A on-base home, Kadena AB, near Gate 3, NCO-CGO Housing
Kadena AB, near Gate 3, NCO-CGO Housing

One of the biggest unknowns – and often unanswered questions – when moving to a new duty station is, “Where am I going to live? What will it look like?  How much space will I have?”  Though there are as many opinions about whether to live on base or off. Believe me,  there are a plethora of choices available once you arrive, one thing is for sure: you have to live somewhere.

My family and I moved back to the United States three years ago, but while we had the privilege of living on Okinawa we chose to live on base.  It was a decision we were very happy with, and way back when I even wrote about how beneficial I found the experience.  This was despite the fact that our house had been built in 1955 and I’m pretty sure the kitchen, bathrooms, and floors hadn’t been updated since they were originally installed.  It was only when we nicely asked the housing office to replace the cracked, peeling linoleum floors (and they did) that it felt as though it belonged in this century.

We’ve tried to give you a brief glimpse of what you might expect; in our archives, we have examples of both off and on-base housing options.  The great news is, this can give you a really great peek into what these homes look like.  The bad news is, many on-base homes have been renovated and updated since we originally posted about them. Hence, what we have in our archives is no longer up-to-date.

We’d like your help in changing that.

If you live on-base in housing that has either been renovated since we last posted about it or in on-base housing that’s never come under review. Then, we will love it if you can give us a glimpse of what it looks like.


Also, most of our submissions are for 2 and 3 bedroom units. If you live in a 4 bedroom unit, our readers who qualify for those houses -am sure – will LOVE to see what they look like, no matter what base you’re on!

Send an email to our Submissions Manager (submissions@okinawahai.com) and she’ll send you a template to fill out. (See this post to get a good idea of what questions you’ll answer.) Answer a few questions, snap some photos, help out a TON of your fellow readers.  It’s as easy as that!

Because it helps to know what you’re getting into, right? It helps to have one fewer unanswered question floating around in your brain; one less thing to obsessively worry about as you watch the movers pack up all your belongings to send them halfway across the globe (you can worry a normal amount instead).

Thanks to you all. Always.


  1. Editor’s Note: Due to technical difficulties this comment was not saved on our server. We are re-publishing it now to continue the conversation on this post.

    From Christina on 9/19/13:
    “Sonya and Marie,
    I am so worried about being put in this situation. We are mil-mil E-5s as well and we have two dogs. Thankfully we found out ahead of time we were coming out there and we started the at home quarantine process. I’m also currently pregnant and it is looking like since we will be tdy en route for training prior to this pcs that I will be stuck on med hold, give birth, and on maternity leave trying to prep thr baby for overseas travel. So my husband has to go ahead of me. It’s sad that a family with a child and 2 dogs would get put in a tower. Seriously. I hope we are lucky and can work out living off base, but I don’t know how they will work with us with my husband arriving first with dogs in tow. It sounds like they really didn’t care about your needs and you really had to hassle them for a place to live. I hope they fill up the towers with lower ranking married couples with no pets and if we do get offered a home on base it be something with 3 bedrooms and a yard. Here’s to wishful thinking.

  2. Lala, I apologize. I wasn’t using the word to offend anyone but to simply shorten it. Nonetheless, I understand and will use a period next time to indicate my shorten version of the word Japanese. Thanks for letting me know.

    • Lisa, you are welcome. Thank you for being mature about my request. Judging by your long and helpful response to Reem, you seem to be a nice person, so I had a feeling that you might just be shorting the word, but wanted you to know how it made me feel to read it. Have a nice weekend and a great stay on Okinawa!

  3. also remember that if you are offered a house on base, they say that you can live up to an hours drive away from the base of work, so just because the military person works on Kadena, doesn’t mean you will get a house on Kadena. Just an FYI so you aren’t blind sided when you get here. I will work on getting some Chibana pics up, they just redid most of the houses over here, mine is still old, but I’m gonna see if I can get some pics of the newer stuff.

