Should You Bring The Kitchen Sink?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the many comments on this post we have closed comments.  If you want to learn more about housing options on Okinawa please look through our On Base and Off Base housing posts.  If you can’t find the answers you’re looking for, you may want to join one of our online communities.  Thanks!

CONTRIBUTED BY MEREDITH NOVARIO

We have a dog. Our precious Rick Maltsby P.I. As a result, we weren’t given an option for housing on Camp Kinser where my husband works. Additionally, because he works there we are not eligible for housing elsewhere since we rejected the housing offered to us on Kinser. Some snappy Live Where You Work anthem apparently. We had planned to live off-base anyway but surely not everyone off-base has made the same decision for the same reasons as we did. And not all of you have the option to live on-base. Every morning as I walk by innumerable Y plates tucked into this and that side street I wonder what their stories are.

We had three basic reasons for living off-base:

    1. Said dog

 

    1. Live IN Japan and AMONG Japanese people

 

  1. Get space from military life

Now that we’ve spent months living off-base we might not make the same decision to live here if it were ours to make again. We have small kids and there are advantages to living on-base with small children. The proximity to playgrounds, the community and the commissary stand out. Off-base has brought me all the things we hoped for except for the moments where I worry that something might happen and I wouldn’t have the language or wits to pull it together by myself. And space in our little house is an issue EXCEPT that I don’t spend much because there is no place to put more stuff. I weigh the pros and cons often and debate whether it’s worth it to make the move on-base. In the long run, I don’t suspect we will. I am attached to our little house and our neighborhood. It’s just that we’re in the process of trying to move Henry into the same room as Eli and I’m craving more elbow room.

Apart from just being curious (and NOSY), I think a discussion like this might help those that haven’t arrived here yet to consider their options.

What are your thoughts about where you live and why you chose to live there and would you make the same decision again?

74 COMMENTS

  1. I love love love this sight!! I’m a military wife and my husband and I and our little 1 year old are joining the Okinawan Community sometime at the end of march. Everyone here have really helped answer the maze of questions I had. I do have one that I’m not sure of though and if anyone could help me it would be immensely helpful.

    We plan to live off base near Kadena, where my husband will be working. I’ve narrowed down what our OHA will look like and found some really nice houses with the links to agents that was posted.

    I just need to know…If there’s a security deposit will we have to pay that out of pocket?

  2. I just recieved my orders to Oki, chatan. We really have our hearts set on living off base. If anyone has any good/reliable agancies to look at, that would be God sent.

  3. The govt furniture is not just for military. I have a friend who works for DODDs and they are issued govt furniture. Hope this helps.

  4. Govt/Base furniture: I’ll check it out for you because I’ve never encountered a situation like this. However, it probably depends on if you have a weight restriction for your move or not. If you don’t, you may be able to borrow the furniture temporarily, like the Air Force’s current policy. If you do have a weight restriction, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to use the gov’t furn like the rest of the branches. But again, I’ll call the housing office here and see what they say.

  5. Hi, Just want to quickly say that this website is a Godsend! The info is really helpful. My family and I are on the verge of accepting a goverment civilian position and are looking to be in Okinawa 2 years max. We are thinking about leaving some of our furiture and stuff in storage and I was curious if the govt or base furniture is for only military? I was told that I will be living on post. Thanks for any replies to my inquiry.

  6. Thank you Debbie for the phone number. And thanks everyone else for the encouraging words! You inspired us Kat and we will definitely be trying for Onna!

  7. I’d just like to say that I think there is a great misconception out there about enlisted not being able to afford to live off-base, or if they can, being stuck in a tiny apartment. My husband is E-6 and we have a single family home with a yard for our dogs. 3 bedroom, and plenty of space (we don’t have kids). I know a junior enlisted family that has an amazing house bigger than ours out in Yomitan.

    Utility costs are not that bad, as long as you are conscious. We don’t leave our A/C’s blasting all day for obvious reasons, and we only turn on our water heater a few minutes before washing dishes or taking a shower (there’s a nifty little button for it in our washroom). We make sure to turn lights off when we leave a room. In fact, I think we’re a little TOO liberal with the A/C, and yet we haven’t come close to going over our utility allowance.

