Category Archives: Tokyo

A’s Rally Falls Short In Tokyo MLB Season Opener; Japanese Fans Cheer Ichiro

TOKYO (AP) — Ichiro drew all the cheers. Most everyone else on the Seattle Mariners did all the hitting.

A crowd that came to salute Ichiro Suzuki in his homeland saw Domingo Santana deliver the biggest hit at the Tokyo Dome, a grand slam that sent Seattle over the Oakland Athletics 9-7 Wednesday in the Major League Baseball opener.

Batting ninth and knowing he’d get two plate appearances, Ichiro popped up and worked a walk. The 45-year-old star took his spot in right field to begin the bottom of the fourth inning, then was pulled to another huge ovation. He was met with hugs from the Mariners on the diamond.

“The fans in Japan probably aren’t used to the reception I got from my teammates, but it’s not that unusual in the majors,” Ichiro said.

Mariners manager Scott Servais said Ichiro will play in Thursday’s final game of the series, but there is no guarantee he’ll start.

“We certainly want to give him an opportunity to go out and play, but we also want to get some other guys in the game,” Servais said. “I understand everybody wants to see him go all nine innings. We’re trying to do the best thing for the team and Ichiro understands.”

This marked the earliest opening day ever — the summer sport actually started on the last day of winter. No doubt, most fans in North America were sound asleep when Oakland’s Mike Fiers threw the first pitch at 5:36 a.m. EDT (6:36 p.m. local).

A year after the Cubs’ Ian Happ homered on the very pitch of the season, the ball again was flying.

Tim Beckham also homered as several Seattle newcomers excelled. Khris Davis, who led the majors with 48 home runs last year, Stephen Piscotty and Matt Chapman connected for the A’s.

“It was great. It’s a fun crowd to play in front of. Even the pregame stuff was exciting. I think everybody had a good time,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.

A packed crowd of 45,787 was buzzing for its favorite star, sending cheers, chants and camera flashes for Ichiro bounding all around the park. Signs and Ichiro jerseys were plenty, too.

Ichiro became the second-oldest position player to start an opener, only a few months younger than Julio Franco was for Atlanta in 2004. Several of the players in this game weren’t born when Ichiro began his pro career.

Ichiro is getting very near the end of a sensational pro career that began in Japan in 1992 when he was at 18. He stopped playing last May to become a Mariners special assistant — after totaling 4,367 hits on both sides of the ocean — and struggled in spring training this year.

Santana, one of many Mariners new to the lineup, had no trouble at the plate. His opposite-field grand slam capped a five-run burst in the third for a 5-2 lead and Beckham’s drive in the fifth made it 9-4.

Beckham got three hits and three times. Also making a nice debut for Seattle were Jay Bruce, who singled for MLB’s first hit of the season, and Edwin Encarnacion, who scored twice.

The Mariners won for the 12th time in 15 openers. They also beat the A’s in 2012 when MLB last started in Japan.

Seattle starter Marco Gonzales hung in for six innings, allowing three earned runs and seven hits, and got the win. Felix Hernandez had started the last 10 openers for the Mariners.

Hunter Strickland pitched a scoreless ninth for a save in his first game for Seattle. Edwin Diaz, who led the majors with 57 last year, was traded with Robinson Cano to the Mets in the offseason.

Fiers, making his first opening day start at 33, was hit hard for three innings and took the loss.

NOT THIS TIME

After a lot of offseason talk about improved pace of play, the opener took 3 hours, 24 minutes. … The Mariners had held opponents to no more than three runs in their past 12 openers, an MLB record.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mariners: C Omar Narvaez got stung in the bare thumb on a fastball right down the middle after an early cross-up with Gonzales. Narvaez was checked by a trainer and stayed in. … 1B Daniel Vogelbach was hit in the elbow by a pitch and kept playing.

Athletics: OF Nick Martini (sprained knee), who hit well after making his big league debut last season, is on the injured list for at least another week.

UP NEXT

Mariners: LHP Yusei Kikuchi makes his major league debut in his home country. The 27-year-old lefty starred for Seibu last season, then joined Seattle with a contract that could be worth $109 million over seven years. Kikuchi mixes a hard fastball with a tough, looping curve.

Athletics: RHP Marco Estrada makes his debut after signing with the A’s. The 35-year-old was 7-14 with a career-worst 5.64 ERA last season for Toronto and was hampered by hip and back problems.

Starbucks’ New 32,000-Square-Foot Store In Tokyo Is Its Biggest In The World

 (CNN) — Starbucks is about to open its biggest Roastery in the world in Tokyo.

Roasteries — large, lavish Starbucks stores that feature specialty coffees and teas, on-premise roasters and massive coffee casks where freshly roasted beans are held — are a way to “celebrate the romance of coffee,” CEO Kevin Johnson told CNN Business.

The 32,000-square-foot Tokyo Roastery will open to the public on Thursday morning. It overtakes the one in Shanghai as the biggest Starbucks on the planet. The company has just three others, in Seattle, Milan and New York City.

After Tokyo, Starbucks plans to open one more Roastery, in Chicago.

Roasteries are designed to solve a problem all retailers face: How to make the in-store experience unique and exciting enough to lure in customers.

