Starbucks launches first signing store in Japan

After months of preparation, Starbucks will launch its first sign language store in Japan on 27 June after announcing the plan in March. 

Located in Kunitachi City, Tokyo, the new store will leverage technology and art to create an immersive experience in sign language and the deaf culture. Spanning 208 square metres, the store encompasses a design with increased accessibility and human engagement.

Customers have several options when ordering in the store, including contactless speech-to-text voice recognition through a tablet at the register, pointing to items on the menu, or writing on a notepad.

Digital signage allows customers to track the progress of their orders through the number printed on their receipts. When the orders are ready, a sign language animation will invite customers to pick up their purchases. The digital signage also shows frequently signed phrases of greetings for all customers to enjoy and immerse themselves in the world of sign language.

Throughout the store, original artwork inspired by sign language creates a window for customers to explore the deaf culture in Japan. Designed by Hidehiko Kado, a child of deaf adults, the artwork connects people with or without hearing difficulties through bright, yet whimsical expressions. 

To create the artwork, Kado met with people who are hearing-impaired to explore the unique community the signing store would represent. 

The main theme of the artwork is connection – sign language connects people across Japan to the world of the deaf culture, and conversations over coffee connect people with one another. 

Within the artwork are several sign phrases, including greetings and coffee-inspired phrases that will come to life in everyday interactions between employees and customers.

“Inspired by the passion of employees who are deaf and hearing-impaired, we created this store as a place of belonging, where our employees and customers can stay true to who they are and be inspired. This store truly represents infinite possibilities for all,” said Takafumi Minaguchi, CEO of Starbucks Coffee Japan.

The first Starbucks signing store opened in Kuala Lumpur in 2016. Since then, Starbucks has opened signing stores in Washington DC, Guangzhou, and Penang. 

“At Starbucks, we are committed to creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome. For our partners (employees), that means creating equal opportunity. For our customers, it means creating a space to connect with one another over a cup of coffee in every community we serve around the world,” said John Culver, group president, international, channel development and global coffee, tea and cocoa, Starbucks International.

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