    If you’re getting ready to come out here and you have your heart set on living off-base, you CAN do it!

  8. TV shows online:
    surfthechannel.com
    sidereel.com
    try ovguide.com for different links.
    The trick is to find a site that has them outside the US. However, I have found that Foodnetwork will let you stream from here.
    If all else fails try youtube.com.

  9. Debbie,
    Would you be willing to give me the number of the housing agency that got you your place in Onna? Thanks
    rachel

  10. Debbie,
    I read your post and I was just wondering if you could say if you worked at Kadena? My husband and I really had our hearts set on Onna but I heard it may be too far of a drive to Kadena, what do you think? Are there affordable apartments up that way? It is just the two of us and we have a budget of 180,000 yen. Thanks for your help!
    Rachel

  11. I have been hovering for a while and found this thread. My 10 cents on housing in Okinawa. When my husband and I found out were had orders to OKI we wanted to live on base. We have four very young children and wanted the convience of living on base. Well even though we were both GS and had a large family they offered us this TINY house in Sebille Manor. We couldn’t even figure out where we were going to put our kids. I am a military brat and lived on base in Japan almost my whole life (we were lucky to be in Japan for 16 years straight). I lived in a tower and was actually looking forward to living on base again. Until I saw what was offered.
    I have been in OKI for a year and I am living in my second house off base. The first house was through TOKUZATO HOUSING and they were alright. I had a lot of issues with mold and when I signed up with them they promised they would help us find a bigger house, since the one we moved into was the biggest at the time. Well, long story short my family of 6 and a dog had a very difficult time living in that house and started calling through the yellow book. We called several and looked at alot of houses. Central housing and American Family housing were VERY helpful, but never had anything big enough. We have a double housing allowance so we had a lot to spend. We called HOUSING CENTER and spoke to Balinda and Sonia. They speak PERFECT English. We found the perfect house in Onna for our growing family. We looked a few in Yomitan but the American population was growing so much that we really wanted to be away from that. Onna is virutally untouched and it’s nothing but beaches and sunset. We are actually on the border of Yomitan and Onna so we are not as far up the map as people think when they think Onna. Plus we are only 5 minutes away from the Renasiannse Hotel.

    I do want to mention. That if you have at least 8 dependants KAB will tear down a wall between two multiplex housings to give you and 6-8 bedroom home. This is a fact because I have a girlfriend who has 10 dependents!

  12. Daniella…where are you finding the shows online? All of the sites I’ve tried say I can’t view the stuff because my IP address shows I’m in Japan:( Veoh tv worked for a minute and I was super excited about it but that stopped too now:(

  13. Daniela, I totally agree with you!!! Though we only have our <10 AFN channels, Fiber Optic internet is AWESOME.

  14. I wanted to comment on the TV watching off base.
    You get the AFN Dish with 10 channels that really aren’t 10 as one is the TV Guide, one is sports, one is news and one is movies.
    BUT here is the upside; I have fiber optic internet access and I can stream all my shows and watch them when I want to.
    Try to do that with Mediatti on a Saturday night….I dare you.
    It’s all about working the problem!!!!

  15. i live in yomitan too. i love it! however i dont live in a mansion, just an apartment, but its great! its perfect for me and my husband (no kids). there are a bunch of mansions in yomitan which are so beautiful from the outside … i have yet to see inside!

    our apartment is great because we really dont need a transformer, just a three-prong converter because our place is equipped with all appliances, except for a microwave (which really isn’t so necessary because our oven has a built in toaster that works the same). also, our view of the ocean is WONDERFUL!

    the only downside, so far, is the commute. but its okay i guess cause my husband loves to drive and i’m used to it because i used to commute in the states from home to my college everyday 35-45 minutes each way.

  16. I live in Yomitan and they have been building mansions like crazy. There are some gorgeous houses to be had and you get the best of both worlds. Far enough from base, but you can get there in 20-30 minutes. I feel as if I am on vacation every day, honestly.
    I am not a fan of the other side of the island. Uruma and Okinawa are too busy for me.
    It all depends on where work is though. On the other hand my neighbor commutes to Camp Schwab every day.

