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 MARISA

East China Sea

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1.  What’s the name of the city where you reside?  Yomitan-son

2.  What’s the general area (i.e. North, Central, South Island)? Central, Western side of the island.

3.  Is there a special name that is associated with your area? (i.e. Sunabe, Kadena Town, Naval Kadena, etc.).  Sobe, Yomitan-son (Sobe is the “district” within the village of Yomitan)

4.  What is the nearest military base and accompanying entrance (aka Gate) to your home and what is the approximate driving time to that military base/gate?    We’re about a 5 minute drive from Torii Station’s back gate.  From Torii’s Main gate we’re about a 10 minute drive.  We are approx 20 mins to Kadena AFB and about 30 mins from MCB Camp Foster.

5.  What DODDS school district is your home zoned for?  Is there a schoolbus system available?
Our home is zoned for schools on Kadena AFB: Bob Home Primary School – Amelia Earhart, Kadena Middle School, and Kadena High School.  There are school busses, but our son is still in preschool and doesn’t attend DoDDs yet, so we’re unsure of the bus schedule.

6.  What is the nearest highway or main road to your home?  Hwy 6 (running through Yomitan) is very close.  Approx 5 minutes.  Hwy 58 is approx 10-15 minutes away.

7.  Please describe the “feel” of your neighborhood (i.e. pet-friendly, child-friendly, safety, spaciousness, predominantly “Japanese” or “American”, urban, rural, etc.).   I would describe the neighborhood as quiet, quaint and a mix of Japanese and Americans.  The street we live on has approx 6 or 7 houses and is across the street from a small white sand beach and kitty corner to the Yomitan wharf / port.  There is a small park next to the house for children, but ultimately it is a beach-ish area.

8.  Are there places of service in your neighborhood within walking distance such as restaurants, convenience stores, laundromats, bakeries,coffee shops, parks, etc.?   A boulangerie, a patisserie, sushi restaurants, a farmer’s market, some convenience stores, and a San-A & Max Value grocery stores.  A park with slide, swings, and a baseball park as well.  The Pancake House, Jakkepo’s, is a walk away.  There is also a coin Laundromat within walking distance (though why you’d walk with your laundry… I’d never do it, LOL).  The Alivila hotel, with its EXCELLENT Chinese dim-sum buffet, is about a 15 minute drive away.  The Yomitan Pottery Village is about 15 mins away.

9.  Please describe the style of your home (i.e. Westernized, traditional Japanese, detached family home, townhome, etc.). Single Family detached home with a nice sized gated yard across the street from a beach.  It is a traditional Japanese home: Japanese oven, washer/dryer.  The floors are hardwood and there is a tatami mat room off the living room with shoji doors (the wood-latticed paper variety).  The hardest part of adjusting is the kitchen (size and style of appliances, no dishwasher, level of cabinets — HIGH!, and lack of space), the washer/dryer (SMALL), and the bathrooms (Western style toilets, but the layout will take some getting used to).  There is also very little built-in storage in comparison to the on-base house we lived in before.  There is a definite need for additional armoires, cabinets, hutches, etc.

10.  Please provide general information about your home such as the rent, square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, special amenities, etc.).  Rent is approx 250,000 a month.  Square footage is 1,100 sq ft.  3 bedrooms.  2.0 baths.  Tatami mat room adjacent to the living room.  2 bedrooms upstairs, each have LARGE walk out decks.  The yard is gated.  There is a sandy beach across the street.  There is a park next to the house.  Parking for 2 cars, tandem.  There is a waterfall feature / pond in the backyard visible from the living room.  There is a deck off the living room on the 1st floor.  There is a lack of storage, and negatives are definitely the kitchen and washer/dryer as I mentioned in #9.  But the location is A++++ and that is my sacrifice to have such a gorgeous backdrop to come home to.

11.  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 have a few transformers we use.  I’m considering buying a toaster oven.

12.  What costs are there associated with living off a military base and how do you pay for those costs?   Besides rent, our costs include: electricity, water, gas, trash, cable, internet, and phone.  Electricity is HIGH.  But we were told to estimate our utility costs for elec, water, gas, and trash and are reimbursed for those expenses.  Cable, internet and phone are on us, but these are expenses you would pay if you lived on base.  Indirect costs to living off base – I end up stopping off at the Japanese grocery store more often than before, where food prices are higher.  I end up paying more for gas for the cars, given the longer drive.

13.  How is parking provided for your home?  We have parking spaces for 2 cars, tandem style.  There is street parking for guests.

14.  Are there any outdoor spaces or yards provided for your home?  We have a yard, gated.  A park next to the house.  A beach across the street.  There is also a baseball field close by.

