ⓘ Coffee in Japan


ⓘ Coffee in Japan

Japan has a very unique coffee culture that has changed with societal needs over time. Today, coffee shops serve as a niche within their urban cultures. While it was introduced earlier in history, in the sixteen and seventeenth centuries by Dutch and Portuguese traders, it gained popularity rapidly at the turn of the twentieth century. It supports the social aspects of Japan, serving both as a space to connect but also to alleviate oneself from social pressures. Coffee is also defined by class interactions and classicist behaviors and has economic influence through the mass amount of import of coffee and the mass consumption of coffee in Japan in its many different forms.


1. History

Coffee first arrived in Japan via Dutch traders in 1700. The first shop opened in 1888 by the name of Kahiichakan. It lasted 5 years before going bankrupt. In 1933, Tadao Ueshima founded Ueshima Tadao Shoten in Kobe, Japan. Mr. Ueshima has since been dubbed the "Father of Coffee in Japan". During World War II, the Japanese established a ban on coffee imports until being lifted in 1950. In 1969, he re-invented and mass-produced the first canned coffee making it a commodity to be consumed anywhere. Some canned coffee brands include "Boss produced by Suntory, Georgia produced by Coca-Cola, Nescafe produced by Nestle, and Roots produced by Japan Tobacco".

Following its brief stint in the Meiji period, coffee wove its way back into the Japanese markets in the 1960s. During World War II coffee import was banned in Japan as they were in conflict with the influential west. To measure its growth in consumption, Japan imported 15.000 tonnes back in 1960. Today, the numbers total over 440.000 tonnes. Japans spike in coffee consumption can be linked to its fascination with western culture leading to large investments. Mr. Ueshima also played a large role in the establishment of the All Japanese Coffee Association in 1980. In the same year, Doutor Coffee opened the countrys first chain furthering the consumption and turning coffee into a valuable economic resource. Part of Doutors success was its on-the-go environment. This facilitated and encouraged people to take their coffee with them to work and to school.


1.1. History Types of coffee shops

Smaller chains battle to stay afloat by being known for their individual traits. For example, Renoir is recognized by its plug-in and wireless access for customers. Another factor is smoking and as some customers appreciate a smoke and coffee, others despise the thought of smoking altogether. Smaller shops can better cater to the locals in terms of allowing smoking while larger chains like Starbucks, must follow company rules and ban it. Bigger chains like McDonalds and Starbucks are rooted in the west and have pushed themselves upon the growing coffee market in Japan through storefronts and stands.

Big or small, they both have been heavily influenced by the west. Smaller chains like Boss and Roots enlisted the help of prominent Americans Tommy Lee Jones Boss and Brad Pitt Roots to be their spokespeople and advertise for them. Bigger Chains like Starbucks emerged to capitalize on the new booming coffee industry in Japan. The first Starbucks opened in Ginza, Tokyo, in 1996. In 2005, they partnered with Suntory to sell their own canned coffee. Over time, Starbucks has grown to over 1.000 Japanese shops clustered around the cities. In response, McDonalds McCafe has sprouted up where instead of having a whole McDonalds store there is simply a stand selling McDonalds coffee. These standalone shops were officially established in 2007 and target coffee and small on-the-go treats. Tullys is a third foreign enterprise stemming out of Seattle, Washington. Its first shop opened in 1997, and grew to 513 by 2014.


2. Culture

Coffee culture in Japan is one of the most unique observed globally. Due to the products foreign origins, Japanese coffee culture is heavily connected to the identity of being foreign or western. This identity resulted in the beverage being banned during World War II. Coffee franchises such as the Western Starbucks are viewed and enjoyed in the same way as the Disneyland franchise in Japan. Concerning the Starbucks franchise, the first location outside of the US for Starbucks was Japan. In postwar Japan, Western products and goods were indicators of the new Japanese middle class. High-grade coffee equipment, as well as ground coffee, fell into this category. In the world of post-war Japan, jazz cafes and coffee they served were examples of Japans efforts to modernize its culture and society in the vein of Western countries. Coffee shops were also cultural spots for progressive youths during the 1960s and 1970s, serving as meeting places for feminist movements and anti-government protests.

Culture wise, coffee differs greatly from a traditional Japanese tea culture. Coffee is primarily viewed as Western wise as a solitary drink. Japan has a similar view of the beverage. In the 1960s and 1970s, coffee became popular with Japanese businessmen working alone in public. However, Japanese coffee also has a social element to it, but a radically different one than the social element associated with Japanese tea culture. In Japan, tea culture is a social, unifying event, expressed through the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The Japanese tea ceremony is an expression of hospitality and respect towards friends and guests. Coffee shops and coffee produced there serve a social function as well but a more disruptive social function. Coffee shops in Japan served as meeting places for social movements aimed at transforming and disrupting Japanese society during the 1970s and 1980s. These social movements include Japanese feminist groups and various anti-government movements. While serving as a symbol for Japanese businessmen as well as youthful activists, types of coffee products also serve to illustrate a divide between age groups. Per an article written through a collaboration between professors from the University of Hawaii and St. Andrews University in Osaka, instant coffee is viewed as common while ground and fresh coffee beans are viewed as luxury goods. Instant coffee is preferred by Japanese youth while ground coffee is enjoyed by successful middle-class Japanese adults.


3. International Connections

Japanese coffee production is an international affair. Coffee beans sold and roasted in Japan are primarily grown in countries such as Brazil, Indonesia and other countries with warm climates. Between 1908 and 1924, roughly 35.000 Japanese citizens emigrated to Brazil to work on coffee farms. These Japanese Brazilians would then bring coffee back to Japan. Japan’s coffee culture has also adopted the language and terminology used in English speaking Western countries such as roast and drop rather than create Japanese terms.

Coffee brands in Japan are often marked by Western actors such as Brad Pitt and Tom Selleck, further indicating the products foreign identity.


4. Economy

Historically, the economy of coffee shops boomed during the" bubble economy”, in which there was great economic growth, particularly commercially, despite the unstable nature of this expansion. Currently, average revenue as of 2019 is 4075994.85 yen, which translates to $37.478 million in USD. The major type of coffee that is the most popular is instant coffee, which accrued a revenue of 3016157.88 yen, or 27.733 million in USD in 2019. The price of instant coffee per unit has gone up over the past couple of years, but roast coffee per unit has remained relatively stable. The large majority of coffee is consumed outside of the home, in bars and restaurants, proportional to in-home consumption. The largest company in the retail coffee segment is Nestle, and the biggest company in the in-home and out-of-home coffee is JAB Holdings, which is Luxembourg-based. There has been a steady increase in coffee revenue in Japan over the past decade. Globally, they are the third country from the most revenue generated from coffee.