Ah, back in the country that gave my blog its name. I've been here around 20 times, although this is my first time back in over two years. I'm actually staying in an area I know very well - Shinjuku - so that I know where a Starbucks is close to my hotel (as well as some fine restaurants).
I love the Japanese culture and people, but they can't make a cup of coffee to save their life. It took an American chain to come here and show them how it's done. (yes, their culture has been based on tea, and our tea technology is vastly inferior, as is our toilet technology).
The Starbucks in Japan, and all over Asia (I actually went to two in Korea and have been to one in Taiwan before) are pretty much the same as the ones in the U.S. - the layout, interior, the aprons, everything (Editor: that's why they call it a chain).
The one thing that the Japanese Starbucks didn't bring over with them is the American beverage portions. You find out over here that Asians either don't drink a lot of fluid, or Americans are a lot more thirsty. If you get a drink on a plane, it is served in a 4 oz. dixie cup. If you get a drink of water at a restaurant, you might get a "huge" 6 oz. glass that takes two swallows to deplete. And there is definitely, absolutely, no Venti sized coffee portions in this part of the world.
There is one exception to the beverage portion rule in Asia: alcohol. If you ask for a Kirin "Ichiban", you get a 20 oz. bottle instead of the typical 12 oz. bottle. In fact, pretty much all the booze over here can be supersized if you ask for it.