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When Starbucks arrived in Japan in 1996, it should have spelled trouble for Doutor, the dowdy coffee chain that had dominated the market since the 1980s. In fact, the opposite happened: by cultivating demand for gourmet coffee, Starbucks actually revived the fortunes of its hot dog-vending homegrown rival.

There seems to be something similar happening with kissaten, the venerable coffee houses that flourished back in the pre-Doutor days. The recent invasion of so-called third wave coffeeshops (think: baristas with artisanal beards talking knowledgeably about “mouthfeel”) has prompted a re-evaluation of Japan’s older coffee-making traditions, with their emphasis on patient, finicky technique.

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