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Journal of Consumer Culture

Deconstructing a global commodity: Coffee, culture, and consumption in Japan

Helena Grinshpun Journal of Consumer Culture 2014 14: 343 originally published online 22 May 2013 DOI: 10.1177/1469540513488405

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Deconstructing a global commodity: Coffee, culture, and consumption in Japan

Helena Grinshpun

Journal of Consumer Culture 2014, Vol. 14(3) 343–364 ! The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permissions: DOI: 10.1177/1469540513488405

DOI: 10.1177/1469540513488405 Department of East Asian Studies, the Hebrew University of

Department of East Asian Studies, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Abstract Since their entry to Japan in the latter half of the 19th century, coffee and coffee shops have been closely linked to the economic, political, and socio-cultural change undergone by the Japanese society. The cafe´ s themselves have gone through numerous transform- ations in order to address the various social needs of their patrons. Today, coffee shops occupy a significant niche in the Japanese urban lifestyle. However, the cultural ‘baggage’ of coffee as a foreign commodity still plays a central role in generating its consumer appeal. Coffee is a global commodity whose value on the world market is surpassed only by oil. Moreover, due to its peculiar historical background, it became a beverage charged with a wide range of cultural meanings; tracing these meanings in different contexts can shed light on the way cultural commodities ‘behave’ in the globalized world. In order to examine the niche that coffee occupies in the Japanese consumption scene, I will analyze the manner in which representations of coffee are constructed and translated into a consumer experience. Through the case of coffee in Japan I will try to demonstrate the process of ‘movement of culture’, whereby the relevance of a foreign commodity in the local context is determined by the complex interplay between two culturally engineered binary entities of ‘global’ and ‘local’, ‘foreign’ and ‘native’.

Keywords Coffee, Japan, consumption, globalization, cultural me´ lange, code-switching

Malls, temples, Christmas and other goods

Chilly December evening in the city of Kyoto; automatic glass doors of one of the city’s trendy shopping malls lead to a marble-paved lobby with a small Starbucks


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outlet in it. An outer glass wall overlooks the back yard where, just a few meters away from the mall, stands an ancient temple of Rokkakudo – one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Kyoto. Seen through the transparent glass, the temple, with its noble contours and dark brown color, appears to occupy the inner space of the mall. Armchairs serving the Starbucks store are lined along the glass wall, facing the outside, as if turning the transparent wall and the temple behind it into a huge screen. Quiet Irish-sounding Christmas-themed music is played in the background. Between the glass and the temple, there is a small garden patch with several Tanuki statues hiding in the grass. 1 In the center, a Christmas installation is erected – a white carriage pulled by a white horse, both made of illuminated wires; by its side an illuminated Santa climbs an illuminated tree trunk. The brightly lit marble hall, the gleaming horse and the dark mass of the temple in the background create a rather surreal landscape. Visually, the temple is turned into an exhibited artifact; however, it is a functioning temple, to some extent more real than the blinking Christmas images. The temple and the mall seem to represent two polarities of the Japanese cultural construction – the old tradition, on the one hand, and the incorp- oration of new (often foreign, mostly western) trends, on the other. Gazing on this scene, we can lament the loss of elegance and spirituality of the old times to the imported images of globalized consumption; or we can try to comprehend the new reality embracing both aspects as two interconnected elements responsible for for- ging new tastes, lifestyles and identities. What place does Starbucks, a globalized American chain notorious for its ubi- quity and aggressive expansion, occupy in this mixed landscape? What is the nature of its interplay with the temple, the very epitome of ‘Japaneseness’? What kind of consumer experience do global coffee chains construct in Japan, and how does it correspond with the cultural ‘baggage’ of coffee? This essay attempts to answer these questions by offering a perspective on the role of foreign products in con- temporary Japanese consumption, and on the way various ‘cultural odors’ (Iwabuchi, 2002) are exploited to generate consumer appeal. Following Iwabuchi’s conceptualization, the term ‘odor’ is used here to denote ‘the way in which cultural features of a country of origin and images or ideas of its national, in most cases stereotyped, way of life are associated positively with a particular prod- uct in the consumption process’ (Iwabuchi, 2002: 27). Through the story of coffee in Japan, this study aims to inform the debate on globalization and incorporation of global commodities in local contexts. The migration of global products involves a process by which new meanings, interpretations and applications are attached to them, and can be discussed as moving in three possible directions. Movement towards the homogenization of local markets has earned itself the labels of McDonaldization and cultural imperi- alism, typically associated with the American cultural hegemony (Ritzer, 2004; Tomlinson, 1999). The alternative direction, involving a more dynamic mixture of the global and the local, is depicted as hybridization or creolization (Hannerz, 1992; Pieterse, 2009). These two directions assume major transformations undergone by the local fabric under the influence of the globalizing force.

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Therefore, both imply hierarchy and colonial power relations between the local and the global. The third approach, which this study seeks to promote, emphasizes the contextuality of the two entities as flexible cultural constructions (Goldstein- Gidoni, 2001), a dynamic dialog in which the focus can shift from one entity to another, contributing to the ‘movement of culture’ (Silverberg, 2006: 34). In this process, the locality emerges as a cultural co-producer, an agency rather than a recipient of the foreign produce. In the context of Japan, I find several conceptualizations of the third scenario particularly helpful: the idea of cultural me´lange, shaped by the emic distinctions between the Japanese and the western drawn by the local actors (Goldstein-Gidoni, 2001), and the metaphor of code-switching, i.e. moving between various elements of the native and foreign cultures (Silverberg, 2006: 4). 2 Both concepts emphasize the creative participation of the local agency in ‘an ongoing process of producing new cultural forms’ (Goldstein-Gidoni, 2001a: 22), and challenge the view of mere cultural borrowing and implementation in favor of cultural strategizing (Silverberg, 2006: 33). The notions of me´lange and code-switching imply a conceptual duality between the local Japanese and the foreign (for the most part, Euro-American) cultural elements, which Gordon refers to as ‘double life’, namely, the simultaneous pres- ence of goods and practices described as ‘western’ and ‘Japanese’ in the realms of daily life and national imagination (Gordon, 2007: 12). This duality constitutes both a source of symbolic tension and a cultural capital, and is closely linked to two interconnected issues – that of identity, and that of consumption. In this context, the Euro-American culture emerges as a consumed artifact rather than a hegemonic power. This view is supported by several studies on the manifestations of Americana in Japan; one of the most illustrative cases is the Tokyo Disneyland (TDL). Disneyland is often depicted as an epitome of American imperialism; however, closer examinations reveal that it functions rather as a commodity, appropriated and modified to suit the local needs (see Brannen, 1992; Raz, 2000; Yoshimi, 2000). Moreover, this acculturated western ‘Other’ is often imagined (or ‘imagineered’, using the Disney lingo) as an authentic product, with its alleged authenticity providing a source of consumer appeal. The Japanese appropriation of non-Japanese goods and images, which had earned itself a rather one-dimensional label of ‘westernization’, is in fact a multi- faceted historical process that was ascribed various meanings in the course of the last hundred years. The contemporary Japanese reality hardly leaves a space to discuss its westernization; it is more appropriate to talk about the complex inter- actions between the culturally produced entities of ‘global’ and ‘local’, ‘foreign’ and ‘Japanese’. I believe that the construction of the cultural ‘Self’ and ‘Other’ is best observed through its everyday expressions in consumption. An interesting case of this construction is described in Caldwell’s study of McDonald’s in Moscow. McDonald’s’ acceptance was determined by its eventual domestication, whereby its product was eventually labeled as ‘Ours’ (Nash) and as such successfully drawn into the Muscovites’ intimate spaces (Caldwell, 2004).

