here in our city in Brazil. Although the shop is full to its capacity any time of the day, many Brazilians appreciate both the sophisticated atmosphere Starbucks provides and the smaller shops that sell the pure Brazilian coffee, which tastes like no coffee Starbucks baristas do. Hope this same happens in Japan, locals embracing both.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Prefer a nice cup of tea myself. A far superior & more refreshing drink that coffee has ruined with its tepid water, clunky machines & exorbitant prices. Doesn't make your breath stink either. CUPPA TEA INNIT!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

smithinjapan: "As opposed to what? Doutor? I suppose if you want lung cancer with your coffee, yeah. Mr. Donuts? Feel free to tell us what readily available chain is so much better. As for individual little Kissa, sometimes there coffee is a lot better, but again you're dealing with dingy old places with tobacco-stained walls and air that'll age you before you can finish the overpriced cup of Key coffee. Starbucks isn't the best coffee by any means, and is expensive, but as a chain it beats anything domestic Japan has to offer."

The passive smoking-cancer argument again! It's been several times proven that passive smoking doesn't cause cancer, unless you spend 30 years with a heavy smoker in the same room. It's a vastly exaggerated opinion of the anti-smoking brigade. There are lots of individual cafe's in Tokyo, kissaten and other, that beat any of the coffee chains by far in coffee quality and atmosphere.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

I'm not a fan of coffee since I read "Spiders on drugs" website:

"Caffeine, one of the most common drugs consumed (...) in soft drinks, tea and coffee, makes spiders incapable of spinning anything better than a few threads strung together at random." It's not really a productive thing, right? It doesn't mean I don't drink coffee on some occasions though. But it makes my work as random as those poor spiders'.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

2 Good Bad Moon1MAY. 22, 2015 - 09:47AM JST I never go to Starbucks - The coffee is nothing special and I like to relax in a coffee house where we can smoke.

I rarelly go.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If Starbucks cost as much as 7-11 or Family Mart, we'd take the Starbucks

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Actually 7-11's Ice Coffee is pretty darn good! Starbucks (japan) is way overpriced compared to stateside.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My choice then was always Mister Donuts. Decent coffee, cheap, and free refills. And still a pretty good bet, but you won't find any in central Tokyo.

There was one just up the street from my hotel in Shinjuku near the Shinjuku Station:

歌舞伎町1丁目21 Shinjuku, 東京都 〒160-0021

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, there goes the neighborhood.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Fadamor:

Thanks, have been to that one too many times to count. Sorry, was just meaning something in central Tokyo, as in Roppongi, Toranomon, Akasaka, Ginza, Marunouchi, Otemachi, etc. Not that Shinjuku doesn't count, but.....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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