  4. We are moving around September and stuff was going well untel we got our sponsor. He is nice but he himself just got there a month ago and has no answer to most of the questions. I think you guys are more helpful 😉 can someone tell me with my 8 yr old lab do we have to live in those Towers? It’s not going to work for her and our sponsor set us some papers that says we should leave our dog back in the states if we can not stay in the towers? I had my dog for so long and I don’t want to leave her. Any ideas ?

    • Reem, you do not have to live on towers; HOWEVER, that is for the housing to decide on what’s available when you arrive. They will do what they can to find a place for your dog though and give you options for your pets. I just got here in April and I do know that you are allowed to have pets on the on-base housing so towers are not the only option here. It really all depends on the percentage when you get here though. Be sure to notify your sponsor and housing that you do have a dog and will need to find a place that allows you to have a dog. Do that when you make the housing appt to look for availabilities. As for your sponsor, he/she should’ve taken a class and there should be a checklist of what he needs to do. My husband is currently sponsoring a Marine and so he’s taking the class and getting the checklist also.

      • Lisa, thank you so much. It seems that every time we ask our sponsor a Q he answers to something absolutely different. For example, when my husband asked him can we bring our smart phones with us to use there or is it better to buy an unlocked phones his answer was “yes there is a software you need to download so we can call eachother back and forth easy better than using emails for communications”????? He is new and we understand its just making it a lil difficult as I consider the sponsor is our eyes there. Do you live on base? I am thankful you answered my question about the housing. We really really hope we could live off base tho.

        • Reem, you can bring your smartphone here to have it unlock here but from what I’ve been hearing, it’s complicated to unlock it. The Japanese here don’t really know how to unlock American phones. From my experience, we cancelled our stateside cell phones and purchased phones here. However, we also purchased a Vonage box before we moved here. Vonage is for making phone calls to stateside. Cell phones here are pricey and the plans are pricey also but there are cell phones and plans that are cheap. I must tell you that the cheap phones and plans would most likely be flip phones and connections might be a problem. There’s Softbank, AU, and Docomo. Softbank is the cheapest with mostly flip phones. We have AU and our plan is the not too cheap nor expensive plan and we pay about $200 a month. It comes with liability coverage and free Au to Au calls and texts until 9 pm. However, if you get a smart phone over here, you can download an app called Voxer Walkie Talkie. That allows you to text or walkie talkie to anyone who has the app also. I can talk you to about that more if you have questions. As for the living area, we live on base on Kinser and my husband works on Kinser too so it’s a good thing for us. We have one car and so he walks to work (12 mins away). Cars here are pretty cheap for a decent car…older model, but decent enough. Our 2002 Mazda Demio was for $3,800 and we paid in full. There’s lots of places for you to shop for cheap cars including from military members who are pcsing. Hopefully your sponsor will help you in finding a good decent car and what to look out for. If not, you can always ask me.

          Living on base has it’s advantages. Free water and electricity. Living on towers means we don’t have to cut our grass and be severely worried during typhoon season. However, our tower in Kinser is the older ones so it isn’t as nice on the inside. It’s also small as are off base houses. Japanese houses are very small so you might not want to bring a lot over. Living off base, everything is in Japanese and if anything is broken, you’ll be speaking to a Japanese person who barely speaks English. People managed though so I’m sure you will too. Most houses off base are not really suitable for pets so there might not be a backyard. On base houses will have backyards but there’s a lot of grass to maintain also. Off base utilities are expensive…yen rate changes everyday so you might want to keep that in mind. If you are not offered to live off base, you will have the option to move after living on base for 1 whole year…but you will have to move yourself. We were given two places to look at. One was a terrible, rat fiece-infested place with ducked-taped windows (not exaggerating) and the other place was our tower. We had to choose one or the other and we went with the tower but they did inform us that we can live off base if we want to after a year on base. I hate the place, it’s two bedrooms and one bathroom but perfect for my family of 3. I just hate how it was poorly designed…especially the kitchen. Sorry to go on and on but on base is not bad. I’ve seen some of the houses and it’s not that bad especially on Kadena. My husband is a Marine. Anywho, if you have any other questions that your sponsor may not know, feel free to ask me. My email is lisa_maha_lao@hotmail.com. I had 2 sponsors and two days before we were coming to Japan, we changed sponsor again so I completely know how frustrating this move can be.

