For those of you planning a move to Okinawa soon, we hope Marie’s descriptions of the process of their travel and first months of settling in can help you with a few of the “unknowns.”  To read more of their story see links at the bottom of the post.


The one thing I was DYING to know before our PCS was what our new home would look like. I was grasping at straws trying to get a clue. So I’ve included in this post as many pictures as possible for those of you imagining your options. I will preface this by saying that there are a lot of variables when it comes to where you will live and in what condition you will find your new quarters. I’ll get to those variables in just a moment. (Posts regarding on-base houses and off-bases houses)

We attended our first housing briefing just three days after we landed on island. We were led into a conference room with a handful of other couples, where we learned how the assignment process works. A woman explained to us that whether we would live on base depended upon several factors: number of bedrooms we rated, current capacity, rank, and proximity of available housing to active duty member’s work location. Are you confused yet? Basically, the numbers were different for everyone in the room. Kenny and I rated a two-bedroom unit because we have no children. He would be working on Camp Foster, and the two-bedroom units there were at 93 percent capacity. Currently, anything below 95 percent means you are required to live on base. So Kenny and I were certain we would not be living out in town. A few couples in the room had a choice to live on or off base because capacity for their rated quarters was above 95 percent. One couple was informed they would have to live off base because the type of housing they needed with their children was 100 percent full.

The next step was viewing available units. Typically, we were told, you will be allowed to see two different places and pick one or the other. Because we arrived in the beginning of PCS season, we didn’t think we would have to wait for more than a week or so to see something. Many people were moving off the island already and the summer rush onto the island was not yet in full swing. This was not the official word, but rather what we heard from some more seasoned islanders. For instance, we met a few families who had to live off base because when they arrived at the end of summer, there was nothing left on base.

The phone call to view our potential new home came much more quickly than expected — that same day! I couldn’t believe it. Just a couple of hours after our briefing, we were picking up the keys to a multiplex and a tower unit to inspect. We were torn on what we’d want; I wanted a yard but wasn’t too keen on mowing, and we’d heard mixed reviews about living in a high-rise. The choice came easily once we saw the places though.

First up, the multiplex: I liked that it was ground-level (no lugging groceries up an elevator.) I also liked that it was two levels with the bedrooms upstairs, had laminate floors downstairs, one and a half bathrooms, and a spacious back patio. What I didn’t like: the laundry was right off the kitchen, the tall patio walls blocked any breeze, and the kitchen was tiny with limited counter space. It was not bad overall, and in good condition, but I felt luke-warm about it.

Our second viewing was on the 8th floor of a tower. That’s a lot of stairs if the elevators go down, I thought. Once I walked in the door, however, thoughts of doubt came to a screeching halt. My first gaze fell on the kitchen. It was huge compared to the last one we’d seen, with tons of counter space.

Newlywed kitchen 1
Newlywed kitchen 1
Newlywed kitchen 2
Newlywed kitchen 2

I like to make a general mess while I’m cooking (or learning to cook anyway,) so it was heaven. The cabinets were deep and I knew they’d fit all the wedding gifts we hadn’t even had a chance to use yet. I was impressed with the amount of storage space and the openness of the living/dining area. The bedrooms seemed about the same size as those we’d seen in the multiplex.

Newlywed Master Bedroom
Newlywed Master Bedroom
Newlywed Laundry Room
Newlywed Laundry Room

One look at the view and it was a done deal. We had two balconies, one off of the living room and one off of the master bedroom. The one off our bedroom had a view of the East China Sea. I could already see myself out there sipping coffee and typing away on my laptop. We promptly notified the housing office of our decision.

Newlywed Balcony view
Newlywed Balcony view

The actual move-in came nine days later. Temporary government furniture had already been delivered by the time we picked up the keys. We had selected which government furniture we wanted based on what we’d brought with us. Our HHG delivery came that day, and our UAB the next day. Strange, how our household goods arrived before our “express” shipment. It was no matter. We had everything we needed within that first 48 hours.

Newlywed Dining Area
Newlywed Dining Area

I have a love-hate relationship with unpacking. It’s a pain, for sure. But it’s another chance to organize all the things I never got around to organizing in the last place I lived. Displaying vases in different arrangements or storing blankets on another shelf somehow makes them seem new again. And oh, the unused wedding gifts! We’d first opened them in New York, then packed and re-opened them in San Diego, only to pack them back up a few months later and send them clear across the Pacific. I promised myself I would use them ALL before our next move.

Newlywed Unpacking
Newlywed Unpacking

One thing I wish we’d addressed sooner was our internet. We had our unit number assigned about a week before our actual move-in date. That was when we should have scheduled our internet hook-up. Instead we waited until we were physically moved in, and by that time the wait for internet set-up was a full two weeks later. Another lesson learned. (I got to know the library computer lab pretty well!) Aside from that inconvenience, we’ve been extremely happy so far with our choice.

Read all the posts in this series: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 68, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14


  1. Noone mentioned the Greenline. When I was there a bus line runs all over the island from base to base on a daily schedule. It is very helpful if u don’t drive. My kids loved it. Also, taxi or Honcho was very cheap. The safety there if u have kids especially is great. You never have to worry about being safe or your kids out in town. No matter which direction you drive you will either see the Pacific Ocean or East China Sea. You do have some American Restaurants on base ones when I was there were Macaroni Grill and Chilli’s. Foster and Kadena offer the most. There is also fast food like Popeyes subway pizza dunkin doughnuts Pizza Hut. So there are things like back home. Buying things are really cheap for the house so load up while u r there. I now wish Phia would sell things to order from states but she only has a few. Enjoy. It’s an experience of a lifetime. I lived in a multiplex and loved it most complaints I heard from towers were they were hot and the elevators were terrible to deal with. Schools are awesome! Good luck!