  17. Thank you all for your replys! Ugh…it makes me sad to hear about the BAH. I planned on living cheap and pocketing the rest=) Yomitan is a name we are hearing alot and the rent compared to what you get looks very fair there.

  18. Hi Rachel. If you were to live out in Onna near expressway exit 6 that could cut the commute down. It would add up quickly though. I think it’s about 200 or 300 yen each way from exit 6 to exit 4 which is very close to Kadena Gate 2.

    I know a number of people who live in Yomitan and really seem to enjoy it there.

    And you are correct about the BAH. If your rent is less than your BAH you will NOT get the difference.

  19. If you’re wanting to live in Nago, you’re looking at a possible commute of up to 2-2.5 hours each WAY, or about 5 hours a day, in traffic.

    Onna is really nice, but that’s a bit of a commute on workdays too.
    Have you looked at Yomitan? It has a bit more of that northern “feel” (to me anyway), but will keep you in the around 30 minute per way commute time.

  20. Nago is probably too far for you to live, Rachel. Onna is beautiful, rents are more expensive there than elsewhere closer to Okinawa City. You might also want to look in the area around northern Uruma City (うるま市).

    I live in Okinawa as a civilian and am not part of the military community, so I know nothing about base housing since I was a kid growing up. But I do know that rents in the Takahara (高原) area of Okinawa City (沖縄市) are comparable to rents in the metro Atlanta area.

  21. Thanks for all the advice on this blog it has really helped. I had two questions. First does anyone know anything about Onna or Nago. We would like to live as far north as possible. Husband will work at Kadena. Second is about the BAH, from what I am seeing in this blog you do not just get your full BAH every month. They only pay you what your rent is. Is that correct?
    Thanks,
    rachel

  22. Growing up as a military brat, I remember living both on and off base. Neighborhood friends are definitely easier to find on base. But don’t let that discourage you from living off base. If you get your daughter involved in sports, church youth groups or the youth/teen center programs, making friends with common interests shouldn’t be a problem. (You may have a little more driving if you live off base though.)I hope that helps!

  23. Hi everyone,
    Awesome web site. I am transferring to Camp Foster in about two weeks. I am a single mom with a 13 year old. I lived in Kitamae when I was stationed there before….20 years ago. My daugther and I are debating whether on base or off base. I prefer off base, but I want her to be able to have friends near by. Any thoughts?

  24. Kris, We are Navy too, working on Kinser and currently living on Foster. We can always welcome more Navy. There isn’t housing for families on White Beach although it does have some nice recreational facilities. Courtney and McT are closest housing bases. As for your cat, don’t sweat the quarrantine too much, the base vet allows in-home quarrantine if you live on base. Not sure the rules off base but I have heard the process isn’t policed too much either way. Good luck with your move and let me know if you need any help.

  25. Kris, White Beach is near Camp Courtney …My husband is also in the navy and he works at courtney we live about 15 min. or so from White Beach… We live off base there is base housing at Camp Courtney and at Mc Tureous which is base housing let me know if you need anything….

  26. We just found out we will be coming to Okinawa…sometime after Nov?? Not sure of full details & am freaking a bit.

    Husband is Navy but will be working with Marines on/at White Beach? What part of the base is that? We have a cat that might have quarantine issues (due to short notice) and a newborn as of Oct, so we will probably be looking for base housing…anything near White Beach?

    Thanks!

  27. Melissa,

    Here are a couple of links that should help to answer some of your questions. Check the comments from Sept 2007 for discussion about sharing rooms on the “What is on-base housing like?” post (2nd link). Also, if you check each post on actual homes in the on-base housing section you’ll find that most of them specify what rank the family that lives there is.

    Hope this helps!

    http://www.okinawahai.com/2007/08/is-decent-off-b.html
    http://www.okinawahai.com/2007/08/what-is-on-base.html

  28. Did you also check-out the postings with comments for each of the following “on-base housing” and “off-base housing” in the drop down menu under the “To Live” section?

    Also, have you signed up as a member of the Okinawa Hai Society? If so, you might want to check the Forum listings: Under Newbees section: see Housing Decision and under the “Say it” section see Housing Space Allowed, New Homes on Foster and Housing.”

