Living in Okinawa is a different experience for everyone.  However, a common theme that I’ve noticed from listening to people is that the simplest things about Okinawa can have a notable impact on their overall experience.  Not how hard it rained throughout a weekend Okuma trip. (Been there!) Nor sitting in the gridlock traffic down to Naha. (Done that!) But the everyday things.

To which simple and everyday thing am I referring, you ask?   Well, READING is a simple thing that I’ll never take for granted again!  And I mean neither the latest juicy tabloid, nor vividest magazine.  I mean the the Japanese characters on my A/C remote!  I’m familiar with Hiragana and Katakana, but I know only a few Kanji, which is the primary language my A/C remote displays.

Otherwise, an electric fan can become your best friend in the summertime here.


Of course calling one’s housing agency here on the island to translate the remote is an option. But before you pick up the phone, see if this helps.

danbou. danbou heating
reibou. reibou cooling
jidou. jidou automatic
joshitsu. joshitsu de-humidify
unten. unten in operation
teishi. teishi stop/cancel
kirikae. kirikae change/switch
shitsuon. shitsuon room temperature
fuusoku. fuusoku speed of air flow
fuukou. fuukou direction of air flow
hairu. hairu on
kiru. kiru off
yoyaku. yoyaku set the timer
torikeshi. torikeshi cancel


  1. Until I memorised the kanji of my applicances, I used this website:
    It doesn’t list all applicances, but its a good start.
    Also if you are super keen you can buy yourself a electronic dictionary (aprox $200-300 though) which you can write the offending kanji in and it will (depending on your writing attempt), translate it for you correctly and tell you it’s meaning and Japanese reading.

  2. We leased through Kanae Homes, and they translated our remotes, oven, washer and dryer, etc for us with little white stickers on all the buttons. So our oven looks tacky, but at least we can read it! The housing agencies are very helpful when it comes to translation, if you need it.

  3. That is some useful information that I could have used when I lived there! You’re good, Kandy. Love this picture of your little guy!

    You know, I still don’t think I’m completely acclimated to the DC weather because it doesn’t seem THAT hot here. Okinawa is the hottest place I’ve ever known. Not sad to be missing the heat!

  4. Kandy, what a brave kanji reader you are … I default to my Housing Agency, they have patiently and painstakingly translated every single button for me. The easiest way for us, was to take a picture of the remote, enlarge it, and then draw arrows to each section and write the instructions in English. Then we had a handy reference folder that contained translations for all four different types of a/c’s and heaters, the oven, stovetop, and washer/dryer units. We also have it for our hot water buttons. Basically, anything that we cannot read, we took a picture of and had it translated. Thanks for a super helpful post!

  5. Thanks for this post! Very useful information! I have to say this is the one thing that has been the hardest for me, trying to understand enough of the appliances to make them work.

    Another thought: my Japanese stove top is a whole different technology than American stoves, requiring a particular type of pan – and I didn’t find this out until we had been living here three months!
    It all came down one night to me trying to cook dinner (so proud that I had resisted the urge to go to the drive-thru) while my DH was TDY, when the skillet didn’t heat up, I broke down in tears. It as the last straw for that day. It seemed to work sometimes and not others.
    I went to the rental agency the next day and the girl says ‘oh I didn’t tell you that you need special pans?’ aaaack. Now I know my cast iron Creuset works fine, but the non-stick off-brand skillets don’t. It’s called induction heating – look it up on wiki, it’s fascinating technology and very energy efficient.