We were probably 15 years old when my childhood friend, Mike, told me, “I’m going to make the world’s largest magic square.” What’s a magic square, you ask? It’s essentially a grid filled with numbers, where the sums of the numbers in each row, each column, and both main diagonals are all the same. If this sounds like an Einsteinian mathematical maneuver, it really isn’t. There is, in fact, a pretty easy formula for creating magic squares; Mike just wanted to create a really big one and submit it to the Guinness Book of World’s Records. Every day for weeks, Mike laid out butcher paper on the floor of his garage, carefully measuring out the grid lines and scrawling in the numbers. When he had finally finished it, Mike sent off the whole shebang to the Guiness folks – and they rejected him! Although his square was likely the biggest they’d seen, they didn’t consider it a true world’s record, probably because magic squares are so easy to create. Personally, I think he got ripped off; after I finish this post, I’m going to send Guinness a pointed email complaint!

Although I’ve never achieved a world’s record myself, I do admire greatly the folks who set out to be the biggest, the smallest, or the fastest in their field of endeavor. When I was young, I went up the Sear’s Tower in Chicago, at that time the tallest building in the world, and was blown away that any building could be this tall! It is with some expectation, then, that I approach the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Tokyo, Japan – the self-proclaimed Largest Starbucks in the World. Located in the charming Nakameguro area, known for its tree-lined canal that bursts into color during cherry blossom season, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery is quite a sight. At 4 stories tall, you can spend an entire morning or afternoon in this place. The first floor is where you pick up your espresso drinks as well as artisanal pizzas, breads and pastries. The second floor is all about tea, a space to purchase tea accessories and serveware, or to sample tea and tea-inspired cocktails. The third floor is where, according to Starbucks, you can further your “experience of coffee craft and discover inspired mixology.” In other words, more fancy espresso drinks. And the fourth floor is where you find the AMU Inspiration Lounge – essentially a meeting space where you can “hold impromptu meetings and reflect on the wonder of coffee and its journey from bean to cup.”

To tell the truth, I’m not, in general, a huge Starbucks fan. I find their coffee to be a little bitter. While traveling in Japan, however, Starbucks can be your savior, with their clean, free restrooms and their ability to make decaf with either almond or oat milk. They also tend to speak some English (unlike the littler, local coffee shops), which can be a welcome relief. I quite enjoy my trip to Tokyo’s Starbucks Reserve Roastery. I appreciate the teacup wall, the washi (Japanese paper wall) and the origami ceiling. I appreciate all the brass piping that carries coffee beans from the 1st floor to the 3rd floor. Although it’s not exactly Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, the Roastery still a fairly impressive place. I look forward to coming back one spring, sitting on one of the outdoor decks, and taking in the April cherry blossoms as I sip my mocha Frappuccino. Ah – I mean, Wow!

(My experience with Mike’s magic square affirmed for me that no one – not Guinness, not anybody – gets to arbitrate what is the world’s best anything. This is especially true in the case of acts and behaviors that are not metric based. Okay sure, there can only be one “tallest building,” but who’s to say you can’t be the world’s best mom, the world’s most generous brother, or the world’s kindest traffic cop? Aim big, but do your own defining.)