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 SHELL
All Photos by: Ryan Burger
1. What’s the name of the city where you reside? Okinawa City, Takahara
2. What’s the general area (i.e. North, Central, South Island)? East Central
3. Is there a special name that is associated with your area? (i.e. Sunabe, Kadena Town, Naval Kadena, etc.). Takahara/Awase
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 live about 20 minutes driving time to Kadena and 15 minutes to Camp Foster.
5. What DODDS school district is your home zoned for? Is there a schoolbus system available?
Elementary: Bob Hope (grades K-2), Amelia Earhart (grades 3-5) – bus service available
Middle: Kadena Middle School – bus service available
High: Kadena High School – bus service available
6. What is the nearest highway or main road to your home? Rt 85 and 329
7. Please describe the “feel” of your neighborhood (i.e. pet-friendly, child-friendly, safety, spaciousness, predominantly “Japanese” or “American”, urban, rural, etc.). Our neighborhood is predominantly Japanese. We live in a single story house in a grouping of 4 houses (all Americans); everyone else is Japanese that we can see. Our Japanese neighbors are very friendly. We live behind a pachinko parlor and multi-level apartment building. We have two dogs and luckily have a fenced in back yard. We chose this house because we wanted to be immersed in the Japanese culture. It is very convenient to everything and within walking distance of Shoppers Awase, grocery stores, and restaurants. It doesn’t have a beautiful view, but for us it has been the perfect fit.
8. Are there places of service in your neighborhood within walking distance such as restaurants, convenience stores, laundromats, bakeries,coffee shops, parks, etc.? Within walking distance there is a grocery store, lots of restaurants, Shoppers Awase, farmers market, and a wholesale super mart, and that is just what we have found so far.
9. Please describe the style of your home (i.e. Westernized, traditional Japanese, detached family home, townhome, etc.) Single family westernized ranch (all one level).
10. Please provide general information about your home such as the rent, square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, special amenities, etc.). It is about 1800 square feet. It has three bedrooms, two baths, a large “great room” that serves as the dining-living, separate dining room we use as an office, kitchen, laundry area and fenced yard. The master bedroom would fit the other two bedrooms in it. We have plenty of closet and cabinet space. We pay 320,000 yen/month.
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 got the normal appliances from the government housing office. All outlets are westernized.
12. What costs are there associated with living off a military base and how do you pay for those costs? For us this has not been a problem. It costs a lot of money up front to live off-base but you get a lot of the money back. We pay trash: 3,500 yen/month, electric bill: averages 30,000-40,000 yen/month, no gas since the house is all electric, internet: approximately $100, we use streaming services which run about $25/month with a US VPN, 2 cell phones: approximately $150, water: 4,000 yen. We pay everything individually to either the company directly or through convenience stores.
During the last summer, our electric bill was higher due to the summer heat, several typhoons, and the fact we always had an A/C unit running for our dogs.
13. How is parking provided for your home? We have three spaces and on-street parking is okay.
14. Are there any outdoor spaces or yards provided for your home? We have a narrow patio area in the fenced in back yard, just wide enough to sport our grill and a table if turned sideways. The yard space is perfect for our two schnauzers, just enough for them to run back and forth. We also have a yard off of our large front porch area, which is also gated in. As for parks, we are just a 5 minute drive away from Comprehensive Park.
15. What housing agency did you utilize to find your current home? We went through Tokuzato (www.tokuzato-hsg.jp) and couldn’t have been happier. We looked at probably over 30 houses when we arrived with 7 different agencies, but we loved the style of homes offered by Tokuzato and the AMAZING personal attention we received from Mako. She is the only representative that went out of her way to point out things on island while showing us houses. She made the house hunting experience great.
Their phone number is 098-956-2667 and hours are M-F 0830-1730, Sat 0830-1500. Address is #477 Kadena, Kadena-Cho, Okinawa, Japan 904-0204
16. Are you satisfied with the maintenance services that are provided for your home? Tokuzato maintenance is amazing. Since Tokuzato owns their own properties they have a very quick turnaround time if there are issues. Also when our loaner furniture was picked up this past summer there was a mark on the wall we wanted to paint over. I just asked in passing when I was paying my rent what color the interior walls were so I could touch it up at our cost, since we mad the mark. They told me they had to ask the maintenance guys. The very next day I got a call saying they would come paint it for me. Since I couldn’t leave work and had no problem painting it myself, they left a pint of the paint on my front porch at no charge. That is good customer service.