          • Lisa, please reconsider your use of the word ***. It is a derogatory term and offensive to many Japanese and honestly, pretty offensive to me.

          • Lala and Lisa, I edited Lisa’s original comment so as not to offend anyone. We don’t want terms such as that to appear on this site. Thank you both for your attention to this and your courteous responses to one another.

  5. Hi, we are PCSing to Kadena at the end of summer and wondering where we could expect to live. We are e-7 family with 4 kids a dog and a cat. We are hoping to get on base housing. Could someone also give me some info on schools? I have a 3rd grader and kindergartner. I also have a possible preschooler as she is 3 years old. Thanks in advance!

  6. Hi, this site is very helpful for me. My son, who will be turning 4 a week after we arrive, and I will be PCSing to Kadena the end of June. We can’t wait; I just wish we knew whether or not we have to live on base. I’ve seen a lot of nice off base houses that I’m interested in AND I plan on putting my son in an off base preschool.

  7. If you want to live off base it shouldnt be a problem. I moved here back in october and had to beg to live on base. Unless you would e living n the towers you shold be good to live off base with no problems.

  8. Hi ladies! Thanks so much for this site! It’s been very helpful! We’re moving this June and my hubby will be at Hansen. Does anyone know where we are likely to live? We have 3 kids. I’ve heard KAB is pretty nice but I’ll admit that I’m extremely nervous. Any advice is welcome!

    • My husband is also stationed at Hansen but we live in Chibana Housing on Kadena. It all depends on rank and what their capacity is when you get here. We got here in January and were told that there was nothing available for us on base and that we had to live in town. On the same day that we looked at places in town, housing called and told us there was availability on base. My big suggestion is that if you want to live on base, really press on the housing to try to find space. I have heard more than one person say that they were initially told that there was no availability but when they pressed the issue housing mysteriously found spots. I can tell you that on Chibana I can name at least 20 empty places to live. I am told that housing doesn’t really go an excellent job keeping track on inventory. The downside to living where we do is that my husband spends at least 30 minutes in the car on his way to work and on his way home. But he was doing the same thing state side so it isn’t a huge deal.

  9. Awww…my old house! I lived in this house (2913) for almost five years and so did a good friend of mine many years ago. Definitely old! I could never get used to the “spare” bathroom in the laundry room area that felt more like a locker room stall.

    I still have the curtain rods that fit the three living room windows! Haha I hate getting rid of perfectly good stuff.

  10. Thanks everyone for your feedback! It really helps. I just got to Okinawa this past Thursday. We are currently staying at a lodge in Camp Foster with a sponsor from Camp Courtney and husband’s workplace in Camp Kinser. It is currently 94.8% filled on base with about 3 places left to live for on-base housing. 2 houses in Camp Foster and 1 tower. Now there’s currently a rule where we can deny tier 1 housing which means they are the older houses. However, we cannot refuse tier 2 houses which are newly renovated. We had just saw a tier 1 house in Camp Foster and it was horrendous. The outside was a disaster and the inside was worst. Mice fieces on the kitchen counter, duct tape on the windows, and bugs/insects indoors. I felt so unsafe and my stomach was in a knot. I couldn’t believe that this was the kind of house that they’re giving out to military families. We are a family of 3 and so we only rate 2 bedrooms…but what they gave us was more like living under a bridge. I was terrified. Of course, we’re turning it down but now we have only one option left and it can’t be refuse. We only have the tower on Camp Kinser left. BTW Nick, their first priority is to assign you a unit close to where you work so you won’t go though traffic and it’ll be more convenient. I’m a bit nervous to check out this tower and it’s such a huge difference from the on-base housing that I’m use to on the states. We came from Hawaii and we had one of the newly built homes with 3 bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms. I’ll admit that it was too big for my family of 3. I don’t mind a smaller place. I just don’t want a home that should’ve been demolished years ago. I’ll update more on this housing subject.

