October 26 2017
Since before we arrived in Japan, I have been dying to visit the weird Starbucks in Dazaifu. It was designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and naturally, has become a popular tourist attraction. It sits on a busy street, lined with shops and cafes, that leads to Dazaifu Tenmangu, a popular Shinto shrine.
Kuma was inspired by the neighborhood. “That’s where it all started,” he said. “Dazaifu Tenmangu is a very special location, a historic shrine, for locals and visitors. I wanted to show the essence of the place to honor its strong culture of craftsmanship. If we could combine Starbucks spirit with the spirit of the artisan, we knew we could achieve something special.”
“The result feels like it is truly handmade,” Sleeth said. He’s referring to the thoughtful detail Kuma’s firm put into every corner of the store, starting with his use of an intricate diagonally woven cedar wood lattice - the most visually striking aspect of the space.
We drove up to Dazaifu with a couple of friends and spent the day touring the shrine, rubbing the ox horns for good luck, and watching a monkey perform tricks for a crowd. The Starbucks was really neat, just as I expected. Luckily, we arrived early enough to avoid a long line and snag a table. The lattice work extends throughout the shop, coving the ceiling and a wall. We were amused to discover protective caps on the ends of the wooden sticks and wondered what must have happened to warrant their use.
Afterwards, we went in search of the Chikuzen Kokubunji Temple. It was listed as a must-see on TripAdvisor and I was pretty excited to see a real temple and learn about its history. I imagined it towering over the neighborhood, offering breathtaking views of the city below. So, you can imagine my surprise when we rounded a corner and found a tiny REPLICA temple 1/10th the size of the original. ONE TENTH. I was duped!! We did get a good laugh out of it but still, disappointing.
To end the trip, we drove out to Nanzoin Temple... home of the reclining Buddha. This was our second visit but the sheer size of the Buddha still wow’d and impressed us.