Living overseas has its challenges, and a commonly agreed upon one is finding that perfect place to live. To help those of us who are curious about the different options for living on Okinawa, readers have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about on-base housing. If you live in an off-base house that has not yet been featured on this site, please contact our Submissions Manager for the template.
Here’s a great link to access, too, if you’re on the fence as to whether to live on-base or off-base.
CONTRIBUTED BY TRACI
1. What’s the name of the city where you reside? Yomitan
2. What’s the general area (i.e. North, Central, South Island)? Central, near Torii station
3. Is there a special name that is associated with your area? (i.e. Sunabe, Kadena Town, Naval Kadena, etc.) Nagahama
4. What is the nearest military base to your home? Torii and Kadena
5. What is the approximate driving time to that military base/gate? Torii 5 minutes: Kadena gate 3, 15-20 minutes
6. What DODDS school district is your home zoned for? Is there a school bus system available? Kadena schools- Bob Hope Primary School
7. What is the nearest highway or main road to your home? Route 6 or 12
8. Please describe the “feel” of your neighborhood (i.e. pet-friendly, child-friendly, safety, spaciousness, predominantly “Japanese” or “American”, urban, rural, etc.) We have some American neighbors, but far more Japanese neighbors. I live on the end of a quite street with little traffic to no traffic across from a sugarcane field. It is very friendly for our dog and kids! We have a lot of Japanese kids that come play in our yard and although there’s a huge communication barrier the kids all have a great time!
9. Are there places of service in your neighborhood within walking distance such as restaurants, convenience stores, laundromats, bakeries,coffee shops, parks, etc.? Yes, there is a MaxValue about 3 minutes away, several small cafes and groceries, a Family Mart,a cleaners, a fresh produce stand, some restaurants.
10. Please describe the style of your home (i.e. Westernized, traditional Japanese, detached family home, townhome, etc.) Westernized single house with large yard and driveway
11. Please provide general information about your home such as the rent, square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, special amenities, etc.) 3 bedroom. 2 1/2 bath (one full bath in master, one half in hallway upstairs, one toilet and sink, one shower/tub wet room and sink), laundry room, 1500 sq. ft., large yard with driveway, all American appliance hook-ups, nice ocean view, rent was WELL negotiated to put up at our rent ceiling of 180,000 yen.
12. Are there any special accommodations or tasks that you’ve had to complete to make your home useful such as purchasing transformers, appliances, etc.? We had to purchase a lot of curtains for all of the windows, there are less outlets so we had to use extension cords/power strips, we also bought a storage shed since there’s not “outside” storage, also we purchased several area rugs so our kids don’t destroy the wood floors and so I can vacuum more and mop less!
13. What costs are there associated with living off a military base and how do you pay for those costs? Water was about 30, Gas 65, Electric 170(remember no AC right now), trash is 30, internet 83 *close to on base price for cable/internet, had to install AFN satellite but no costs there after, we paid the usual deposits as well- we have “made” money each month so far from our utility allowance, but I don’t expect it will stay the same for the summer!
14. How is parking provided for your home? We have a driveway
15. Are there any outdoor spaces or yards provided for your home? Large yard that is fenced around the front and a concrete wall around the back of the house
16. What do you feel is special about your home or neighborhood – what makes it feel like “home” here on Okinawa? —
17. How do you pay the bills for utilities? —
18. What housing agency did you utilize to find your current home? Sunny’s- ask for Donnie! He’s super!!
19. Are you satisfied with the maintenance services that are provided for your home? Yes! they’ve fixed a leaking sink within a couple hours and while he was here he fixed my stuck closet door too!
20. Finally, what advantages and disadvantages do you feel has been your experience living off a military base here in Okinawa? Also, please feel free to add any COMMENTS that you feel would be helpful to others about living off-base.
I LOVE the peace of living off base without being disturbed with inconsiderate neighbors. We moved off base from on base from new housing (new Sada Towers on Camp Foster). I don’t regret my decision yet, ask me when I have to pay for the A/C in the summer heat!! I also find that I rest better, while I do miss some of the conveniences of running to grab dinner, the BX, the shoppette, having my best friends within steps, I now just have to plan accordingly and cook more and make more playdates/lunchdates. I also have Vonage worldwide/global that we started when we moved off base which allows me to call base for “free” or a flat $49 a month. Under this plan I can also call anywhere in the states for free. We enjoy the sunny days more often, our children now have a yard to play in, and we’ve adopted a dog! We’re very content with our decision thus far.
If you live in on-base housing OR off-base housing that has not been featured on Okinawa Hai, or in housing that has been renovated since its last post, please contact our Content Manager for the on-base housing template and instructions on how to share your little slice of Okinawa with the rest of us.
I would like to know what you had to do to go from living on base to off?? I also live in the new sada towers, and I so do not love it. The only problem I am seeing is that we have 3 kids, and my husband is an E-3. I am not sure a housing agency would negotiate down that much on the size of place we would need. Was the process different going from on base to off? And what actual “Moving” expenses did you actually incur?
Thank you for all the info. . .
Ive been reading about this OHA.. what makes a person qualify for that.
My family will not accompany me until early 2011… what housing allowance wil i be entitle to…
Thanks for the car answer.
You cannot ship your car from the states. The government can store it for you. Ask your TMO office for those details. Gas costs are on par with the states although if the prices rise or fall, the affects may be delayed a bit. As far as insurance, you can suspend your stateside insurance until you return. You will have to get Japanese insurance after you purchase a car. Decent vehicles here are easy to find and aren’t that expensive. Most of the used car dealerships also have financing available. I’m glad you found Okinawa Hai!
Im suppose to come to Okinawa for duty station and thanks for all the info that you have given.
If i come with my family, can i ship my car from state to okinawa.