    And if you still haven’t found your answer post your question again in either the Newbee section or the Say it section in the Forum of Okinawa Hai Society

  29. Hi everyone! My husband is in the Army (E-6) and we are fighting hard to PCS to Okinawa. From what we understand he would be working at Ft. Buckner, at Camp Foster. My question is, we have 4 kids, 3 boys, 1 girl. How does the housing on base work as far as how many rooms we’d be eligible for? I think we probably have more kids than the average E-6 (or comparable Marine/AF counterpart). We’ve never lived on base before, I have no idea really how it works. We live in a 3 bedroom 1 bath house right now, probably 1,000 square feet or so. We’re not spoiled by any means right now! I just can’t seem to find any info on this is what E-x through E-y housing looks like….this is how many rooms….If there’s a link I missed, I would love to be pointed in the right direction, thanks in advance!

  30. We are coming to Oki in May-Jun. My husband is an E8 and we have 1 daughter. Does anyone know what the housing near Kinser is like. Off-base and on. Thank You

  31. Pamela,

    I don’t know if it’s the same story for everyone. I do know there is limited housing on Kinser that permits animals. I have tried to get permission to live elsewhere but haven’t gotten it because of my husband’s tie to Kinser. It’s a huge bummer. Really.

    As for what is doable off-base for you, I don’t know the answer. I’m going to post it separately and see if other people can give you a better answer.

  32. Mereditz,
    is that the same story for everyone with a dog whose husband is going to be working on Kinser? Up until last week, my husband was going to be on Foster then I guess his name/ MOS etc went into a ‘pool’ and he was needed on kinser. My heart dropped because I had read on the MCCS website that you may not want to consider bring a pet if you are going to be on Kinser and the whole live where you work rule. Not bringing our dog is not an option but I also did want to option to live on base if possible, it just seems so unfair that depending on what base you are on you are pretty much ‘screwed’ if you have a dog. My next question is, for an E6 family (2 kids) and a dog, is the off base thing doable for a decent place? I had just got excited about coming out there until I found out it is Kinser :o(

  33. Hello there…
    First of all, I love your photos…absolutely beautiful. My name is Kehau I live in Hawaii and am married to an Army man. lol. WHy am I here you may be asking yourself. Well, my baby sister’s husband is in the Marine Corp and has been stationed there in Okinawa, at Camp Butler, for over a year…I think. I have been trying to find some info about the base there because he has been so wishy washy about details on PCSing and what not. Is it possible for me to ask you some questions via email? I know this sounds odd, but I am very worried about her and her future and she knows barely anything about the Military life and will not take my word for anything. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Take care and I hope to hear from you soon.

  34. Before coming here I tried so hard to find pictures, information, anything that would help me with what to bring, where to live, how to pack, etc. Not much is out there (of course, I hadn’t found Okinawa Hai yet). I made a list of pros & cons, and my husband and I discussed it at length. BIG depending factors are:
    – Sponsor’s rank/housing allowance amount, and whether you plan to work to contribute to costs
    – Your own level of adventure & desire to negotiate with housing agents
    – How many children you have and whether you have pets
    – This one is a biggie – location of your sponsor’s work and whether you desire to live in that area

    Pros to living on base:
    – Your spouse will not have much of a commute (though if there’s any chance he/she will be transferred to another base while here, that might change).
    – Run that A/C all you want – you aren’t paying utility bills.
    – If you have a large family and a pet, likelihood is, if you find a nice person at housing, they’re going to hook you up with enough room for everyone – also a dishwasher & garbage disposal, which you may not find off base.
    – You will likely be a walk away from your child’s school and other amenities that are located on base.
    – Cable TV – it’s true, if you’re a TV hound, you’ll pay for it but you can get cable channels; beware – at the moment, and nobody is telling anyone when this will be resolved, AFN’s dishes aren’t functioning very well. I find my signal goes in & out constantly. Very annoying.
    – No hassles with housing agents and finding housing off base – I have had friends who moved here whose husbands deployed very soon after arrival. I can understand that spending 2-4 weeks looking for the right housing off base when you arrive can be a HUGE pain if you have a few kids and a leaving husband; you just want to have your home right away.