    • My husband works on Futenma and we were told that they first try to put people working there in housing on Kinser because Futenma is the closest base to Kinser. They didn’t have anything open though when we got here (housing was 94% full overall, so we didn’t have the option of living off base) so we were offered a tower apartment on Foster or a multiplex on Lester. We picked the multiplex (basically a townhouse connected to three others) and really like it here so far.

  11. I would suggest adding Chibana Housing to that list. We just moved there in February and most people that we have talked to know very little about it. And judging by all the renovations and open units, I am guessing there will be an influx of people moving in this summer.

  12. I wanted to share some of my experience. My family PCSed to Kadena May 2012. We have 1 child, had 2 dogs, a ton of furniture and we are both active duty AF SSgts. All our briefings and paperwork preached about being prepared for whether you are going to have to live on or off-base. Here is the problem: You will not know until you in-process what the current capacity is and where you can live. We had actually hoped to live off-base after doing some research of the houses to rent off base. There are many houses that cater to American lifestyles. If you get the choice to live off base you can potentially use as many agencies as you like to compare and find a place you would like to live. The week we got here the capacity was 94% and we would not be allowed to live off-base. I can understand the policy but we had a nightmare with housing.

    We waited in TLF for a week and hadn’t received an offer for places to live. Now we had inprocessed with other people who were also staying at TLF; one was a TSgt with his dependent wife. They told us they had just got offers from housing with a rennovated 2 or 3 bedroom house. We had heard the rennovated units were actually pretty nice so we were hopeful if they got that offer we might too. We called housing and asked if there was an update since we hadn’t been called but they said they didn’t have one for us yet. Two days later we finally got a call with two offers.

    Guess what!? We had two TOWER rooms we could choose from. Towers are like very small apartments. (If anyone doesn’t know you’re SOL if you decline an offer from housing, then you have to pay your own stay in TLF out of pocket AND you start over on the waiting list.) Now let me be honest, the towers aren’t the end of the world. Some have even been redone. They aren’t very big enough though. We were allowed to bring 16,000 pounds of household items after all. (We actually only had half that, but in theory this would still be way more than would fit in most houses on base) All we got to see were 2 bedroom ones. They are pretty horribly designed. Heating units stick out from the walls so positioning furniture could be an issue and the rooms we were offered had a beautiful view of a cement retaining wall. Overall not the end of the world but there is a point I’m making.

    Now thinking back to the TSgt with just his civilian wife with him and no children… We heard a lot from multiple agencies telling us mil-to-mil families were a high priority in housing. It’s really depressing when you come here and are basically told you have no choice where you live after coming a place where you owned your own home. So we went to the housing office and presented our case. We explained not having anywhere to put all our stuff and they told us we should have been prepared. We say how obviously difficult that is when no one will tell you until you arrive if maybe you needed to store or sell more stuff. Then they tried to offer us housing on Foster. (This makes no sense to me. At that rate they might as well let us live off base right?) and then we told them about the Tech Sergeant and threw their own policies in their faces. Finally we got someone to budge. Now they told us they could offer a rennovated unit but we couldn’t actually see it because it was still under construction. They gave us the floor plan and the address and said we had a few hours to take it or leave it. They mentioned we MIGHT get lucky and a maintenance person MIGHT be there and MIGHT let us look inside. If we didn’t accept this offer we would have to pay our own TLF and go back on the waiting list.
    Fortunately we found the place and the maintenance people were there and let us in.

    Maybe some of these things are trivial but it’s especially frustrating when 2 weeks later we meet another mil-to-mil couple in the same housing bracket. By that time occupancy was 95% and they could choose to live off base. They wanted to live on base though. This couple was pregnant and had a child from a previous relationship that could potentially visit but did not live with them so they were allowed a four bedroom house and had no issues.