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The highly negotiable contents of ‘Ours’ and ‘Theirs’ did not challenge the clear separation between the two constructs, as well as their mutually complementary role. Wilk’s (1999) ethnography on the construction of ‘native’ cuisine in Belize provides an example of how the presence of the foreign helps to objectify the local. As part of the post-colonial discourse on national identity, certain local foods were reinvented as elements of ‘authentic’ diet through a contrast with an externalized western ‘Other’. A similar phenomenon is depicted by Creighton in the context of Japanese department stores, which helped to reaffirm Japanese identity by drawing clear boundaries between ‘things Japanese’ and ‘things foreign’ (Creighton, 1991: 677). Everyday commodities provide multiple axes around which these negotiations on identity take place. In Japan, mundane substances like food (see Bestor, 2011; Cwiertka, 2007) and the way it is presented (Goldstein-Gidoni, 2001), ordinary places like department stores (Creighton, 1991, 1998) and amusement parks (Hendry, 2000; Raz, 2000) play a significant role in shaping not only our consumer experiences but also the way we experience culture. Culture is more often than not a function of otherness; as we shall see, exploiting culture in marketing often implies appealing to its foreignness or strangeness. The issue of imagination (I find the term ‘imagineering’ most appropriate for the process of cultural pro- duction) is crucial in this context, as both the ‘foreign’ and the ‘Japanese’ emerge as subjective products of negotiation on identity, rather than objective cultural entities. The link between consumption of western products and social class in Japan also deserves mentioning. Gordon describes how goods of Euro-American origin defined middle-class modernity in the trans-war period (1920s–1960s). This defin- ition was rooted in the association between the ideals of the modern middle-class lifestyle and the images of western, notably American, life (Gordon, 2007: 10). Junichiro Tanizaki’s novel Naomi, written in 1920s, exemplifies this connection. The author depicts the overpowering fascination of the Japanese with the West, and the destructive influence of this fascination on the identity of the protagonist, a middle-brow engineer who represents the dilemmas and the aspirations of the middle-class of the era. The overpowering enthusiasm for things western, depicted in Naomi, had van- ished as Japan itself joined the club of ‘lifestyle superpowers’. 3 In the post-miracle affluent Japan, what used to constitute a symbolic tension became part of the complex Japanese cultural reality, incorporating local traditions with elements of foreign cultures and lifestyles – but nonetheless still accommodating discourse on identity. The complex relations between the foreign and the native, the ‘Other’ and the ‘Self’, estrangement and familiarity, represent today a powerful resource for both marketers and consumers. The marketers exploit it in constructing their prod- uct experience; for the consumers, the ability to maneuver between the two modes adds up to their cultural capital – same way as code-switching between two lan- guages is a form of symbolic capital that endows access to additional symbolic resources and identities (Silverberg, 2006: 33). Unlike the relatively concrete verbal

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codes involved in linguistic code-switching, however, the metaphor of cultural code-switching implies a process in which shifting cultural cues and interpretations (Silverberg, 2006: 33) are employed. The use of these interpretive constructs in consumption underlines the role of culture as an artifact, constantly re-produced in response to the demand generated by particular historical, political, and social circumstances. There are many studies which link the commercialization of the Japanese side of the ‘foreign’–’local’ scheme to the issue of cultural identity. These focus on topics such as domestic tourism and the furusato movement (see Creighton, 1997; Robertson, 1988), 4 local food products (Francks, 2007; Rausch, 2008), and trad- itional arts and crafts (Goldstein-Gidoni, 1997; Moeran, 1997). Obviously, differ- ent commodities call for different types of cultural branding: marketing a product as traditional will involve appeals to the indigenous culture, while commodities that have a foreign background will invite exploiting foreign associations. Coffee, as the next section will illustrate, belongs to the latter category, which is by no means a minority in the Japanese consumption. In contemporary Japan, the foreign ‘odor’ is still in demand, facilitating ‘odor branding’, i.e. exploiting the association of the commodity with a foreign culture in order to enhance its consumer appeal. Goldstein-Gidoni (2001, 2001a) describes how this technique is applied to the wed- ding industry and cuisine. Clammer, in his study of shopping, demonstrates how foreign products possess in Japan a certain aura of otherness and infuse re-enchant- ment into the everyday life (Clammer, 1997). Among these commodities, products related to food and beverages occupy an important niche. Multiple studies illustrate the manner in which these substances provide sustenance, a form of symbolic communication, and a social ritual, thus demarking social boundaries and asserting cultural identities (e.g. Appadurai, 1988; Belasco and Scranton, 2002; Bell and Valentine, 1997; DeSoucey, 2010; Pettigrew, 2002; Wilk, 1999). What has been much less explored is how specific products ‘behave’ in the state of ongoing intercultural contact brought upon by globalization, and how their translation into a consumer experience reflects the complex dynamic between the global and local forces. This study aims to fill this lacuna by exploring the case of coffee in Japan. Coffee, due to its high value on the global market, its peculiar cultural history, and its intensive incorporation into people’s everyday lives, represents a valuable case for exploring intercultural encounters. Moreover, the rather narrow scope of up-to-date academic research on coffee and coffee shops in Japan (see Derschmidt, 1998; Hiraoka, 2005; Molasky, 2005; Tipton, 2000; Wada, 2005; White, 2012) and the lack of research on coffee shop chains in Japanese consumption request this exploration. By drawing on the ‘behavior’ of coffee in Japan, I follow the logic of the extended case method which applies interpretive analysis to empirical data to extract the general from the unique and to move from micro-level data to macro- level constructs (Burawoy, 1998). The following section will outline the place that coffee and coffee shops occupy in the Japanese coffee scene. Then, the manner in which global chains construct

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consumption experience around coffee as a cultural commodity will be discussed, using Starbucks coffee chain as a study case.