Starbucks is also using the Roasteries to test out design concepts and menu items — and to double down on its promise of offering a “third place” between home and work, even as it focuses on speed and convenience elsewhere.

“The Roasteries are brand amplifiers for us,” Johnson said. “That is their primary objective.”

The Tokyo Roastery

In Tokyo, customers who visit the Roastery will be able to order elaborate drinks like black tea lattes garnished with turmeric cotton candy and jasmine teas topped with popsicles. They’ll be able to gaze at cherry blossoms through glass walls, and sip beverages on an outdoor terrace.

The Jasmine Silver Needle Tea comes with a pink hibiscus and cherry flavored popsicle.

The four-story shop boasts a number of superlatives. It’s the first Roastery to be designed from start to finish with a local designer, architect Kengo Kuma, and the first Starbucks location with a dedicated “inspiration lounge” to host events. It’s home to the world’s largest Teavana tea bar. And Starbucks also hopes that it will one day become the first of its stores to be certified by the Specialty Coffee Association, a non-profit membership group, to train coffee professionals.

But the Tokyo location also shares many elements with its four predecessor locations, like the cask — though at over 55-feet tall, Tokyo’s is biggest. It also shares distinctive design features like a split-flap sign, called a clacker board, which displays the coffee being roasted in the roasters. Like every Roastery, the Tokyo location has series of overhead pipes that shoots beans throughout the building, sells customized merchandise and incorporates Princi bakeries into the stores. It also has an Arriviamo cocktail bar like the New York and Milan Roasteries.

Retail theater

The first Roastery opened in Seattle in December 2014. “This is a real-life Willy Wonka experience with coffee as the heart and soul,” said Liz Muller, now Starbucks’ chief design officer, in a statement at the time. Muller has gone on to lead design on each Roastery.

Starbucks’ turmeric cotton candy

Howard Schultz, then CEO of the company, said in January 2015 that the location’s opening was the strongest in the company’s history, “well exceeding even our most optimistic projections.”

From the beginning, the Roasteries were designed to have a theatrical air. Customers are invited to explore the space, try new concoctions and learn about Starbucks’ coffee supply chain. The more each Roastery has to offer, the more likely it is that customers will visit, spend and stay.

“Personally, I feel that the Roastery is the finest, most creative, and immersive experiential retail environment of any in the world today,” Schultz said in 2015. “It should be no coincidence that the Roastery opened in the same year that we identified and shared with you the urgent need for retailers to elevate, deepen, and ultimately redefine how they were emotionally connecting with their customers.”

By the end of 2016, it seemed that Starbucks’ big bet was paying off. The company reported in November that sales for the year were up 24% compared to 2015, mostly because Roasteries customers spent four times as much as customers at regular Starbucks locations.

“In Milan, even today, we have lines around the building on the weekends,” Johnson noted this month.

Starbucks has always been “a more affluent brand,” said Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy. The Roasteries take it “even more upstream,” he said.

Menu and design innovations

In addition to offering a premium experience, the Roastery also serves as an innovation lab, Johnson said.

Starbucks has rolled out new beverages nationwide after testing them out at Roasteries. The Juniper Latte, last year’s holiday beverage, was inspired by a drink that debuted in the Seattle Roastery the previous year. The Cascara Latte, which tastes like the coffee cherry, was introduced at all stores in 2017 and also inspired by a drink first unveiled at the Seattle Roastery.

The Roasteries are also where Starbucks tests out design elements it adopts not only in other Roastery locations, but at Starbucks’ Reserve Bars — high-end coffee bars that aren’t as elaborate as the Roasteries, but serve premium-blend coffee and are fancier than your corner Starbucks location. Starbucks has over 200 Reserve bars worldwide, most of them in Asia.

“There will be a halo effect,” Muller told CNN Business soon after the New York City Roastery opened in December. There will be “lots of learnings from here.”

The Roasteries have also served as inspiration for new Starbucks concepts, like the “coffee sanctuary” that opened in Bali in January. That store has a 1,000-square-foot coffee farm out front and a nursery where customers can plant seeds. Customers at the store, called the Starbucks Dewata Coffee Sanctuary, can take coffee tasting and preparation classes and virtually participate in the planting process through an interactive digital wall.

The third place, revamped

Starbucks has always promised to be a “third place” where people can spend time. It recommitted to that vision last year, when it codified a policy allowing people to use the bathroom and hang out at Starbucks locations even if they don’t order anything.

At the Roastery, people are encouraged to explore the space.

“This is a slower experience,” Muller said in December. “Come and stay longer, meet with your family or friends, relax.”

Meanwhile, Starbucks is also trying to make sure that customers who went to get their coffee quickly are satisfied. The company is expanding its delivery services worldwide, investing in its app — which lets people order online and pickup in stores — and opening more drive-thru locations.

“Trying to balance those two is very difficult for the company,” said Hottovy. By splitting up the business into slower, upscale locations and smaller-format stores built around convenience, Starbucks may be able to tackle the problem, he said. And it could help prevent Starbucks stores from cannibalizing each others’ business.

Starbucks once had ambitions for 1,000 reserve bars and more Roasteries after Chicago. Today, Johnson says there are no definite plans for Roasteries beyond that city.

“Right now we’ve committed to these six,” he said. “We’re very pleased with how they’re performing.”

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