    Our other issue was our dogs. We had done everything to prepare to bring them here. We found that there is a six month quarantine and we thought it would be cruel to have to keep them in quarantine that long and in this tropical climate since they are Siberian Huskies. (We made a personal decision to leave them with a very nice family.) It was pretty heartbreaking to leave our dogs behind. Another thing we weren’t informed of is if you do get housing on-base that counts as quarantine and your animals can stay in your house with you.

    Sorry for a bit of a rant but there are a few things that might be helpful to think about. We still can’t fit all our furniture and did have to store a few things. The walls are mostly cement and its hard to hang things. Living on base is very convenient and it’s very nice not having to pay utilities and much less traffic.

    There is another policy that after a year living on base IF the occupancy is above 95% you could choose to move off base at your own expense if you are going to be here four years, like us, you may decide it’s worth it.

    I hope anyone else coming to Kadena or any base on Okinawa at least has less issues and is better prepared. Enjoy the island!

    • I’m sorry you left your dogs behind. Quarantine includes time spent on-base. It does not mean the dog has to be kept in a kennel, or even indoors during the quarantine period.

      I feel that everyone coming here needs to do their due dilligence and research as much as possible. Information is OUT THERE; you just have to look for it.

      Personally, we are an E-8 family and have zero expectations for housing. We own our home here in the states and are preparing ourselves for a giant downgrade. Such is military life.

      • I agree, it is so important to be an information seeking crazy person. LOL. Believe it or note, the AQS stations on Okinawa and in Tokyo have been the most helpful, the most clear, and so nice! Had I left it to getting information from the military my dogs would be staying in the states. But after weeks of frustration, I called AQS and within 5 days had a checklist of what we needed, confirmation about how many days of quarantine would be left when we get there, and I had my approval documents emailed to me for importation in July.

    • Marie,

      I am afraid I am going to be in the same position as you when I get there. I am a very type A person, and want to plan everything! We just found out on Monday that we will be there near the end of December. We have two dogs, a vizsla and a pittbull, and I have discovered that we will not be able to bring the pitbull. I’m very upset about that, and don’t think the military should be able to discriminate dog breeds (another story). But I was hoping you could keep in contact with me and we could communicate as my husband and I get ready to come over. I have email alerts when a response is made, so I look forward to hearing from you! Sonya

  13. One more thing. If you decide to live off base, do not bring your bulky furniture! Chances are it will not fit! We had so much trouble and as much as the moving guys tried their best, our armoire was damaged as they had to carry it up the stairs as it didn’t fit in the elevator!

  14. Just a head’s up that not everyone is given a choice for on or off-base housing. You may want to make sure that’s stated somewhere. For some of us, living off-base wasn’t our choice, it was what we were told we were doing because housing was full. I love living off-base though.

      • We will be there in December! Could you let me know how your move was, and keep in contact? I don’t know anyone there yet and would like to have a heads up. I lived there when I was 8, but now I’m going back as a spouse! Good luck.

          • Sonya and Tatjana, living off base is based on the housing percentage. However, you can choose to live off base after a year of living on base. Sonya, you can definitely contact me for any questions as I know how frustrating the move can be. OkinawaHai was my only source for any info and it helped me quite a bit, but there were areas that I still needed help on. I currenlty need help on adding curatins to our blinds in the towers. Mines seem impossible to add any curtains unless I take everything down. Our third sponsor was great when it came down to buying a car. He told us what to look for and how much a car should be worth. So I will definitely be glad to pass on the knowledge.

      • I just got here a week ago and it depends on your rank. For E6 and below we had the option to live on base or off. I choose on base because they gave me a newly renovated 3 bedroom house, close to work and my son’s off-base preschool.

        • Katrina…this is very good news I hope we can still get that option when we get there…if you have time and can remember to let me know later if this still the option I would really appreciate it..we arrive September 20th and we really love to live off base…you don’t have to tho, we can’t change the facts it’s just we really excited to live off base and knowing this is an option is amazing. Thanks for the info