Coffee in Japan: Acquiring the taste of modernity

Among foreign commodities, which in Japan represent a broad category ranging from cheeseburgers to Disneyland, coffee has earned a place of honor. Although Japan is commonly recognized as a tea-drinking country, today, coffee occupies a massive niche in everyday life and consumption. According to the All Japan Coffee Association, in recent years Japan’s consumption of coffee, both roasted and instant, accounted for twice as much as its consumption of green tea. 5 Japan is

the number three importer of coffee beans worldwide after the United States and Germany. The beans imported to, roasted, and served in Japan are of the highest quality, and Japanese coffee equipment is considered to be among the best in the world (White, 2012: 89). I will not elaborate here on the history of coffee from its advance from Ethiopian highlands to the Ottoman Empire, where it was discovered by the European trav- elers, its consequent incorporation into the European lifestyle as an attribute of the exotic Orient, and to its eventual commercialization as a global commodity; I will focus solely on its Japanese incarnation. In Japan, coffee has been historically associated with foreign culture. As a beverage, it was introduced to Japan in the 17th century by the Dutch; however, it did not become a mass commodity until the end of the 19th century when, after more than 200 years of seclusion, Japan was forcibly opened to western trade. During the Meiji era (1868–1912), coffee shops gained popularity as a symbol of modernity and attributes of the newly introduced western lifestyle. They served as entry points for foreign products, and shaped new local fashions and trends resonating with the wider international context. To some Japanese commentators of the era, the cafe´s ranked in significance with the estab- lishment of the Diet (Tipton, 2000: 119). The first decades of the 20th century further strengthened the association between coffee and modernity. The already established link between modernity and material culture – along with the consensus that the West was the source of this modernity (Silverberg, 2006: 15) – set the ground for the coffee shops’ appeal. In the 1920s and 1930s, the coffee shops represented an increasingly visible segment of urban life, and offered an accessible space accommodating various public expressions of modernity. Women occupied an important place in this setting, both as clients and as service- givers. The figure of a cafe´ waitress (jokyu ) represents one of the controversial images of the era. It is not accidental that the plot of Naomi, mentioned earlier, contrives at a Tokyo cafe´, where the protagonist falls under the spell of a young waitress who, for him, embodies the physical representation of everything western. The role of jokyu provided to lower-class women not only a new occupation, but also relative personal freedom. The jokyu were the working class personification of

the ‘Modern Girl’ (Modan

logical construct in Japan’s modern transformation (Silverberg, 2006).

Garu, or Moga ), which can be seen as a key ideo-

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The cafe´ clientele represented the middle-class embodiment of this modernity. The coffee shops provided one of the few public settings for ‘Moga’ and ‘Mobo’ , modern girls and boys, to meet and mingle socially. The presence of female patrons in what had previously been almost an exclusively masculine space was another indication of modernity. During the late 1920s, the waitress service was eroticized, and a certain type of cafe´s came to resemble a cabaret more than a classic coffee shop. The cafes’ association with westernization and the growing popularity of the jokyu served as a justification for increasing restrictions in the late 1930s (Tipton, 2002). Silverberg describes how as late as in 1939, the per- sisting attraction to the cafe´ was criticized as a demoralizing aspect of modernity (Silverberg, 2006: 35). The imports of coffee stopped in 1938; during the war, few coffee shops were able to offer their clients something besides a coffee surrogate made of substitute ingredients (White, 2012: 64). The post-war era saw a proliferation of coffee shops. Japanese society as a whole has undergone numerous social, political, and econom- ical transformations, in which the US served as a frame of reference. Leheny (2003), in his study on leisure policies in post-war Japan, describes how the Japanese government used American and European models to build what was later formulated by the Prime Minister Kiichi as ‘lifestyle superpower’. From the 1940s onwards, the West provided appropriate reference points for determining how the Japanese lifestyle should look like (Leheny, 2003: 44). One manifestation of the American cultural influence was jazz, which was introduced in the pre-war era, but did not gain widespread popularity until the 1950s. This trend facilitated a propagation of the so-called ‘jazz-cafe´’, which became highly popular among the young generation. ‘Jazu kissa’ provided the means of coming in contact with the world by offering jazz on vinyl, which otherwise was nearly impossible to acquire (Derschmidt, 1998). The coffee shops of the 1960s and 1970s served as hubs for the progressive youth of the era; they hosted expressions of trends such as artistic avant-guard, protests against the US-Japan Security Treaty, and feminism. The cafe´s kept on changing in response to the changing urban life, offering their patrons spaces as diverse as their clientele. The 1980s witnessed a coffee shop boom, as coffee shops competed among themselves, offering their patrons not only different styles of coffee, but also vari- ous gimmicks, styles of atmosphere and de´cor. Some retreated to erotic services, such as the ‘no-pants’ cafe´s (no-pantsu kissa), where waitresses served the cus- tomers’ orders walking on a mirrored floor with no underwear beneath their skirts (White, 2012: 65). The ‘conventional’ Japanese-style coffee shops constituted the majority, however; their number reached 160,000 in the early 1980s. 7 In the 1990s, as speed and convenience became a crucial factor, the coffee scene was significantly affected by the emergence of the new players – coffee shop chains. The first chain, Doutor, was founded in 1980 by a Japanese entrepreneur inspired by Brazilian coffee culture; the second was the American Starbucks. The chains introduced a new coffee-drinking format and created a new market niche, encoura- ging other coffee chains, both foreign and local, to enter the market. As a result, the