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.
First I have to say, that being a civilian living overseas we don’t really get the option to live on-base. If they have something available it is normally at a different installation, which requires you to go off base anyway. For us, the decision was pretty much already made for us, but we are very happy with living off-base. No, we don’t have the “community” feeling that people that live on-base typically get, but we make up for it by making friends and going out of our way to attend events and activities.
Living off base has provided us with an experience we truly love. Granted it can get tiresome not being able to read anything off-base unless the owners are trying to attract American’s by translating some items, but we see that as some of the experience and adventure. Also the crazy traffic around rush hour can be painful at times, but this has caused us to explore alternative routes and we have found some beautiful drives and overlooks.
Another advantage to living off-base was getting a larger house and also finding an already fenced in yard. Since our schnauzers are part of our family we made having a yard one of our top priorities.
We are probably different than most Americans on island in that we chose to come to Okinawa. We wanted to experience a new culture and although there are difficulties sometimes, we see being here as an experience of a lifetime that not many people get.
Although living off-base can have challenges, the benefits and experiences make up for them. Don’t sell yourself short if you are given the option to look off-base, go out there and see what they have available.
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 just applied for a civil service position at Camp Foster. If I get it we plan on living off base. I am in the middle researching and came across LQA. My question that I can’t seem to find the answer to, is it to only cover the exact amount for rent and utilities up to a max limit? Is the amount shown in the charts what you get and you spend how you want? The answer to my question is probably right in front of me and just don’t see it.
You will have a max for your housing allowance based on your pay grade, number of dependants, etc. Let’s say your max housing allowance is 450,000 yen per month, but you fall in love with a house that is 380,000 yen per month. You sign the lease, take the papers to base and 380,000 is what you get even though your max is 450,000. Make sense? As far as utilities, my husband who is civil service was asked to estimate what each of our utilities would be (electric, gas, water, trash) and that is what we were paid. Every year we have to submit our actual bill receipts and they compare them to our estimates. If we paid out more than they gave us, they re-pay us. If they paid us more than the bills were, we pay them. We have normally paid more than the estimate and they have had to pay us. I hope this makes sense to you. Anymore questions, just ask and I will try to help. Good luck on getting the position!
We are also civilians. Simply put, the housing agency will spend what you are allowed. There are people in buildings paying different amounts, and that’s just how it works.
Some agencies will include utilities in the rent (water, trash, gas and electricity are OK – you just enter 0 on your yearly reconciliation sheet). Others will only include one or some – and that’s when you do the upfront estimation. As Lala said, you need to estimate (we asked our agency what the average was for the building) and keep excellent records, and all your receipts for the annual reconciliation.
Bottom line is, civilians must account for every penny given for LQA, and must repay any overages but are repaid any expenditures due to (authenticated) overpayment. But, if you go over your max, you’re out of pocket.
Another rumor that flies around is that you can have a housekeeper or yard service included in your rent. This is NOT true unless it is a requirement of every tenant in the building and is also included in their rent.
My husband applied for a civilian job in Okinawa. I’m litter scared about a moving there because I have 3 kids twins 16 and a litter girl 7. My question is about the schools , the sport program and activities for teens and kids that the base offer, those program are for just military kids or civilian kid, have the opportunity to join them or they have a waiting list. The other thing is about the medical service, can we get medical service in the military base or they have waiting list for this too. How about the grocery stores can you find a product from USA?. Last thing do you think that is good experience living in there or you miss live in USA. Is a really hard decision I want that my kids be happy everywhere they live.
I could write a novel, but here are the short answers…If the job your husband is applying for is a SOFA status job like a Civil Service position or contractor with SOFA status then your kids can go to on base schools and participate in almost all on base sports and activities. Your family can receive on base medical care. We are pay patients at on base medical facilities and they bill our BC/BS insurance and we pay the balance. There are on base commissaries (grocery stores) and yes with the exception of some certain health foods and some certain cultural foods, you can find everything. We have been here as civilians for 7 years and my kids never want to leave!
Do you know if contractors can use the Kadena housing office to assist with off base housing rentals when moving to Okinawa or if contractos must utilize housing agents off base too find a home? I understand that active duty and GS employees must go through the housing office.