    I, personally, live off base. My hubby (Craig) and I made the decision to do our best to find housing off base because:
    – He works on Camp Hansen and that is across the island from the part of town where we desired to live. They would’ve placed us in Courtney towers (we only have one child and no pets) and we did not want to live in towers.
    – We met in San Diego 9 years ago, and that is where we PCS’d from. We have always lived off base, and figured if we were going to live in Okinawa, we wanted to live in town and experience it! We can live around a bunch of Americans at home. (no offense to anyone, but also see the next item)
    – Craig has 20 years in the USMC – he’s a Master Sergeant, and we only have one child; we can afford a nice apartment on our housing allowance amount, and it’s probably going to be our last few years in the military. We wanted to finish it up with an exciting experience! We’ve never lived anywhere but San Diego together and after 3 Iraq deployments in our daughters 5-year life, we deserve a little fun.
    – San Diego is ridiculously expensive. (I did have a good job there, which helped a lot, but we also payed for full-time daycare/preschool and 2 car payments along with rent and many other high bills – I don’t how many of you know about the Enron scandal and how it affected California utility bills but we spent more than a summer paying $300+/month SDG&E bills!) I plan to get a job in Okinawa when our daughter starts kindergarten in the fall and we will make good enough money to scuba dive, travel a little bit, and enjoy ourselves while we’re here. If we can do that in San Diego, we can do it just about anywhere.

    We arrived in Okinawa on June 15th and checked into the Westpac Lodge on Foster. Craig’s unit gave us all the time we needed to find housing and get adjusted here. We attended the welcome brief, started looking for cars & housing immediately after we were better on jet lag, and we moved into a 3-bedroom 1300 sq ft apartment in Chatan area (straight out gate 1 of Kadena) 1/2 a block from the sea wall on July 2nd. So it took 2 weeks of dedicated searching to find “the one”. We probably looked at 15 apartments – some were great and some were not (due to location, weird smell, too big, too small, too expensive, whatever reason…).

    You are in the US military and your housing allowance is a matter of public record. DO NOT forget that those housing agents you work with to find your place off base know EXACTLY how much you get because they know the sponsor’s rank!! And they will try to eek out a little more. I’m a stubborn Jewish Jersey girl, and I can negotiate with the best of them. Craig was going to be commuting 45 minutes each way so that we could live in a great area (after commuting an hour in San Diego traffic, this wasn’t really a deterrent for us) – and the expressway for him to get home a little quicker here, costs about $3.50 each way. Gasoline is also expensive, but again – we were used to that. We needed to budget for that, and I am not working, so we wouldn’t pay one penny more than our allowance (which is 200,000 yen/month- this fluctuates on what you pay due to the yen value changes, but it’s a bit over $1600 – same as we paid in SD). Another difference is that if you are allotted 200,000 yen per month and you get a place that is 180,000 – you DO NOT get the difference. The military only pays the amount that is on your lease- so if you’re going to live off base, go forth and spend every penny of your allowance.

    We were adamant that we have a washer & dryer, so we got one. The government will provide them if the apartment doesn’t, same goes for a fridge, so that’s no problem. We required 2 parking spaces and 3 bedrooms. We made that clear. I didn’t want a walk-up if we were going to live up high, so an elevator was important. (Commissary trips!) In hindsight, I wish I’d have paid more attention to storage space – it is at a premium off base. Air conditioning units, for the most part off base, are in each room. They have dehumidifiers built in (DO NOT go spending $200 on dehumidifiers until you know if it’s built into your A/C!). We leave only the living room A/C on a higher temp when we aren’t in the apartment. Everything else cools off rather quickly and we think this will save money on our utility bills. We get about $500/month for utility bills. We have yet to see if this covers it in the summertime (definitely the most expensive) but I think we’re going to be ok.