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number of independent coffee shops decreased; the number of the chains has been on a slow but steady rise. 8 In the course of the decades, the local coffee culture has evolved and departed from the original format offered by the West, developing its own interpretations of the coffee experience (White, 2012). In contemporary Japan, coffee is a quintes- sence of the routine – nothing like the exotic western fad of the turn of the 19th century. Coffee shops became an integral part of the urban landscape; they repre- sent a symbol of an ordinary, ‘normal’ life. Nevertheless, exploiting the association of coffee with foreign culture still helps to enhance its commercial appeal. This is especially evident in the sphere of advertising and promotion. Recruiting western celebrities in the branding of coffee-related products has been a customary practice in the Japanese coffee industry. One of Japan’s most prominent canned coffee brands, Boss Coffee, released in the 1990s by Suntory, carries a recognizable logo featuring Tom Selleck smoking a pipe. In 2006, the company hired another American actor, Tommy Lee Jones, to be its spokesman. He has appeared in a series of highly popular TV commercials as ‘Alien Jones’ (a name underlining the hero’s non-Japaneseness more than his extra-terrestrial origin), 9 who was sent to Japan from another planet to study human society. Another canned coffee brand, Roots, has had Ewan Macgregor and Brad Pitt as its spokespersons. 10 There is a vast use of foreign terms and slogans in the coffee business, written either in Roman letters or in katakana, a writing system assigned for borrowed words. While there is a hieroglyph compound (kanji, a writing system used mostly for native words), for the word ‘coffee’, the use of its katakana version is predo- minating. For coffee-related vocabulary (words such as ‘roast’, ‘blend’, ‘drip’, ‘shot’, ‘aroma’, as well as the more specialized terminology referring to types of roasts, blends, and coffee equipment), foreign terms are commonly used. The names of the local cafe´s also exemplify this tendency: while many of them carry Japanese names, western (or western-sounding) names predominate. In Leaf, a monthly magazine dedicated to Kyoto dining and cafe´s, more than two-thirds of the listed coffee shop names are in European languages, mostly English, less fre- quently French, and sometimes, as in the case of bakeries and family restaurant chains (famiresu), not always intelligible in any foreign language, but nevertheless projecting a western or international image (Goldstein-Gidoni, 2001: 75). 11 Here, I tend to disagree with Merry White, who, in her recently published book on coffee life in Japan, claims that coffee and coffee shops have become entirely naturalized, having lost any western cultural odor they might have had (White, 2012: 4). White presents an insightful picture of the Japanese cafe´s as public spaces fulfilling important social roles. To her, the acquired ‘normality’ of the cafe´ and its ability to cater to the local needs contradicts its early association with foreign culture. I maintain that the two represent mutually complementing elements in the process of the commodification of the cafe´s. It is my belief that the cultural ‘baggage’ of coffee as a foreign commodity determines its foreign ‘odor’, which constitutes a source of appeal rather than a cultural discordance. This very ‘odor’ creates the setting for what White likens to ‘shakkei’, ‘borrowed landscape’ – a

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traditional gardening technique, which employs visual incorporation of the outside elements into the scenery to create an illusion that the garden extends beyond its physical borders. White extrapolates the term on a certain type of cafe´s, which have ‘a scene of interest’ that creates a feeling of ‘place’, such as an outer garden peeked on through the window, a display of old photographs or an art gallery (White, 2012: 164, 170). In my opinion, however, the metaphor applies to the Japanese coffee scene by denoting the incorporation of foreign cultural elements into the local coffee experience. The association with foreign culture creates a kind of bor- rowed landscape by bringing in imageries from other cultural contexts, just as distant mountains and hills lend their appeal to the inner premises of the garden. The nature of local consumption, in which the interplay between the native and the foreign has been occupying a central place for decades, has made the foreign ‘odor’ no less ‘normal’ and geared to the local needs, than the Japanese. The following section seeks to substantiate these points by looking at global coffee chains in contemporary Japan. Similarly to the independent coffee shops depicted by White, the chains represent meaningful sites of everyday life, which have acquired relevance for the local consumer. Allow me to validate this claim with two short media references. In mid-March 2011, a few days after the tragic events of that year, 12 an extract from an internet blog was posted on the BBC website. It belonged to an American residing in Japan; the author described the sense of confusion which took hold of her at the sight of the changes inflicted by the disaster. One of the signs signaling a state of emergency was a closure of a Starbucks store at the local train station. 13 Several months later, in summer 2011, an opening of a Starbucks in Fukushima city was reported by several news agencies. ‘Even a nuclear crisis can’t keep Fukushima residents away from their double lattes’, stated a caption of a photograph by a Japanese blogger Hiroko Tabuchi, depicting a long lineup at the new store. An article in a Canadian news service commented optimistically on this news: ‘Let’s hope the next meltdown involves a Frappucino left on the counter too long – and not the local power plant’. 14 Consumption sites like the Starbucks chain therefore fulfill an important social function in a sense that they serve as markers of ordinariness and stability. The opening of a store in Fukushima, a city which since March 2011 has been associated with national emergency and nuclear crisis, was a sign that the everyday life was slowly moving towards normality. Chains offer a standardized experience based on the format conceived outside of Japan, but nevertheless succeed to acquire relevance for the local consumer, both socially and culturally (Grinshpun, 2012).

Coffee chains and the marketing of coffee experience in Japan

Today, it is nearly impossible to discuss the Japanese coffee scene while ignoring the niche that global chains occupy. The chains did not introduce coffee to Japan; neither did they pioneer the modern coffee shop culture. Moreover, they arrived after the first local coffee shop chain, Doutor, was established. However, they

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managed to implement new tastes and create a new niche in the coffee shop indus- try, constantly generating a new consumer demand. The concept introduced by the chains differed from that of the local establishments: instead of the highly diverse spaces of the local cafe´s (kissaten) and Doutor’s quick grab-and-go format catering mostly to ‘salarymen’ (sarariman), they offered a more accessible, predictable, and anonymous public space catering to new segments of the urban clientele, such as single working women and young adults. Another significant innovation offered by the chains was the espresso, which, until the late 1990s, was rather unfamiliar to the average Japanese coffee-drinker. Starbucks pioneered this trend, opening its first Ginza store in 1996; it was followed by the second biggest chain, Tully’s, in 1997 – also in Ginza, an area historically associated with foreign culture and modernization. Today, Starbucks operates close to one thousand outlets nationwide, Tully’s close to 400, and Seattle Best (a Starbucks subsidiary since 2003) has more than 40 outlets. 15 Since its arrival, Starbucks has been the leading force in the Japanese coffee chain market. Japan was the chain’s first destination outside of North America and is one of the few world locations where its popularity never showed a sign of fading. Even the recent downturn did not undermine the Japanese consumers’ appetite for Lattes and Frappuccinos. 16 New stores continue to open nationwide, infiltrating not only urban centers but recently also rural areas. The research I conducted between the years 2006 and 2009 on the Starbucks coffee chain in Japan aimed to clarify and interpret the range of meanings attached to coffee as a cultural experience. The data was collected through (1) the textual analysis of printed materials and advertisements issued by Starbucks Japan, (2) in- store observations and interviews with customers and the stuff, conducted at five outlets in Kyoto and Osaka, and (3) a thorough Japanese media survey. The ana- lysis focused on three dimensions: the product (the coffee experience), the agent (the company’s branding strategy and its implementation), and the way it is per- ceived by the local consumers. It is appropriate to mention that only Starbucks’ customers and employees were approached for this study; I did not survey people who did not go to Starbucks. Investigating the general Japanese public’s attitudes and perceptions of the Starbucks brand constitutes a separate topic which is not dealt with in the present essay. The research determined that the major reason for Starbucks’ success was that it had constructed a consumption space charged with relevant social and cultural meanings. Culturally, this space offers the consumer the experience of a ‘coffee theme park’; socially, it provides a novel type of public space allowing for ano- nymity, a sense of communal belonging and individual control. Here, I focus on the cultural segment of this formula, and attempt to point at the mechanisms of cul- tural incorporation of coffee as a cultural commodity in Japan. I do not look at the ‘Starbucks phenomena’, that is, the success formula of this highly ubiquitous chain, which has become a subject of scrutiny and replication by other business enterprises. Neither do I treat the company as a flagship of global- ization (see Klein, 2000; Ritzer, 2004), a hegemonic brandscape (Thompson and