15.  What housing agency did you utilize to find your current home? Tokuzato

16.  Are you satisfied with the maintenance services that are provided for your home?  Yes, they’ve been very responsive.

17.  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.   We’ve lived on base for almost 3 years.  We’ve scoured the island for our ‘perfect’ piece of it, and we scouted this area for almost a year before we found that a house opened up.  The location is EXCELLENT and worth the extra time to drive.  Our former home on base was clean and adequate but Spartan and antiquated (read: OLD).  The lack of privacy and personal space has been very difficult on us.  There’s also that feeling that we have this opportunity to truly live in a different culture and country, and we weren’t doing that by living on base.  We want, and we want our son, to experience what it is like to live somewhere different.  Can I live without my Maytag for a few years?  Sure.  Will it be worth it to be able to say that I had the chance – and took it – to live across the street from the East China Sea in an adorable house in Japan, and to be brave enough to deal with the “Non-American inconveniences” that accompany it?  Yes, I think so.  & I’m looking forward to it!


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.

32 COMMENTS

  1. You can certainly see your skills within the paintings you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. Always follow your heart.

  2. I loved reading your comments. My family lived
    off the rode from Little Johns Missile Site.
    That was in 1968.We lived on a hill over looking the ocean. We had a wonderful house,4
    bedrooms and two baths and a laundry room. There were 7 houses at that time. Our rent was 250.00 American dollars. Our yard was huge in front with a cyclone fence. Our laundry room had hook ups for American washers,dryers. On nice days I hung my cloths out. I am 71 now but was in my 20’s
    then. I loved it so much I would of stay there longer if I could.The only thing I didn’t have was American stations on the TV
    only Japanese. Other then that my family had the best of two worlds. My children are grown and they always talk about there stay in such a nice area. They said it was like little Hawaii. I agreed
    Jeanne

  3. Hi Anthony,

    I thought I’d stop by and saw your post. We’ve since moved on (currently in Hawaii), but I would have to say that the “cost” of living in the Yomitan house was not without its headaches. I found working with the owner and the housing agency very frustrating whenever something needed fixing or repairs, and I’ll never know if it was one or the other that simply didn’t want to do them. I’ve talked to friends who had excellent landlords, and I’m a landlord myself, so I know that you should take care of your tenants — they are taking care of your property! I didn’t experience that while I was in this house, and I felt very expendable the entire time. I hope the next renter doesn’t have the same problems I did.

    Aloha,

  4. Hi,

    I lived in That house before you… We loved the location and Yomitan! I paid 210,000 / month for rent after negotiating. I got to know the owner of the house who is American and lives in Florida. I talked to him about buying the house, but he wanted too much (400k)us$… We built a brand new house twice as big for that much here right in yomitan.

    Anyhow, enjoy the house and area…

    Anthony

    • Anthony, yes, I knew he was American. I still miss that house! We live in DC now. Completely opposite type of lifestyle. I still dream about this house and this life. Okinawa was wonderful, enjoy!

  5. Julie,
    it’s hard to explain the distances on this island. It might take you 45 minutes to drive 8 miles.
    Lester is right in the middle between Kadena and Foster. It really depends on what your lifestyle is. My husband and I prefer the somewhat quieter area of Yomitan. Other people just love Araha Beach and Chatan.
    I would suggest you wait until you get here and actually see the place.
    My husband is now “sacrificing” lunch hour at home and he takes a shower at the gym after PT. However, he says it is worth it.
    It’s all about what you like and what is available when you get here.

  6. Hi Daniela & Marisa,
    Thanks for the explanation on the housing market. I had no clue why you military folks were paying so much. But if the money is coming right out of Uncle Sam’s pocket then it’s not so bad I guess.
    I still can’t believe the vast difference in price between the local market but it is also nice to know the houses do have to pass an inspection which I can only assume would make them a higher stand than the standard Japanese home.

  7. Paul,
    Thanks for the info…that is great! now someone needs to do a post with you about the process of buying a home here!!! Congrats!

  8. Rene,
    I am with a local company now. When I first left the service, I used Yasuda housing near Kinser, but they had older homes. After 2 years I started looking at the local places that were advertising, then one day I saw a rental sign for the house we are in now.

    The home usually rented for about $2,200, but I explained to him I would stay long term and we worked out a deal.

    Next month I will move into my own place, no more rent (just mortgage!), but it will be much better.

  9. It really is a great area to live and especially the little neighborhood that this house is in! I live right around the corner and that beach is a little slice of heaven!

  10. Yes Daniela, it does look like a very beautiful area. I just wish I knew what areas were good vs. not so good!
    We will be stationed at Lester, and I don’t really know where that puts us. I have scoured maps and tried to identify all that I can. Would love a good school for the boys and we don’t mind driving some to the hospital. Any recommendations? Just wish it were easy enough to come and visit to rent the house like it is in the states 🙂
    haha, yeah right!! A girl can dream….

