Out of the 47 total prefectures in Japan, Tottori is the only one left without a Starbucks. Total Starbucks domination may seem imminent with plans in the works to open the first shop by spring 2015. However, a new coffee chain opened in Tottori on April 4, and word on the street is that it seeks to rival the international coffee giant. Even its name is a linguistic play on the word “Starbucks.” Do you think this new local business can put a damper on Starbucks’ eventual expansion?

Tottori Prefecture is the least populous prefecture in Japan. It is well-known for its extensive sand dunes, which attract many visitors from out-of-prefecture. The abundant sand also plays a key role in the naming of the new coffee chain.

▼Tottori’s location in Japan


The new chain is called “Sunaba Coffee” (sunaba means “sandpit” in Japanese). Besides reflecting one of the most famous geographical features of Tottori, the name is actually a pun. For those of you unfamiliar with Japanese, the word “Starbucks” is usually shortened to sutaba in daily speech. In other words, “Sunaba Coffee” only differs from “Sutaba Coffee” by one syllable, perhaps signaling its desire to give Starbucks a run for its money when the coffee giant eventually opens up shop in Tottori.

One of the new Sunaba Coffee shops opened near the JR Tottori Station and the second one within the city. They offer standard cafe menu fare, along with the special addition of sandwiches made with local seafood and vegetable products. The owner, a Mr. Kazuyoshi Murakami (68 years old), enjoys welcoming customers with the phrase, “The coffee is delicious because it is full of love” in the local dialect. Additionally, the Tottori prefectural governor, Mr. Shinji Hirai, is said to have stated, “We may not have Starbucks, but we do have Japan’s number one sandpit.” 

Do you think Sunaba Coffee has what it takes to rival Starbucks?

▼Exterior of the new Sunaba Coffee shop


Sources/Images: Golden Times, Sanspo, Wikipedia