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Arsel, 2004), or a lens to comprehend American tastes and lifestyles (Simon, 2009). I will not dwell here on the differences between Starbucks and other global coffee chains, or on the differences between Starbucks in Japan and elsewhere (for further reading, see Grinshpun, 2012). I treat Starbucks as an archetype of a global chain, with the principles of its marketing strategy applying to other global agents oper- ating in Japan. It is important to note in this context, that many of the marketing elements described below are by no means unique to Starbucks or to coffee; they are used by various agents of Japanese consumption, and point at the way culture acquires its marketing value. In his book ‘The Inland Sea’ (2002), Donald Richie deemed early Japanese cafe´ to a ‘window onto the world’, which introduced not only the beverage but also new social and cultural forms (quoted in White, 2012: 5). Coffee chains make use of this metaphorical window by offering their customers a product wrapped in an appeal- ing envelope of a cultural experience. The concept of ‘wrapping’ or ‘packaging’ has been widely discussed in the context of Japanese cultural production (see Clammer, 1997; Goldstein-Gidoni, 1997; Hendry, 1995). Seen not only as a physical act, but as a cultural metaphor, it is invested with a range of meanings concerning inter- cultural communication and interpretation, suggesting that the wrap plays a role no less important than the content in signaling prestige, taste, and value. The notion of packaging points to a curious parallel between chains and theme parks, with TDL as their epitome. Theme parks build cultural representation by ‘wrapping’ other cultures and turning them into a consumed commodity (Hendry, 2000:12). Starbucks exoticizes ‘other’ cultural contexts by ‘packaging’ them as a setting for the coffee experience. I will discuss here two key techniques employed for this purpose: the creation of textual and visual references to foreign traditions, and the use of language. The textual analysis of a number of leaflets, flyers and brochures, issued by Starbucks Japan, demonstrates that most of the Starbucks products, from the coffee bean to the music playing at its stores, are promoted against the backdrop of foreign traditions. Western holidays (mainly Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween) and customs related to them provide a setting for this cultural place- ment. A customer is led to believe that having a Gingerbread Latte, a pumpkin scone or a filone sandwich can bring her or him the flavor of a tradition character- izing another, non-Japanese, cultural landscape. As early as November, Starbucks switches its paraphernalia (cups, barista out- fits and product packages) to Christmas colors; seasonal products are introduced as the harbingers of the Holiday. As an editorial of The Starbucks Press free paper urges, by introducing special Holiday items (beverages and sweets) Starbucks brings the Japanese customer the magic of the Holiday. 17 These items are described as bringing to Japan ‘the classic flavor of western Christmas’. The article also features an explanation on the special nature of the Holiday, described as a secret hidden in the land of birth of Starbucks, America. The column gives a vivid description of the Holiday time in America, with an emphasis on its emo- tional and family-oriented character. Following this theme, the second part of the

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newspaper features, under the title ‘Virtual Trip to the World,’ an article on Finland, introduced as the land where Santa lives. The article is written as a travel narrative of a Japanese girl visiting Helsinki during Christmas. A Finnish friend gives her a tour of the country and reveals to her the ways the locals cele- brate the Holiday. The article depicts the peculiarities of the Finnish lifestyle as seen through Japanese eyes. This practice is not unique to the coffee chain; other consumption sites make use of Christmas to infuse their product with cultural connotations. Shopping malls are decorated with garlands and Christmas trees, supermarket cashiers put on Santa hats, flower shops take out pots with Poinsettia flowers. The meanings ascribed to Christmas in Japan, however, have undergone several visible modifications since it was adopted in the post-occupation years. The Japanese Christmas was never a religious holiday. Instead, it evolved as a secular ritual associated with the American lifestyle in the 1960s (Plath, 1963), with children in the 1980s (Creighton, 1991: 685), and with romance in the 2000s. Throughout the decades, the most visible attribute of Christmas has been a decorated Christmas cake (Kurisumasu keki ), which by default refers to a sponge cake with whipped cream and strawberry, and is customarily offered for sale annually by department stores and western-style pastry shops throughout Japan. Browsing through the chain’s printed materials, one finds multiple examples of how seasonal offers are turned into a cultural experience. A leaflet titled Great Food for Great Coffee is dedicated to ‘filone’, a type of bread roll introduced to the Japanese market recently. 18 Filone is said to be especially suitable for female cus- tomers, since its relatively small size fits perfectly a woman’s mouth. It is also described as a traditional Italian product, manufactured in a traditional way and brought to the Japanese consumer from the United States:

Born in Italy, like the espresso, filone in Italian means ’small river.’ With its shape like

that of a river, filone is popular both in Italy and

immigrants to New York, filone has become a favorite throughout the United States. Although you won’t see it in Japan, today filone is widely popular in Europe and in North America.

