With nearly two-million people making the pilgrimage to the shrine each year, the opening of a Starbucks in such a high-traffic area isn’t all that surprising. And, thanks to Kengo Kuma & Associates, the cafe, located on the southern island of Kyushu, is pleasantly bereft of logo-covered walls, mood lighting and the usual heavily stocked merchandise displays that fill most of the cafes owned by the world’s largest chain of coffeehouses.
On a strip lined with traditional Japanese buildings, the firm sought to create an unobtrusive exterior that seamlessly blends in with the surrounding streetscape. The interior is another story, however. Inspired by the shrine’s wooden structures, the firm used six-centimetre-thick sticks in lengths of one, three and four metres to create a wooden web that crawls up and over one wall to completely conceal the ceiling. Recessed lighting is installed along the bottom of the wall, while rectangular light wells puncture the roof allowing daylight to flood through the space.
Within the narrow, cave-like interior, bistro tables feature unfinished wooden surfaces and the banquettes blend into the wall. Though sparse, framed art works add bursts of colour. It’s an impressive fusion of traditional materials and contemporary design that doesn’t interrupt the town’s landscape or dominate the shrine.