  11. I think it also depends on the area. Yomitan has just been booming lately. I just saw 5 new houses going up right past the pan cake house.
    In my experience if you try to negotiate and they say no the first time they mean no. I know a lady who’s husband was almost embarrassing trying to negotiate and none of the owners ever changed their mind.
    I think 250.000 is a good price for that location and the house. A lot of people would love to live there!

  12. Julie, I am sure others will have more info for you, but they absolutely do charge those amounts…the first question that the housing ask you is what is your rank? They already know what you will get and basically they will show you rentals that are priced at your housing allowance amount? I would say that the average rental will range from $2000-$3000 for a 3 bedroom 2 bath (including apartments.) We are not military so our housing is not the typical so it can be a challenge to find something, but your best bet is to look at as many places as you have time to look at. That is not to say that cheaper places aren’t out there because they are and I have never been able to get them to be as flexible as it sounds like others on this post have gotten. Good luck!

  13. Like Daniela, I have seen several houses online going for over 400,000 yen… Do they actually rent these houses for almost $4,500 american dollars a month??? Seriously! Wow 🙂
    Just prying a little more info. out – haha, if you have dogs is that your one negotiation or can you still negotiate the price? Or is it really a case-by-case issue? Is it always appropriate to try and negotiate and then once they say no, you just don’t ask anymore? Or are there companies that negotiate more than others? Certain housing features that would make one want to negotiate more? We should be there around October, is this a good time to PCS or not? Totally new to this PCS thing, can you tell??
    You are all wonderful about answering all of my questions, I think I have ready every page and every word on this website, I LOVE IT!!!!!
    thanks,
    Julie

  14. Paul,
    I am really curious who your housing is with? My husband is civilian and we have never been able to get around the extreme rents even though our situation is different than the military community? Any info you can share would be great we are looking to relocate on the island at some point just to have a change…Thanks Rene. You can also email me at [email protected]

  15. Sorry, one more word on the issue of OHA/LQA… It’s completely false to say that some people want to simply spend money on a home vice others. This is a tough rental market for those of us fortunate to receive OHA, just as it is a tough rental market to those not receiving it.
    On the one hand, you have no “real” leverage in the rental prices offered because the homeowners, builders, and housing agencies all know exactly how much you get, based on your rank; It’s one click away on the web. Truly, you are a blinking “$” sign. Local nationals do NOT pay housing costs similar to an American; Their costs are quite close to what you quoted earlier. Non-Local National Local Hires who don’t receive OHA also don’t pay the inflated prices, like Paul.
    On the other hand, rent prices are so high here that an American receiving OHA tends to find that rents are much higher than what he receives monthly, hence the interest in negotiating prices lower. I would think most people renting are trying to maximize the dollars they have and use their OHAs as wisely as they can and I would think it unfair to say that people aren’t trying to budget their housing costs.
    Okinawa’s housing market is completely different that urban Tokyo’s, for the same reason there ARE so many Americans here, vice there.

  16. Mishka, thanks for the words of encouragement! Toguchi is beautiful and I can’t believe I actually get to live in a place so gorgeous! It is relaxing and finally feels like home. Hopefully I will see you all around! It’s great to find so many friendly people!

  17. Hi Ken, thank you for the compliments on the location! I am very happy with it. & you’re not out of line to say the price is high for the size.
    IMO the “American” rental market here is highly geared towards those receiving an Overseas Housing Allowance, like our family. You are right to say that the monthly amounts are high and if you came to Okinawa I think you’d be floored to see that my home at 250,000 yen is really a “good deal.” I don’t think I’d be out of line to say that. I would say on average, a rental marketed to Americans is typically in the ballpark of 350,000 a month (though as we have seen, is possibly negotiable).
    It’s also my understanding that homes here must pass an inspection by the US Housing office to be deemed “rentable,” aka, the OHA/LQA can be used, barring most Japanese units in the price range you mentioned from being available to Americans to use their OHA/LQA on.
    The rental market is very different in Okinawa than urban Tokyo. & you would think it would be the other way around!

  18. Ken,
    I think the issue here is that the military basically pays our rent. The house owners know exactly where our cap (maximum) is and they will charge accordingly. If we rent a place that is under our cap we do not get to keep the difference. So most will charge exactly at cap or a bit above.
    I was able to negotiate down from 250.000 to 210.000, which happens to be our cap.
    I saw some of the new houses in Onna for 460.000 believe it or not.
    I am also thinking Paul is local and does not get BAH or whatever it is called. Locals would never pay those high rents.