How does the insurance work, do we hv to get okinawa insurance or we can still use our state insurance.
How much does gas cost and the flow of traffic.
You do get an allowance for utilities every month in addition to your rent – and the COLA gets adjusted monthly to make-up for the yen rate fluctuations.
Hello everyone! We live off base and have discovered that our kitchen appliances don’t really work! We read that we need a voltage transformer, but we don’t know where to find one. Does anyone have any suggestions?
thanks for the info Liza… that was good to know. what about the allowance for the utilities? is that the same thing too?
If you’re actual rent is lower than your OHA, then you do not pocket the money – it works differently overseas, or at least in Okinawa. The agency tells the housing office the amount of the rent, and that’s the amount you are given, so it’s best that you use the maximum of your OHA/BAH when here.
wow… that’s a big difference Amy… i hope i can find a deal on a house like that when we get there in April. let’s say we find a house that we really like and it’s below our OHA, do we keep the difference? we have a house here in california and we get our housing allowance every month. i wasn’t too sure if the military will pay them directly or it’s included in my husband’s pay? what about the allowance for the utilities? sorry, i really don’t know how it works over there. thanks!
I’m checking it out right now!
Vonage acts as a VIOP landline using a stateside area code (you choose any available area code and number, or even use your old number if its available). It does have the option of adding a cell phone service to it – Vonage service. Check out Vonage.com to see if it works on MACs, I’m not sure. But you order it online through their website.
There are other phone companies to use. Some people use Skype, so you may want to check it out. Also a less well known company like Magic Jack (though the reviews I’ve read are not so good). It’s all up to your preference. I’m happy with my Vonage.
We’ll definitely HAVE to get Vonage before we PCS. I had never heard of that until you all mentioned it. Do you go through a cell phone service or AT&T or what? Will they get my MAC laptop configured correctly if I take it in?
Thanks for the tip about them not shipping to an APO/FPO address.
No you do not have to sit in front of the computer when using Vonage. You get a Vonage Router (i.e. V-Portal) which is hooked up to the internet, which also allows the internet to still be connected to the computer. Then you connect your phoneline to that router and get calls on your phone like a regular call.
This way, you can still use the internet and the phone at the same time. Just remember, that the better your internet connection, the less problems you’ll have with your phone cutting in and out. If you ever have this problem, you can always contact your service provider here in Oki and they could attach more satellites in your general location to get a better signal for off-base homes (not sure about on-base).
Also, if you get referred, you and the person who referred you get 2 months free. If you’re still stateside, order Vonage before you arrive because they do not ship APO/FPO.
Thanks AmyD! Wow- that was quite a negotiation! Isn’t the difference between y210,000 and y330,000, around $1,000 dollars? I had no idea that the agencies could or would be that flexible. VERY encouraging.
So, with Vonage do you have to sit right in front of your computer anytime you want to talk on the phone? (I’m a mother of three and sitting down to have a conversation is a foreign concept to me)
As far as negotiating, the housing agencies will know up front how much your OHA is. I’ve been able to negotiate little things (that add up later) like keeping our rent under our cap with the first house by lowering it Y2000=$20.00 and with the apartment, since it was under our cap, we asked if we could get the trash fee thrown in, Y3000 each month. It really depends on the agency and how much they’re willing to negotiate. They’re usually very acommodating.
I did the same thing before coming out here, obsessively looking at housing websites and looking at every photo! But, it’s really quite easy to find a place, plus the agents know exactly what you earn so if they show you something, even if it’s more expensive, you pretty much know it can be negotiated…It took us 5 days, but we were on a timeframe, I would have liked to look more but we had a dog and housing were going to stop our lodging money if we didn’t choose…
Vonage is tha bomb! Had it for years, now, I need to try and get it through to my family that they CAN call me, no I am not in America but YES the nmber is American and No that does not mean you are really calling Japan! LOL
Hey Mary and Sheena!
Your OHA will be a once a month payment. I’m not sure about Kandy’s experience with negotiating but for us they told us the apartment was 330,000 yen and we said we only get 210,000 yen and the agent said “let me ask the landlord” and then got back to us that 210,000 was fine. So, it really wasn’t that hard.
In regards to the phone, Vonage is awesome! We’ve had it for 6 years and took it with us to 4 stateside locations while my husband was training, to England for 3 years, and now here to Okinawa. It’s done through your computer, you pay a flat fee (the cost will depend on the services you want – I think ours is $39/month), and the customer service has been great. Also, if you have a friend that you can tell Vonage recommended the service to you your friend gets one month free. I love vonage!
Hope this helps, AmyD
Thank you so much for sharing all your information with us. We too, are moving to Okinawa in May and I have been very nervous over the quality of the houses I have seen on line. Not knowing exactly what our Housing allowance will be only makes it harder to look too. I too, would like to know how you negotiated your rent to that low of a price, for what seems to be such a beautiful home.
Any help in that area would be appreciated. Also, do you know if the amount you look up to be your allowance is for both pay periods or just one. For instance, if it says we get 210,000 yen, is that on 1st and 15th or just the once. I am so confused.
Thank you for any help you can give.
Thank you so much for sharing your housing info! I have been a bit obsessed with looking at housing on the island even though we won’t be moving for nearly 6 months. Maybe it’s my way of dealing with the stress of the whole thing. Anyways, would you mind sharing how you “negotiated” your rent down to within the parameters of your OHA? And, if you don’t mind me asking, how long did you look for off-base housing before you found what you were looking for and once you found the house you wanted how long was the wait to move in?
Also, I’d love to hear more about the phone plan that allows you to call stateside for a flat rate each month. Is that a cell phone plan?
Thanks again for the helpful info and great pictures of your house (I love the way you decorated).