Brought by the Italian

Promotion of chocolate timed with Valentine’s Day is accompanied by a detailed account of the holiday’s romantic connotations the way they evolved in the West and therefore differ from the Japanese format. 19 Reviews of Latin American coffee industry abounds stories and illustrations characterized by the ambiguous ambiance which Klein referred to as a ‘Third World aura’ (Klein, 2000: 112), implying a commercial exoticization of remote lands associated with less advanced cultures. Through such depictions, foreign traditions are romanticized and made into a perfect ‘wrapping material’. The textual references acquire a visual form in the de´cor of the outlets. Photographs and posters feature landscapes or still life com- positions reminiscent of the coffee-growing countries of the Third World, notably

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Latin America and Africa. Most landscapes depict rural areas, and reinforce the vague aura of the Third World. A few photographs feature rather unidentifiable urban scenes. None of the pictures carry explanatory notes as to the exact location depicted; the only comprehensible thing is that none of the locations is Japan. All of the above are in European languages, mostly English, although French and Italian are also present. The various iconographies encompassing references to Western traditions, vague urbanity, and the ‘Third World’ imagery have a common denominator of ‘otherness’ juxtaposed to ‘Japaneseness’. The posters typically feature abstract patterns with sentences and words discon- nected from their context, calendar dates, names of world cities, and airport flight displays. Some are designed as old-style maps, evoking the romance of the early sea travel. The viewer is referred not only to an ‘Other’ place, but also backwards in time. In the coffee context, this commercialized nostalgia is exploited rather often, supposedly sending the consumer back to the ‘good old’ days prior to the era of mass production (Roseberry, 1996: 764). In the de´cor of the Starbucks outlets, this backward-looking gesture is visualized via numerous retro motifs. Photographs on the walls feature for the most part sepia and black and white colors. Despite the fact that coffee-related procedures require high-level technological equipment and today are fairly mechanized, the photographs depict the old, traditional ways, involving natural materials and manual labor. The pictures of bare hands stroking the beans, burlap coffee bags, and old but tasteful equipment create a nostalgic air of the rustic past, when the humanity was still connected to the fruits of its labor (Grinshpun, 2012: 182). The commodification of the past is one of the most powerful tools in the mar- keting of culture. Moeran describes how in Japanese advertising an imagery of a Japanese past is established in order to evoke nostalgia for a world that no longer exists (Moeran, 1995). Creighton discusses, in the context of nostalgia for commu- nal belongingness, how ‘communities of memory’ are replaced by ‘communities of imagination’ (Creighton, 1998: 141). The visual lexicon used by Starbucks also substitutes memory with imagination by referring its Japanese customers to a past that has no connection with Japan. The exoticization of the ‘Other’ is manifested not only via visual representations, but also through the choice of language. Especially interesting in this sense are Starbucks Japan’s printed materials, briefly discussed earlier. Although all of them are issued in Japanese for Japanese readers, there is an extensive use of foreign words, written either in English or in the katakana alphabet. In a More About Coffee leaflet, 20 a sector dedicated to espresso (titled in English ‘Art of Espresso’) features almost exclusively katakana words. A color diagram demon- strates how five different espresso-based beverages are prepared: Caffe Americano,

for example, consists of ‘esupuresso’ and ‘hotto wot a

miruku’, ‘suchimu miruku’, ‘esupuresso’ and

pared with ‘karameru sosu ’, ‘fomu

banira shiroppu’. 21 In a section dedicated to food pairing (fudo pearingu), the reader is advised to ask for ‘add shot’ (adoshotto) in order to fully enjoy the Starbucks experience (Sutabakkusu ekusuperiensu). Often, foreign terms are used

’; Caramel Macchiato is pre-

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Journal of Consumer Culture 14(3)

for words which have an exact equivalent in Japanese language, e.g. hotto wot

instead of awa (foam), miruku instead of gyuny u

(milk). This way, three linguistic modes are employed in a single text, creating a rich lexicon that expands the range of cultural associations to include not only the product’s material characteristics but also its symbolic properties as a foreign com- modity. This selective use of language has been part and parcel of Japanese con- sumption, helping to demarcate the foreign and the native and fitting perfectly into the scheme of code-switching. Espresso occupies a major place on Starbucks’ cultural menu. It is regarded as the trademark of the European coffee culture which Starbucks has been aspiring to disseminate (Schultz, 1997). In Japan, espresso remains largely limited to chain coffee shop and trendy espresso bars in big cities; for many, it is still considered an attribute of the foreign coffee culture. The encounter with the ‘art of espresso’ and its incorporation into one’s coffee-drinking routine was presented by my inter- viewees as a step toward developing a sophisticated taste in coffee. Various espresso-based drinks served by Starbucks carry elaborate Anglo-Italian names concocted by the company; basic familiarity is required in order to select the type and size of the desired beverage. 22 As reported by several respondents, the ordering procedure can be rather complicated for someone who is not familiar with the terminology, or has little experience with foreign languages. It is not uncom- mon to see a customer belonging to the older generation being assisted by a younger companion or an employee in comprehending the menu and formulating the order. For both customers and employees, mastery of the coffee-related lingo and its implementation not only guarantee a smooth performance at the Starbucks store, but also translate into cultural capital. Another language-related phenomenon, albeit one not initiated by the chain, is the foreign (for the most part, English) language lessons held at the chain cafe´s. The lessons are conducted by foreigners working as private tutors; some of them spend many hours in the store, tutoring one student after another. One of my foreign interviewees reported that the English language school by which he was employed was notified by Starbucks that the teachers were requested to place an order every hour they spend in the store; it seems, however, that the request was never enforced in any manner. Despite the fact that there is no official acknow- ledgment of this activity by Starbucks, there is an unofficial consent on the part of the staff to accommodate the lessons. The language lessons have become so com- monplace that both customers and staff view them as an integral part of the land- scape. My barista interviewees stated that these lessons contribute to the special Starbucks atmosphere by allowing for cultural exchange (kory u ) between cus- tomers. In this way, the language lessons are perceived as a form of cultural activ- ity, helping to shape the cultural aspect of the coffee experience and constituting yet another element in the ‘borrowed landscape’. The unofficial incorporation of foreigners as agents of the ‘abstract West’ (Goldstein-Gidoni, 2001: 84) into the Starbucks landscape is reminiscent of the role of the foreign staff in TDL, whose role as ‘real-live Americans’ (Raz, 2000: 94)

instead of oyu (hot water), or fomu


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is to reinforce the authenticity of the site as ‘not Japan’. In this regard, the Starbucks coffee chain can be seen as a variation of a theme park. While TDL builds a cultural representation by ‘packaging’ Americana in a format suitable to the Japanese idea of it, Starbucks ‘packages’ the world of coffee as a foreign com- modity. This parallel leads me to the final point of this discussion – the role that Japan plays in this cultural collage.

