Military spouses published English-friendly Kamakura guidebook

Military spouses published English-friendly Kamakura guidebook

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Okinawa

Looking to provide travel help to non-Japanese, including U.S. service members, a pair of military spouses from Ikego Housing set out create an English-friendly guide to visiting Kamakura.

After exploring the city, Sarah Goff noticed that there was very little information available in English. Although major shrines and temples accommodated English, the narrow side streets full of traditional shops and eateries often had a language barrier and lack of information preventing her from fully enjoying the attractions.

This led Goff and her neighbor at the time, Mariko Miki Fogell, to come up with the idea for Local Focus: Vol. 1 – Kamakura & Enoshima.

Together, the duo, along with volunteer local freelancers, created the book which was recently published in digital form on Amazon. By downloading it on your Kindle or smartphone for $11.28 at, you can take the guidebook with you on your trip to Kamakura.

While most people know of the major attractions, such as Daibutsu (Great Buddha) and Hase-dera Temple, the book goes into detail on some of the off-the-beaten-path locations and specifically, the places that are English-friendly.

Kamakura is the first feudal capital founded by Shogun over 800 years ago, and its original town structure still remains full of majestic temples and shrines. With rich in history and culture, the town offers a lot of great eateries and stores, as well, according to Fogell.

“Kamakura and its neighboring areas is very attractive, which can be compared to Portland, OR or Brooklyn, NY,” she said. “Fortunately, it is located only 15 minutes from Ikego Housing, 30 minutes from Yokosuka Naval Base and less than an hour from Atsugi, Zama and Tokyo. So, any American service members in Kanto Plain can easily visit there while they are stationed in Japan.”

“It would be really a great loss if you left Japan without enjoying this attractive city,” Fogell said.

To get Americans accurate and practical information, Goff and Fogell decided to create an English guidebook on Kamakura by themselves.

They teamed up with three local Japanese freelancers who love Kamakura, and kicked off their publishing project. Fogell wrote articles since she used to work for a Japanese publishing firm and Goff, who studied photography in San Diego, worked as the main photographer. Bilingual spouses on Yokosuka Naval Base helped them with translation.

The book is unique because it is written and edited from an American point of view, according to Fogell.

“It can provide living, practical information what non-Japanese tourists really want to know and how they can fully enjoy exploring the city,” Fogell said.

Stripes Japan recently sat down with the military spouses and talked about the book.

Could you give us brief outline of the guidebook “Local Focus: Vol.1 – Kamakura & Enoshima”?

It is a practical “All-in-one” guidebook that covers a variety of sightseeing spots, shops, restaurants, hiking trails, cafes, antique stores, history of samurai, zen, must-eat local food, and more. It also has easy-to-read maps with icons, and menu recommendations with prices and more. We have a three-minute video and a 20-page preview on our Facebook page and indiegogo campaign site where people can get an idea what it will look like.


How did you meet each other and why did you decide to put together a book?

We were next-door neighbors on Ikego (Mariko now lives off base). Sarah loves outdoors and to explore the new places to see it’s nature and culture, but she was having a hard time getting enough information and afraid of going to the places by herself because of the language barrier. I saw how non-Japanese experienced the inconvenience when I went out with my husband and daughter because not enough information in English was provided in Japan. So, I decided to make an English guidebook on Miura Peninsula that would cover Kamakura, Enoshima, Zushi, Hayama, Yokosuka, and Miura, so people who are stationed in Yokosuka could explore and enjoy the area they live because there are a lot to see and do.


How do you think this book will help American service members located in Japan?

It will help them enjoy their visit to the popular sightseeing spots such as Daibutsu (Great Buddha), Hase-dera Temple, and Hachiman-gu Shrine and a lot more. They’ll learn the history, stories and trivia, and make it easier to explore many more places that probably they would never find or go by themselves without getting lost or fear to try something new. We tried to make the book practical, functional, and fun to non-Japanese as much as we could by offering the information such as “which store has English menus, takes credit card, offers vegetarian/vegan menu, is good to go in a big group, is barrier-free” and so on. Many American are used to a smoke-free environment so stores we selected are all smoke free (at least interior).

This handy guidebook is made to make it easier for non-Japanese to walk around, find a place to eat, rest, hike by themselves as if they had a private guide. Instead of being bored on base when they are off duty, they can go explore the places that they have not yet seen which will make their stay in Japan a lot more fun and meaningful.


What is your favorite place to visit in the book, and why?

It’s a hard question to answer because there are SO MANY favorite places in Kamakura and Enoshima. We would say “ALL OF THEM!!!,” but if we really had to pick one or two…

Sarah: Houkoku-ji Temple (beautiful bamboo forest, serenity), Café “HOUSE YUIGAHAMA” (sitting there with a cup of hot chai reading some English books from their library are relaxing and makes me feel like part of the local community)

Mariko: Kencho-ji Temple (not commercial, solemn atmosphere that has been carried over 750 years), Donuts shop “floresta” (hard working owner makes all natural, cute animal-shaped or Daibutsu-shaped donuts from scratch)


Any plans for more books? If so, what are you going to write about?

LOCAL FOCUS will be a series of English guidebooks that cover small towns of Japan that non-Japanese would have a hard time exploring by themselves. Vol.2 will be “Yokosuka and Miura” and Vol.3 would be “Zushi and Hayama.”

Title of Guidebook:  LOCAL FOCUS: Vol.1 - Kamakura & Enoshima 


LOCAL FOCUS features;

• 200 pages in full color

• Over 100 places to visit 

• Easy to read maps

• Icons for "English menu available" "Take credit cards" "Barrier free" etc.

• History, culture, food, local communities and more

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