Indie music lovers take note: in the midst of the temples and shrines of central Kamakura is a little coffee shop that serves up a great selection of Americana, blues, and singer-songwriter music alongside the caffeine and whiskey.
Located in Kamakura's busy Komachi neighborhood, the surrounding area is all hustle and bustle. Though central, the shop is a little easy to miss: walk down the narrow gauntlet leading from the station to the famous Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine. Go through the red torii gate at the entrance to the little shopping street just outside the east exit of the station, walk a couple of blocks, and turn right at the butcher shop. Look up; Cafe Goatee is on the third floor.
Once inside, take a break from sightseeing with a cup of coffee, some baked goods, a plate of curry, or a Jim Beam, neat. Browse through the handcrafted knick knacks and bits of artwork, like knitted pom pom hats and stuffed toys (one of the staffmembers, Noriko, is quite arty-crafty and is responsible for many of the flashes of quirky creativity around the shop). Listen to the tunes and peruse the music selection: in addition to running the cafe, the owner also operates a small music label, music distribution company, and acts as a promoter for visiting artists, all under the Goatee moniker.
This explains why the shop is occasionally closed; when Keiji brings over musicians, he acts as a tour manager and takes the show on the road. The musicians always play at the café as one of the stops on their tour, the tiny space bursting with music fans sitting knee to knee in front of the piano, the artist on a stool at the front just inches from the nearest audience member. Check out acts like Scrappy Jud Newcomb, The Resentments, Neal Casal, Quincy Coleman, and local acts like Yusuke Muneta and Oharamaya (a cover charge will apply, varying depending on the act). When live music is not on offer, there is always a good selection of albums to browse, especially if your taste runs to folk, roots, and indie.
Next time you're in Kamakura, look past the temples and moss and drop in on a different kind of local color.