Incorporating ‘Japan’: Switching the code

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of Starbucks in Japan, a special Anniversary Magazine was issued in 2007. The emblem of this special edition read ‘Japanese Sutabakkusu ,’ and combined katakana alphabet for the word ‘Starbucks’ with the English letters for the word ‘Japanese,’ both written against the graphical image of Mount Fuji and a red circle suggestive of the national flag. Interestingly, the word ‘Japan’ (Nippon), usually written in kanji, a hieroglyph system used for native words, appeared throughout the magazine in katakana, an alphabet used for borrowed words. An opening photograph of Tokyo Shibuya district with the green Starbucks sign on one of the buildings read:

‘Without Starbucks, it’s not Shibuya’. An article titled ‘The Development of Japanese Merchandise: Born between the Global and the Local’ described the atti- tude of the developers to the Starbucks merchandise as combining the global set of values with local cultural roots. One of the most representative examples of this approach, according to the article, is the Starbucks tumblers (portable thermal mugs) designed locally and featuring images of famous Japanese sites as well as traditional seasonal themes. 23 The tumblers have become highly popular items of Starbucks merchandise, indicative of consumers’ brand loyalties, tastes, and travel- ing trajectories. Interestingly, their practical application has been altered – while the concept of a tumbler assumes their use for take-out beverage orders, in Japan they are used mostly inside the stores. 24 In promoting its product, Starbucks often resorts to incorporating local cultural codes. Seasonal themes are made use of in order to introduce new or re-introduce existing products, which is a practice widely exploited in the local retail sector. Seasonality has long been part of the Japanese construction of ‘tradition’, frequently employed in consumption as a marker of ‘Japaneseness’. Moeran points at the entire lexicon of marketing images that posit ‘a quiet, slightly unreal dreamworld’ of traditional Japan (Moeran, 1995: 120); most of them, such as cherry blossoms, red maple leaves, carp banners, and bamboo, signify seasonal changes and festivals, which are at the core of the Japanese narrative on identity. I saw another manifestation of this approach in Kyoto in the shape of a nory yuka, veranda over water, constructed during the summer by restaurants serving local cuisine. Yuka is considered one of the attractions typical of old Kyoto down- town, allowing patrons to enjoy dining above the stream. In 2006, a centrally located Starbucks outlet adopted this pattern and began offering its own summer yuka. In a leaflet explaining this novelty, yuka was described as a unique Kyoto


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Journal of Consumer Culture 14(3)

tradition, offered now by Starbucks as a ‘completely new coffee experience that combines the rich culture of coffee with the traditions of Kyoto.’ Another example can be seen in the recent opening of a new Starbucks store in Dazaifu, in close proximity to one of the most sacred Shinto shrines in Japan. The store was designed by a famous Japanese architect to resemble shrine architecture, and to be ‘contextually rooted in the site, as if almost ‘nested’ within it.’ 25 The opening was covered by numerous Japanese and international news services, describing the new store as ‘both ornate and minimal, traditional and modern, continuing the architect’s exploration in the crafts and carpentry heritage of his native land’ – a kind of enchanting cultural rhyme revolving around the binary opposition of old and new, native and foreign, Japanese and western. 26 All these communicate the idea that Starbucks has gone a long way to fit itself into the local scene. The incorporation of local cultural codes by global brands is often regarded as ‘glocalization’, aimed at adapting the global products to the locality and leading to its eventual hybridization. According to Pieterse (2009), the cultural form of hybridization leads to the development of me´lange cultures that span multiple locations and identities. This notion of me´lange culture fits the popular image of ‘hybrid Japan’, where East meets West, and where foreign influences are processed and incorporated in a harmonious manner characteristic of the Japanese cultural production. This ‘harmonious hybridity’ (Goldstein-Gidoni, 2001: 70) often char- acterizes both the image of Japan held by western observers, and the Japanese self-presentation (see, for example, Iwabuchi, 2000). The view of me´lange as an attribute of hybridity, however, disregards the complexity of the dialog between differentiated cultural codes involved in the process of global cultural production. In case of global actors, the actual adaptation of the product often occurs behind the scene – especially when the foreign origin of the product is inherent in its brand image, as in the case of TDL or coffee. Food items offered by Starbucks in Japan represent a curious example of how the product is modified while being made to look authentic. According to Barbara Le Marrec, Chief Retail Officer at Starbucks Japan, the products sold in the Starbucks stores represent the ‘Japanese idea of an American food experience, with the same form factor, but with different ingredients’ (Grinshpun, 2012: 184). As was mentioned, I see many commonalities between Starbucks (and other global coffee chains) and TDL in the way their products are culturally branded in Japan. Both sell the authentic ‘Other’, albeit tuned to Japanese consumer pref- erences; both promote cultural nostalgia disconnected from the local past; both romanticize the world while offering it on sale; and finally, both incorporate the element of self-exoticization. The seasonal offering of Japanese New Year’s (Oshogatsu ) cuisine at the TDL World Bazaar (Raz, 2000: 94) seems to fulfill the same role as yuka in Kyoto Starbucks, referring the customer to his/her own cul- ture as part of what can be called ‘self-Orientalism’. The exploitation of the local ‘odor’ does not necessarily imply creation of a hybrid cultural substance. Rather, it appends another layer to the commercial appeal of the commodity, and contributes yet another element to the process of

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code-switching. The use of ‘traditional’ cultural icons as authentic markers of the unique locality suggests that along with the exoticization of the foreign, the domes- tic itself is being de-familiarized in order to enhance the consumer appeal. A sense of estrangement, essential for the commodification of culture, plays a central role here. Wilk describes how the return to local foods among the Belizeans was accom- panied by a sense of emotional distance (Wilk, 1999: 247). Creighton (1998) men- tions the estrangement underlying the nostalgic yearning for furusato, one’s home village, which since the 1970s has been the core of various campaigns aiming to foster domestic travel, but which can also be seen as part of a wider discourse on national identity and self-exoticization (Robertson, 1988). The politics of cultural marketing incorporates various cultural ‘vocabularies’ as integral components of local consumption. By ‘vocabulary,’ I refer to a set of images and representations which comprise the repertoire of a cultural code, in a similar way to words that comprise the repertoire of a language. These cultural vocabularies are case sensitive, dynamic, and contextual, as suggested by the prin- ciple of code-switching. Moreover, the cultural entities behind the codes are often imagineered; nevertheless, their symbolic separation is clearly demarcated. White mentions that coffee, assimilated as it is, cannot be accompanied by Japanese food. Japanese cafe´s therefore rarely serve Japanese dishes; although local tastes and techniques are incorporated into various cafe´ foods, their foreignness is neverthe- less clearly marked – for example, by referring to rice as ‘raisu’, to distinguish it from the same rice (‘gohan’) served at local eateries (White, 2012: 123). The sep- aration between the two cultural codes underlies the notion of cultural me´lange, whereby the apparent mixture in fact follows a strict logic of contextuality (Goldstein-Gidoni, 2001a). The use of language, whether by the choice of bor- rowed words where the native vocabulary is available, or by the inversion of roles, whereby Japanese words are written in a manner suggestive of their alien nature, provides a linguistic validation of this contextuality.

