The end of a Starbucks

Please note: While my books were translated by professionals, this blog post got a little help from AI, meaning it may not be a perfect translation.

François and I were standing in line for the Starbucks in the shopping center of Keio-Hachioji station, when a poster caught his eye. One of those posters with big red and yellow letters, and something in Japanese that translated as “clearance sale.” I had seen the poster before, but since my brain still doesn’t automatically translate Japanese, I hadn’t given it a second thought, and assumed it was just another advertising poster. But François’s Japanese is better, so he asked the barista, “Clearance sale?” – “Yes,” said the barista, “everything closes on March 31. We’re leaving too, the whole building is vacating.”


At home, I cranked up google. I found news articles about the building, and that it was closing because some serious work needed to be done on the core. In earthquake-prone Japan, that’s a big deal, so I get that. But gosh. The mall is eleven stories high, with restaurants on the top two floors, a fresh food store in the basement, a McDonalds on the second floor, and a Starbucks and a fake French bakery on the ground floor. There are also clothing stores, a music store, a train goodies store and the Japanese version of Euroland, called Daiso. And all of that is going to close next week.

When I was at Daiso last week, parts of the store were already cordoned off. With no more new stock coming in, the store looked empty. The clothing stores have discounts of up to 70% and suddenly I also understand why, after one store left, they just filled the second floor with gachapon – those Japanese devices that you throw a coin into and then turn a knob and get a toy out.

As you may know, Starbucks is pretty much my life. It’s my safe place, but also a reason to go on adventures. In the Starbucks app, I collect medals for each Japanese prefecture (province), and a Starbucks branch in a special or old building is worth a trip for me. Now the Starbucks in this station is far from special. But it was the Starbucks closest to my home, and thus the place where, I can see in my app, I have been to more than 200 times. This was the place where I went through stacks of paper with book corrections, where I came home after a long trip from Holland, where I sometimes sat down just before closing time to clear my head. This was the store where I practiced my Japanese, where the staff knew my order and handed out compliments when I stood at the counter with a cool new tumbler or outfit.

This Sunday it will close. Of course I’m going to stop by, and I’m afraid I might even shed a tear. There are three other Starbucks branches a five-minute walk from this one, but still. Not the same.