  19. Currently I live in Central Tokyo in a 700 sq ft apartment and pay 110,000 yen per month. If I paid over 200,000 per month I could have the same size or bigger place and live in Roppongi or Aoyama 2 of the nicest places in the city. So I can’t believe that people are paying that price in Okinawa (Yomitan). I am more thinking Paul is the one on the better budget but hey I guess if you get tons of money and like to pay more that is cool too

  20. Not true ma…I rent a 2 bedroom home for 65,000/month. If you are not receiving LQA they can’t charge you those high amounts. When I moved in, my home was 4 years old.

    Of course you won’t get one of the new units that are built, but with so much housing going up all the time, what’s new now, will be old soon, and harder to fill.

  21. Ken– hhhahahah. If you find a place that’s renting for under $1000 a month here, it just may very well have no toilet or running water. =) Even my humble apartment (it’s like 1100 sf with good view) is $2k a month!

  22. That is such a great location. My dream is to have a place right a cross from the beach. My only question is why is the rent so much?? When I was looking on Japanese rental websites places that size were going for under 100,000 per month

  23. One note on negotiation…it is completely within Japanese custom to request a “discount” or better price, but if the answer is no, it is not considered polite to continue trying to get the discount. They don’t really haggle here like you can in other places…if a place is really nice, has a great view and cost the owner quite a bit to build, it might be that the rent in some cases is very close to the price they are paying for a mortgage…especially if the house is Japanese style (since it wasn’t actually built to rent originally).

    Marisa, I was so glad to read your post. We live in Yomitan too, over in the Toguchi area and love it…we have lived in Yomitan both tours here. We love the Japanese appliances too because they really keep the electricity bills down. I highly recommend small loads and hanging what you can to dry. We mostly use the dryer on really rainy days (because even humid days in the summer will dry clothes but cold rainy ones don’t really). Living off base and experiencing a new and beautiful culture is so worth any differences we have to get accustomed to.

  24. Hi Julie, I think rent is definitely negotiable, but IMHO, on a case by case basis depending on how motivated the owner may be due to how quickly he may want to have the home rented. In my case, I have 2 small dogs. That was a negotiation in and of itself, and I knew the house would go quickly. I think those factors made it difficult to negotiate the monthly amount down, because I knew the owner would easily find another interested party, and maybe someone who didn’t have pets (even better in his eyes, I’m sure).

    But I would definitely stress to try! There’s no harm in that.

    Ma~ I definitely look forward to the neighborhood and thanks for the well wishes! Exploring one day sounds like a lot of fun!

  25. Hi marisa, I noticed that you said you were not able to negotiate the rent. Did you try? What makes rent negotiable? I really need the inside dirt on this topic 🙂
    thanks

  26. Oh fun! I wanted that house!! ;o) Good for you! That’s a great house. You’ll love it here in Toya. I live just above the fishing port! Welcome to the hood, girl! We’ll all have to get together and go exploring one day! =)

  27. Daniela and Sheena, thanks for the great words of encouragement! I am excited to be a part of the neighborhood! I happened upon the house on the Tokuzato website before the house was available or had passed the Housing Office’s inspection. We were pretty diligent about following up because we knew it wouldn’t last long and we really liked the location.
    My utilities are not included in the rent, but we are afforded a utility allowance for water, trash, gas and electricity in addition to our LQA. I was not able to negotiate the rent amount.
    In regards to your question about the hookups, our house came with American hook-ups, but the owner already had in place the Japanese washer/dryer, and we just went with it. We’ll see how that goes! I would see if I could get an American washer/dryer in your case. We are a family with just one little guy and it’s pretty taxing.
    Good Luck!

  28. I saw your house for rent on Tokuzato and was telling my husband what a rare find it was- so close to the beach and not a high rise apartment, or duplex ect. And with a nice yard, too…
    I noticed it lasted less than 2 weeks on the Tokuzato website where other properties have been listed for months. We’re moving to the island in June and I’m trying to get a feel for the housing market. Did you say that your utilities are included in your rent of 250,000? Did you negotiate any for your rent price?
    We have three kids with #4 on the way and I’m not sure I’ll be able to get by with a Japanese washer/dryer especially since we use cloth diapers sometimes. This may greatly limit our housing options. If I find the perfect property, as you did, I might be tempted to take it even if it did not have American hook-ups for a w/d. How is the Japanese washing machine working out for you?

  29. Lovely house. I live on the other side of the port. My backyard is the East China Sea. We have been here a year and have no regrets about moving off base.
    I think I saw your house on Oki-US.com. Then when we went for a walk yesterday I noticed it was rented again. Welcome to the neighborhood.

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