Village for Cafe Amazon’s Japan launch

Rather than a big city, Thai coffee-shop chain Cafe Amazon has chosen a village for its launch into Japan.

More than 200km from Tokyo, Kawauchi in the Fukushima prefecture has fewer than 2000 residents, and the community is still struggling to recover from the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Cafe Amazon Japan store

Kawauchi is about 25km away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which had meltdowns after the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. The village was temporarily evacuated, with about 30 per cent of the registered population of 2700 yet to return.

However, Thai state oil and gas company PTT, which owns the Cafe Amazon chain, believes that starting out in such a location could help to raise brand awareness.

PTT president/chief executive Kevin Vongvanich, who travelled from Bangkok to attend the Kawauchi shop’s opening ceremony, says the company hopes to open other branches across Japan.

Cafe Amazon Japan open

He says one of PTT’s objectives in Kawauchi is to gather consumer feedback. “We have a special coffee designed for the Japanese – a bit lighter than coffee in Thailand. The testing will provide us with information so we can adapt our coffee to suit Japanese tastes.”

Cafe Amazon is using the same Thai beans it offers in its 1600 domestic outlets. A basic cup of coffee in Kawauchi sells for 250 yen (US$2.30), and the 60-seat shop resembles a wooden house, with customers being asked to leave their shoes at the entrance.

Japanese building materials maker Codomo Energy, which has a factory in Kawauchi, has the Cafe Amazon franchise for Japan, and the partners plan to open several more branches next year, starting in Osaka.

For Kawauchi, the cafe represents a rare investment from outside the community. At the opening ceremony, Mayor Yuko Endo said he hoped more outsiders would visit the village because of the cafe.


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