Your eyes will love the traditional Japanese garden, but keep your ears open for a sound that’s been marking life in this town for centuries.

The town of Kawagoe is just 30 minutes north of downtown Tokyo, but in some ways it feels like the temporal distance is much, much farther. During the Edo period (1603-1868), Kawagoe was an important castle town, and even today the traditional architecture of Japan’s samurai era can be seen in its historical preservation districts.

▼ The bell tower housing the Toki no Kane bell, which was cast nearly 400 years ago, is the symbol of Kawagoe.

So when Starbucks was looking to open a new branch in Kawagoe, the last thing it wanted to do was mar the cultural scenery with a bland or modern structure. So instead, the new branch was developed under the coffee chain’s “regional landmark” program, which employs architectural design to convey the beauty and appeal of the local culture.

So how has that philosophy manifested itself in Kawagoe?

With a beautiful branch built in the style of the kura, or traditional Japanese warehouses, that line the streets of Kawagoe’s historical neighborhoods. The tiled roof and wooden exterior are all keeping with classic Japanese architectural motifs, as is the wide, open storefront and noren curtains.

Starbucks even backed away from its standard green logo and rendered the familiar mermaid in a muted brown color, so as to better blend in with the neighborhood color scheme.

But there are more nods to Japanese culture waiting for you after you step through the entrance. Yes, the high, stylishly angled ceiling is nice…

…but even more appealing is what you’ll find further in, beyond the glass wall at the back of the coffeehouse.

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川越のスタバ 庭園全景

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This Starbuck’s branch maintains an entire Japanese garden, complete with stone lantern, for visitors to admire while they sip their café or matcha lattes. It’s illuminated at night, so that you can enjoy it after the sun goes down, and the glass back wall we mentioned above means that even if the weather is too cold or rainy to make use of the outdoor terrace seats, you can still have a great view of the garden while sitting at a table in the dry, climate-controlled interior.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing special to see inside, though, as there’s beautiful Japanese sliding door/cabinet artwork adorning the walls

…and even a nakaniwa, or interior garden, to supplement the outdoor one.

Sitting outside really is the best, though, since this special Starbucks is located on the same block as the Toki no Kane bell tower. The bell is still rung four times a day, and listening to the same exact sound the people of Kawagoe have heard for centuries is as deeply soothing as any caffeine fix.

Cafe information
Starbucks (Kawagoe Kanetsuki-dori branch) / スターバックス(川越鐘つき通り店)
Address: Saitama-ken, Kawagoe-shi, Saiwaicho 15-18
Open 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where it wasn’t until Starbucks started offering matcha that he started going to them.

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