  2. I just wanted to say thank you for all your post. We moved here in the middle of November and I’ve been too scared to do pretty much anything off base. Your post are making me feel like getting lost and being overwhelmed are ok. I just now finished ready this post of your and I realized I live in the tower across the street from you! Im extremely jealous of your view. We live on the 3rd floor facing the school/track, definitely not as pretty as your view but still nice. Im looking forward to reading the rest of your post! Thank you for taking time to write them.


    • Alicia – I’m really glad you’ve found my posts helpful. I think you’ll find that once you do venture off base, it’s not as scary as it seems. It helps that this country is so safe. I learned a lot by running off base – I would run down one street as far as I could just to see what was close by, turn around and come back home. Every time I tried to take a slightly different route. You can do the same thing with driving. Don’t be afraid to see what’s out there! Start close and work your way out if that feels better for you. It’s so worth it.

  3. Thanks for your detailed posts! I have a few questions: Which type of housing would you recommend if we have a small dog (only 8 pounds)? I know they’re allowed on the 1st 2 floors of the towers…but now that you’ve lived there a while, do you have any recommendations? Also, is there a certain base we should try to get? We are expecting orders in about a month. Lastly, which base has the most job opportunities for spouses? Any tips on things to do prior to leaving the USA in order to get a job there? Thank you!

    • If you have a dog, you might prefer a muliplex – someplace where it’s quicker and easier to let them outside. You won’t have a yard in the towers. Your dog is not allowed in the elevators, ever. Some of my neighbors have ignored this rule and it’s never pleasant to smell dog pee in the elevator (yes, it’s happened). I’ve seen housing on Foster, Lester, Kinser, Plaza, and Kadena, and I haven’t seen anything I hated. Our friends in officer housing have more space, but that all depends on rank.

      I wouldn’t say that any one base has more job opportunities for spouses than another. Kadena is certainly the largest base and may have more opportunities because of the population and services here, but I also have several friends (all spouses) who work on Foster – some for MCCS, one a contractor, and another in a GS position.

      I would advise you to check daily and DO have a professional here review your resume before you submit it for a specific position. Many jobs are “local hire only” so you won’t be considered if you’re not physically here yet. This information should be in the job announcement – be sure to read the fine print. Good luck!

  4. Are civilians now PROHIBITED from living in base housing? I would think that allowing civilian in housing would further the cause of maintaining the percentage of units occupied. I submitted an “ICE” 3 years ago because civilians were required to come up with the full rent and deposit while active duty received an advance (gratis) to cover move-in off base (I was stationed in Oki both active duty and civilian, and am coming back again as a civil servant). For some reason all of this info is concealed from everyone until they are on their way there! Would appreciate the real scoop!


    • Jim,

      We are civil servants over here and were told that we could live on base when we first arrived (May 2010). As far as I know, the policy has not changed. I will warn you, civilians are given very little option as far as where on base you can live and it seems that they offer the less desirable areas. The locations we were offered as well as the size of the houses would not work for us so we chose to move off base. It was a great decision and as I drive by those less desirable housing areas, I am really glad that we chose off base. As far as having to come up with the amounts for rent, deposit, agency fee and all that, I do remember withdrawing some insane amount of yen to pay those not long after arriving and we did not wait to get some type of advance. It may be available, but we did not do that. Sorry I cannot be of more assistance on that issue. It seems that the civilian HRO where you are now or over here should be able to answer that for you.

      • {Reply sent to Content Editor’s Email; copy/paste}

        Yes, when we were there in 2007 and moved on base the housing we were offered was definitely the lowest of those available, but access to everything on base, especially since my wife doesn’t drive, made it worthwhile. We did love our off-base home, but the yen was really outpacing the dollar then and soon I was paying out of my pocket before the adjustments could catch up. But we love it there, and I’m taking a downgrade to get back there, so we’ll just hope for the best! Thank you so much for the advice and info!


  5. Thank you so much for your informative blogs. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your photos of base housing. I am already so excited to come to Okinawa, but now I am even more excited (if that is possible). You have a great attitude about everything, and you are getting us great info that helps us all have a great attitude too.

  6. Thanks a million!!!!! I’m suppose to be going to Oki in june, I have been searching for anything that really shows how much space you will get and what the homes looked liked on the inside, your posts have been extremely helpful!

  7. Marie,

    This is a great blog, you really are a superior writer, and Dad is right, definitely partial but still nails it on the head, you are very talented and need to write a book. I will be first in line to buy it, well next to Dad 🙂 I am so happy you are settled. I love reading all about your experiences and I can’t wait to see you again! I love and miss you!


  8. Marie,

    I reall enjoy reading your posts. You are such a talented witer! One day I know you will write a book, perhaps many. You are best seller material!
    Love ,


    …OK, I am a lttle partial.

  9. We leave VA Thursday headed to see family and over to OKI mid June. Following you guys has been a big help. Where we will live is definately eating at us although we don’t have a preference. Good Luck to you guys!