Thank you Leah!! His applications were forwarded to hiring managers in a few locations and the one in Okinowa asked for more info and consent for background check. I’m hoping that’s all good signs! I think he has sent to Hi, Oki and Alaska that have all gone to the hiring managers. Me on the other hand have not had any say they sent mine and they are all listed as direct hire positions, him in psych and mine as a nurse. Hiring process seems so slow these days even in civilian sector. I will check out FBI page and start that list of questions because he really wants Japan and I just want an island! Been working on becoming an island bum for a while now. Course Ak is opposite and COLD but we have been twice and it is an amazingly beautiful place! Again, thanks for your quick reply!
Michelle – come on over to the FB page and ask some questions!
But let me try to help. Your situation is specific. You have to ask directly to the “chain of command” what is arranged, what is covered and what you are allowed. Do not go on what others tell you – get the information directly from whomever it is that hires your husband.
I am so confused!! I’ve read the threads and the military websites and I think it just made it worse. Most everything talks about living on or off base but I thought it was for anyone working in military not just active duty. If we accept a job as a civilian in the Marine Corps, does the military still arrange flights, get you there, give you temp housing until your perm place is found? Are civilian military not allowed to live on base? If I must live off base, am I the one coming up with deposits, 1st & last months rent and the agency fees? For a what I assume to be cheap at 16-1700/month in rent, it would cost $5000 just to move into a place. My other issue, there is just my husband who has applied and I am an RN so I was hoping I could work in base hospital but we have 5 babies(cats)….don’t judge…lol… They are our babies and giving them away or leaving them with family is not an option. This has gotten me a bit stressed and am wondering do I need to rethink the idea of moving there as impossible unless I win the lottery? The only thing I can think to do is make a list of questions to possibly ask if the hiring manager calls him or would that be a bad idea too. Sooooo not military or strict rule kinda thinker but I am very much an island time/laid back kinda person….any help greatly appreciated!!!
Linda, you can go to almost any phone provider and rent a wifi system month by month.
Hello ~ I will be visiting my mom who lives off base on Okinawa. Since I’ll be on island for probably 3 months, I wonder who I need to contact to get internet access at moms house. I will be bringing my laptop computer from the U.S. I will NOT have a cell phone. Any assistance you can share with me will be much appreciated. I don’t want to go to an internet café to get internet access, which is what I did when I visited mom in 2011. Thank you !
Thank you Shell,
You answered my questions that I was most concerned about!!
Thanks again for the help!!
I work for a housing agency here in Okinawa. Please let me know if you need any assistance in looking for homes, I will be more than happy to send you pictures of what we have available so you can an idea of what to expect. Please feel free to email me at Phi.firstname.lastname@example.org. Best of luck with your move, you and your family will LOVE this beautiful Island!
I have a family of 6 and we also have chosen to move to Okinawa in early November. I have never moved overseas and the whole task seems rather daunting. Can you give me some insight we are civilian as well and will probably live off base also. Do I bring things like washer, dryer, vacuum cleaners, etc…?
If you qualify for LQA as a civilian you can get Base appliances (Washer, Dryer, Fridge, and Stove) so I do not recommend bringing them. As for what all you should bring there are several postings out here on Okinawa Hai that talk to what they recommend. As for us we brought most of our stuff and just left in the states some oversized furniture or decor we didn’t want to have to worry about storing or rusting while in Okinawa. There is no set list of what you should or shouldn’t bring it comes down to what you think you will need and want while in Okinawa. Sorry I could not be more help with this.
Just a quick update on the post. The Toysrus that was located in the Takahara/Awase area is closed. Actually, the whole Shoppers Awase is now vacant. Not sure what they will do with it. 🙁
@Gina – Anytime. I am glad I could give you some insight. I know first hand moving here as a civilian is sometimes difficult because most things are in military terms and rates, which don’t always apply to us. Safe Travels and good luck finding a home.
Hi Shell! I was wondering if you could tell me how you managed to get to Okinawa as a civilian? I am 1/2 Okinawan, my dad was a former Marine and I spent a good portion of my childhood on the island. I am trying to move back (I gave myself a timeline of 3 yrs). Did you have a contracting job with the military? Did they pay for relocation? If you have children- are they allowed to attend base schools?
Hi Samantha! Unfortunately I probably won’t be much help. I am a civilian with the Air Force and the agency I work for paid for the relocation. I wish I could be more help. Maybe someone else out here has insight on how to make this happen for you?
Thanks for posting, we too are civilian moving to Oki in about three weeks:)
Gina if you are looking for a place here just contact me on our facebook site. I can get you any property, that is available, in Okinawa. I look forward to hearing from you.