A calm atmosphere, free Wi-Fi, and decent coffee – what’s not to love about Starbucks (unless you’re a staunch New Englander who swears by Dunkin’)? If you walk into any branch, you will see a line of people waiting to grab their favorite caffeinated pick-me-up. You’re also likely see a bunch of people hunched over their laptops typing away furiously, either by themselves or huddled together in groups. The laptop of choice to go with their steaming mug of coffee? From what we’ve seen, it seems to be a MacBook Air.

Have you ever watched people when they’re silently working on a computer, wondered what they’re up to, and then all of a sudden a smug little grin inexplicably breaks across their face? This self-satisfied look is known as a doya-gao in Japanese. One of our Japanese reporters, who is a frequent patron of Starbucks, recently began to notice a correlation between the frequency of people using MacBook Airs in Starbucks and those wearing a doya-gao expression. Intrigued, she started taking notes, and discovered that there are three branches of Starbucks in Tokyo where the doya-gao phenomenon is particularly common…

But first, let’s take a closer look at the term doya-gao (ドヤ顔) in Japanese. I’m personally rather fond of the word and prefer to use it over any English equivalent.

Doya-gao is a slang term that originated in the Kansai region of Japan but is now used all over the country. According to one source, it’s the Kansai equivalent of “dou da?” [How is it?/How am I doing?], also implying something along the lines of “Isn’t what I did just now awesome?” or “I’m so cool!” Tack on “gao,” the suffix form of “kao” [face], and you have a word that refers to a triumphant, self-satisfied expression.

Here are some visuals to help:

▼If this doesn’t capture the essence of doya-gao perfectly, I don’t know what does.


▼Another classic anime smirk. Vegeta always looks particularly pleased with himself.


▼Had to throw in a cat picture. Guess they’re super happy about their cool new “hats.”


OK, hopefully you get the point.

  • Why do so many people with MacBook Airs seem to exhibit doya-gao?

According to one theory, the MacBook Air is such a glamorous grown-up toy that it must trigger some chemical in the brain to make people feel just as attractive themselves. The doya-gao occurs naturally as a result. People working on trendy MacBook Airs in trendy Starbucks are no exception. In fact, the atmosphere probably adds to the effect. Whenever you go buy a coffee in the city and scan everyone’s faces, you are bound to see at least one person with a doya-gao. At which point you’d be wise to see what kind of laptop they’re working on.

  • Not all locations are the same

Even so, not all Starbucks have an equal number of people with doya-gao. But in the shops with the most, you can usually also spot a large number of MacBook Airs. Coincidence? Our Japanese was curious to find out. He checked out multiple Starbucks locations in Tokyo, always surreptitiously scanning the crowd for lone laptop users with smug-looking smiles. After some searching, he determined the top three Starbucks locations in metropolitan Tokyo where you can see the most people using MacBook Airs with doya-gao. If you’re in the area, why don’t you go and see if you agree with his choices?

  • First place: Ark Hills branch (アークヒルズ店), Minato Ward

This Starbucks in the Akasaka district is expansive and comfortable, with lots of power outlets so that you can stay and mess around on Facebook work for a long time. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that many government workers and company employees grab a coffee and work on their MacBook Airs for long stretches of time, inevitably making a doya-gao at some point.

Access and hours information for this branch (in English!) can be found here.

  • Second place: Roka Koen branch (芦花公園店), Setagaya Ward

This branch is near an exclusive residential area in Setagaya Ward. It even has a parking lot with Porsches, Jaguars and other expensive imported cars often parked there. As a result, our Japanese reporter referred to the smugs of elite people who gather here to work “celebrity doya-gao.”

Access and hours information for this branch (in English!) can be found here.

  • Third place: Omotesando Jingu-mae Yon-chome branch (表参道 神宮前4丁目店), Shibuya Ward

This Starbucks is located in an incredibly posh area and many creative-looking doya-gao can be seen here. There’s also a famous sports gym in the nieghborhood called Gold’s Gym, so sometimes sweaty people come and make “post-workout doya-gao,” too.

Access and hours information for this branch (in English!) can be found here.

This report has left me wondering if you can also spot lots of MacBook Air users with doya-gao in other popular coffee chains in Japan, such as Doutor or Excelsior. Is anyone willing to find out?

Original article by Nakano
Sources: RocketNews24, niconico
Images: RocketNews24, screwattackdeviantartayacnews2nd

[ Read in Japanese ]