This is the first of three blog posts where StarbucksMelody takes you on a brief journey into the international Starbucks experience. This episode takes you to Japan. These posts will not be an in-depth analysis rather, we're just going to put our big-toe into the Starbucks international waters. Starbucks' most famous Japanese customer is likely Noboru Sakamoto who has visited more than 100 Starbucks stores in Washington State. Mr. Sakamoto contacted me, explaining that he enjoys reading this site, and added that in Japan a new Starbucks card has just recently been released. My understanding is that these items are very new to the Japanese stores. I just recently received in the mail the card and tumbler from Japan, and I love it!! They are beautiful designs! Purple and pink are great colors, and I would have never thought to have a matching card and tumbler. The card and tumbler are featured in the photos to this blog. A little background about Starbucks and Japan: The first Starbucks retail location was opened in the Ginza, the heart of Tokyo, on August 2, 1996.
Those who have heard Howard Schultz speak have probably heard the tale of how Starbucks entered the Japanese market. The lore goes that some expensive consulting firm told Starbucks that their business would never succeed in Japan. As Starbucks was told, the no smoking policy within a Starbucks, and the large percentage of to-go business were said to be business killers for Starbucks in Japan. As this tale goes, Howard Schultz disregarded the advice of the expensive consulting firm, and nervously entered Japan in 1996. Of course 14 years later, one can only say that Howard Schultz was right and the naysayers were wrong. Clearly, Starbucks is a hit in Japan. The conclusion of the Starbucks-Japan lore is that at opening day, Howard Schultz watched on opening day in August 1996 as young Japanese men and women lined up to say those magical words, "double tall latte" despite knowing no other English.
So, let me say thank you again to Mr. Sakamoto. I am really touched at his thoughtfulness to send me something special. I know not everyone understands this, but for me, I love how Starbucks can connect people so far away to each other. Yes, I can speak the same language as Mr. Sakamoto so long as we're speaking "double tall latte" ;-)