Conclusion: The coffee question and the movement of culture

In the study of coffee as a cultural commodity, one important question often arises, which can be articulated as follows: Is it really about coffee? A recent book by Bryant Simon on the Starbucks chain in the United States is titled ‘Everything but the coffee’ (Simon, 2009; italics mine) and suggests that ‘it’ – i.e. the consumer experience offered by the chain – is not. I maintain that while the beverage itself might be of a secondary significance, its cultural background and the associations it generates are of primary importance. When the experience offered by Starbucks in Japan is examined, it becomes evident that what Starbucks promotes is not merely the coffee, but a cultural vocabulary associated with it. Given the considerable niche that foreign products occupy in the Japanese consumption scene, as well as their interaction with the local constructs of ‘Japan’, the ability to pass from one cultural mode to another translates into cultural capital. Despite the familiarity with multiple foreign icons

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Journal of Consumer Culture 14(3)

and images characterizing contemporary Japanese consumers, the boundaries between the two cultural entities of the ‘foreign’ and the ‘Japanese’ are usually maintained and cultivated. Similarly to Christmas or western cuisine, coffee and cafe´s in Japan fall into the category of imported trends that owe their aura to the fact of their foreign origin. Christmas has long since become a commonplace; while modified to fit the local needs, it has never been stripped of its foreign cultural ‘odor’. Bread, which today constitutes an integral part of the Japanese diet, is still associated with foreign food culture, as manifested by bakeries’ foreign-sounding names, representative more of the ‘abstract West’ than of any particular bread-related tradition. The manner in which the Starbucks items are marketed as authentic products associated with other cultures illustrates this trend. Filone bread roll is introduced in the context of Italian baking tradition; the Christmas items are referred to as bringing the genuine taste of Americana. The ‘other’ cultures themselves are exoticized by being ‘packaged’ as evoking the magic of remote lands. Creating this theme park-like environment around coffee was made possible largely due to its ‘baggage,’ i.e. the particular circumstances of its incorporation as a cultural commodity. The factors shaping the marketing of coffee in Japan can be exemplified by the anecdotal figure of ‘Alien Jones’ from the Boss Coffee commercial mentioned in the beginning of this essay. The coffee, although produced and sold by a local brand, nevertheless invites an association with the outside – the same ‘window onto the world’ of which Richie wrote. Japan gazes at the world, while the world gazes at Japan, with the mutual gaze working to reassert each other’s ‘otherness’. The demarcation of clear boundaries between ‘things Japanese’ and ‘things foreign’ not only reaffirms cultural identity, but also ensures the lasting appeal of the two allegedly authentic entities, and illustrates how both the ‘Self’ and the ‘Other’ are utilized in the construction of a consumer experience. In this process, new meanings are ascribed and new uses are attached to the consumed product, pointing at the active role the local agency plays in the appropriation of foreign commodities. Having developed a model of a global chain, and reinvented an everyday com- modity as a source of long-term consumer appeal, Starbucks provides a lens for comprehending how the interplay between foreign and local modes forges a new vocabulary of cultural branding. It is important to note that the described mar- keting techniques do not point at the uniqueness of the Starbucks brand or at the exclusive nature of coffee; rather, they provide a case for comprehending trends occurring in Japanese consumption. By examining the global brew in the local context, this study sheds light on the dynamic between foreign and native cultural imageries, rather than on the power relations between the agents of globalization and local markets. The global and local emerge not as a dichotomy but rather as dynamic imagineered constructs, relations between which switch in accordance with the context. I would like to finish this exploration with the mall and temple metaphor which opened it. The official concept of the Kyoto Rokkaku Starbucks store, as stated on the official Starbucks Japan website, manifests the aspiration to ‘bring Japan and

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the West together’, resonating with the early Japanese coffee shops’ cultural func- tion. In this setting, which represents a vivid example of shakkei, a borrowed landscape, Japan and the West comprise a pastiche in which each one is assigned its own role. Codes switch, cultures move, creating a dynamic multifaceted cultural reality where a dialog on culture is carried out through consumption.



Tanuki is a mythological creature symbolizing prosperity and good fortune; its statues are often placed at the entrances to bars, restaurants and private homes.


The term is borrowed from linguistics where it refers to shifting between two or more

languages in the context of a single conversation.


‘Lifestyle superpower’ was a term used by Prime Minister Kiichi in 1991.


Furusato’ literally translates as ‘one’s old home village’; it is often used to invoke a sense


nostalgia with Japan’s rural past.


As of year 2004, 147 tons of roasted coffee and 105 tons of instant coffee were con- sumed, as compared with 128 tons of green tea.


The Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan

was signed in 1960 and triggered a wide-scale opposition movement.


According to the data presented at the World Coffee Conference, 2001.


Today, coffee shop chains take up more than 5% of the coffee shop market.


The word ‘foreigner’ (gaijin) in Japanese literally means ‘alien’, ‘a person from outside’.


Produced by Japan Tobacco Company.


Bread, despite its integration in the local lifestyle, still carries a symbolic association with western lifestyle; famiresu, although their menus include both western and Japanese food, are considered American-style dining.


In March 2011, the north-eastern part of Japan was hit by an earthquake, which caused

a disastrous tsunami and the consequent dysfunction of the Fukushima nuclear

power plant.


Susan Barton’s online blog, March 2011.


From the online news portal:



Retrieved in March 2013 from:, http://www.,



summer 2008 Starbucks announced the closure of 600 stores in the United States; in

2009 the company announced major job cuts.


Issued November 2005.


Introduced by Starbucks in September 2008, filone has been offered exclusively for the Japanese market.



Japan, Valentine’s Day has long been a highly recognizable consumption icon, but its

local interpretation represents a curious cultural translation whereby only women give presents to men.


Issued February 2008.


Hot water, caramel sauce, milk foam, steamed milk, vanilla syrup.


The scale introduced by Starbucks consists of ‘short,’ ‘tall,’ ‘grande’ and ‘venti’ sizes.


Most of the Starbucks product development is done in Seattle, but there are products conceived and produced locally.

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24. One explanation for this modification points to the fact that in Japan, drinking on the move is considered impolite.

25. From the Architizer Blog, December 2011,


26. From the Architizer Blog, February 2012,



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Author Biography Helena Grinshpun is currently a Research Fellow at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. In 2009 she completed her doctorate in anthropology and Japanese studies at Kyoto University, Japan. Her PhD thesis dealt with the incorporation of global cultural commodities in Japan. Since 2010 she has been teaching courses on Japanese contemporary society and culture at the East Asian Department of the Hebrew University. Her main research interests are cultural representation, struc- turing of public space, consumer behaviour and consumer education in Japan.

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