Sunday, December 27, 2015

Danbara Starbucks in Hiroshima

View at night

Every once in a while I find a place that leaves me with a deep impression, a place that is both the source and inspiration for many memories. One of those places I found in Hiroshima.

After moving an hour and a half away from Hiroshima, I would make monthly pilgrimages into the city for some urban renewal. I would take the bus on a Friday night after work, and come home by mid-afternoon on Sunday. For the first couple months I was simply finding my way. I would try different restaurant, browse café catalogs and go on hunts for the perfect place to write and sip a cup of coffee, but no experience was really worth repeating. It was not until the third time I made this pilgrimage that I found my way.

Starbucks was a regular place for me in Japan. I have already written extensively about the shortage of spacious, writer-friendly cafes in Japan.  With a few lucky exceptions, Starbucks continues to be the best option for most people who wish to spend a few hours on their laptops. Hiroshima has three major Starbucks branches. The Hon-Dori is the main, three-story café in the busy covered shopping center downtown. This one is great for people watching through the vast windows, but in peak times there is a line out the door, and seating is a precious commodity. I hated walking 30 minutes from my hostel only to find that it was too crowded to work from, so I gave up on that one. The second best-known branch is the Heiwa-Dori, at Peave Blvd. This one seems to be preferable for expats in the city, but the seating is even more limited, and the fact that it is located inside an NHK building makes me feel like I'm going to work at the office. My all-time favorite Starbucks, not just I Hiroshima but  in the world, has to be the third branch, the Danbara store.

Perched majestically in the Danbara neighborhood, a new upscale-housing development near the Mazda stadium, this sprawling, gorgeous Starbucks is the best one I have found in the world. At all hours there is plenty of seating, and I prefer the second floor. My prime choice is to sit outside, on the balcony facing the river. Form here I get a pleasant view of the pedestrian bridge and condominium across the river. If it’s too cold or if all the seat are taken on the balcony, I sit inside at one of the small tables.

This is certainly not the most architecturally remarkable Starbucks, nor does it break any other records in terms of uniqueness, but it has a youthful and local vibe. It is quiet but hip, comfortable but interesting. Since I found it, I made it a point to start and end my weekends in Hiroshima at this Starbucks. 

View at night facing the street

Lounge area on the second floor

Large dining table on the second floor

Interior view form the second floor

Dining room table on the second floor

View from the outside balcony

Outside balcony seating area

Daytime view

The drive-thru sign

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