The Story of How Coffee Became a Popular Drink in Japan

Last Updated on February 5, 2021

To many people, Japan is a remote and enigmatic land. This country’s culture and traditions lead to some stereotypical ideas about it. Such is the case of the Japanese tea and the ceremony associated with its drinking. So, we know that Japanese drink tea. But little do we know about other popular drinks in the country of the Rising Sun. Therefore, it may come as a surprise to know that coffee is very popular in Japan. Currently, it is the third-largest importer of coffee in the world.

How did it happen? How was coffee introduced to Japan? Let’s recount the story. Dutch expatriates were living in Nagasaki in the late 18th century. They were first to introduce coffee to the country. However, because of little supply, the drink was not widely popular at the time. Approximately one century later, the Japanese began importing coffee in larger quantities. As a result, the first coffee shop in Japan opened its doors in Tokyo in 1888. The shop was a success and the coffee culture spread throughout the country.

Coffee in Japan

World War II was a difficult time for Japan. The supply of coffee plummeted during this period because of import restrictions. Coffee importation resumed in the 1960s when the restrictions were lifted. It reached its peak in the 1970s. Finally, the Coffee Shop Doutor franchise opened its first branch in the trendy Harajuku area of Tokyo in 1980. Today, this franchise operates 1,490 stores all over the country.

Later, in 1996, Starbucks opened its first branch outside the United States. It was located in Tokyo. The tremendous success of Starbucks Tokyo prompted the giant coffeehouse chain to open branches in many other countries. The design of this coffeehouse in Tokyo sought to adapt to the local culture. It was decisive for its success together with the premium quality of the coffee made by this company. Not long after, more than 1,000 Starbuck coffeehouses were already operating across Japan.

Coffee consumption

Within a year after the opening of the first Starbucks coffeehouse in Japan, Dotour launched Excelsior Cafe. It was a coffeehouse chain created as a response to Starbucks in the Japanese market. For example, the premises of Excelsior Cafe were also green. Its logo resembled Starbucks’ logo in the shape and color. The presence of Starbucks in Japan had an enormous impact on the Japanese coffee culture. People were not going to cafes to do business but to relax and socialize. Others enjoyed just sitting at the café with their laptops.

Nowadays, coffee is a huge business in Japan. There are many coffee shops in every Japanese city. As a country known for levering technology, there are 5 million coffee vending machines throughout Japan. You can buy cold or hot coffee automatically from these vending machines. Thus, whenever you want a cup of coffee to brighten up your day in Japan, you don’t need to go to a coffee shop.

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Serg Karatsch


Coffee Grinders Advice Staff

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Featured Image Source: Pixabay.

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