I have two unforgettable memories of earthquakes and tsunamis.
In December 2004, I was living in Tokyo and planning a holiday trip to Phuket, but the trip was cancelled because of the big earthquake and tsunami occurred at Indian Ocean. Sadly, I stayed in Tokyo for the New Year, but then I met my future wife.
In March 2011, my wife and I were living in a small beach community north of Japan, surfing everyday, growing vegetables in the garden, and raising kids in the beautiful country side, but this time, the big earthquake and tsunami destroyed our house, and we had to evacuate from the area, as the nuclear power plant was only 50km away.
At work, I was busy running a family business – manufacturing and trading chemical products for printing industry, which I took over in 2005, and got busy expanding the sales area throughout Japan, China and South Korea. At the same time, I had a big responsibility to create a next generation business, as the printing industry had been shrinking every year because Internet had become the prime method of conveying information.
With the mixed reasons of expanding the chemical business to Asian countries, seeing big confusion and corruption in Japan after the earthquake, and wanting to raise kids in an international environment, I moved my family and a part of the business to Hong Kong in fall of 2011.
At first, I began with the trading and accounting part of the company, but I knew I had to create a new business. The company’s 50th year anniversary was approaching and starting a new business for the occasion was ideal.
In private life, I was an avid design and coffee lover. Why design? Because my parents were active in the universal language movement called Esperanto, and the family was always traveling abroad to attend Esperanto congresses held in different countries. Since I was a kid, I was so mesmerised seeing different countries, different cultures, and interior designs and architecture that each country had to offer.
For coffee, my enthusiasm dates back to when I was a college student in Los Angeles in 1990’s, and at that time Starbucks expanded throughout America right in front of me. They were so new and cool, and I spent so much time at my favorite Starbucks in Venice Beach, meeting friends and doing homework
So, my passion in life has been traveling, cross-cultural exchange, design, and coffee.
After moving to Hong Kong, I had to meet my everyday caffeine needs, so I started looking for good coffee shops, but I struggled finding a good one. Back in 2011, Hong Kong’s specialty coffee scene was just at the beginning stage, and my coffee standard was a bit too high for the city.
And then, one day, an idea hit me. Why don’t I start a coffee business in Hong Kong? I know the taste, I know the business, and I can design cafes easily.
And this is how my coffee project had started, and it has been a non-stop roller coaster ride since then.
As of November 2017, we have 11 stores, and we will expand to 21 countries. Together with my architect friend, Masaki Kato, we are designing 23 stores at the moment, but it seems new countries and stores will keep adding up every week.
Masaki told me recently that his company has more than enough projects, and he needs to control the workload, so it’s time for me to start looking for new designers.
My dream is to open % Arabica in amazing places on this planet, where we serve simple and timeless coffee together with quintessential store design. And I hope there comes a day when coffee and design lovers from around the world visit us like a pilgrimage.
We have been working with the slogan ‘‘See the World Through Coffee,’’ and now we are ready to add another one, ‘’Coffee & Design Pilgrimage,” in order to keep reminding us of this new higher goal.
I’m looking for talented young architects who can bring in unique, cutting edge, crazy original design to this brand, and together, we can design stores in major cities like New York, Paris, London, Berlin, Shanghai, Istanbul, Casablanca, Marrakech, Bali, and the list goes on.
% Arabica is about coffee, design, and seeing the world to gain more experience and wisdom.
If you are a designer and want to join this project, please send in your CV and past works at
Founder & Owner – Kenneth Shoji