    Downsides:
    – We do not have a dishwasher or a garbage disposal. Not great, but for me, not a deal breaker. If we had negotiated this, we could’ve gotten them. Location and the look of the place was more important to us.
    – Storage is minimal and we had to spend money on curtains, shelving, etc. besides just first month’s rent & security deposit when we moved in. (Curtains are EXPENSIVE!! If you already own some- BRING THEM – I wish someone had told me about this one.) But – moving-in expenses are high no matter where you go, so we expected this.
    – As I said, Craig’s commute – but he has discovered MP3 books and loads them on his iPod for the time in the car.
    – Yeah, we have to be conscientious about our power & water usage, but the utility allowance covers it pretty well for us.
    – TV; we love our HBO, and there’s no way we can have it here. We’re stuck getting DVD box sets via Netflix (yes they deliver here!) after the shows get put on DVD. Oh well.
    – I think this is a disadvantage no matter what, but all walls are reinforced concrete. It’s a challenge to put up our photos and art (that we brought to make it “home” here, but as you can see in the picture are sitting against a wall b/c we need a drill with a masonry bit to put them up!). Great for typhoons, lousy for decorating – and potentially your security deposit! I’m pretty sure in gov’t housing, you wouldn’t have to care.
    – We’re in Kadena’s flight path. Yeah – those 6:30 am jet fly-bys weren’t in the brochure….

    Upsides:
    – The government pays you a MIHA (move-in housing allowance) of almost $500 – it’s helpful, probably covered our curtains.
    – The government also pays the housing agency fee which is usually a 1/2 month’s rent – fabulous.
    – I live in a building with other American families who are fantastic – they have kids too, one has a dog, and across the street are the “Monopoly houses” (named such for their pointy roof and look) and they’re filled with families, pets, and fun people.
    – Despite the amenities I do not have, I LOVE the ones I do! I live in a hotel – there are 8 apartments in it where Americans live – so we have a front desk (with pretty good english-speaking staff who help us out when repair people come!), a fantastic restaurant on our roof (Hokulea), a spa downstairs where I can get massages, and a scuba dive shop on the ground floor too. We have 2 spots in the garage under the building, and since we’re in a hotel, there are public washers & dryers in case ours go on the fritz (our dryer was broken when we moved in!). AND a beer vending machine besides the regular ones. Yep – walk down 2 floors and for 300 yen you have a chilly can of Orion!
    – LOCATION! I can walk to so many great places (shopping, restaurants, etc.), and though I shop at the commissary, I get my produce in town at the markets – it’s cheaper and it’s much better quality. I’m adventurous with food too, so I can try all kinds of things when I go out & about. I’m 1/2 block from the Sunabe sea wall where I can walk in to snorkel or dive. The locals are friendly and really help us with our efforts to learn some Japanese! There is a fantastic play structure 2 blocks away, my daughter has already made friends. Our 4th floor balcony overlooks downtown Chatan (American Village, the ferris wheel, etc.) and the ocean toward the right.

    Last thing, and then I promise my ridiculously long-winded post will be over. Furniture – we had a 3500 lb weight limit coming here and my husband was VERY strict with me about what we could take. I WISH we’d brought our computer desk and our outdoor grill – apparently they aren’t too tough on being over-weight, because my neighbors brought everything and nobody said boo. Oh well. Borrowed furniture is heinous – but whatever, it’s not forever. If you want to buy stuff you can, but the borrowed works fine.
    You’re entitled to:

    1 night table per person occupying the home
    1 dresser per person (the tall one in the picture)
    1 low/wide dresser per bedroom (you can also get a mirror on it but it’s stupid because it isn’t high enough to see your face in!)
    1 table/4 chairs for the dining room (the table also came with 2 leaves, but we’d have to buy extra seats…hm.)
    1 full-size bed (we brought our queen – but if you have queen or bigger, bring it b/c you only can get a full-sized here!)
    1 twin or bunks for kids
    2 book cases

    And then any appliances that aren’t provided – we needed a fridge and a transformer for the kitchen stuff.

    Fridge is fine, and I attached pictures of the night table, dressers & dining table (with my kid eating at it) for your eyes – there is another style of wood you can get, but they will always match everything you get rather than send 2 different styles. It’s not lovely, but it holds clothing. BE SURE to open the drawers & smell everything when you get them. We got a moldy dresser and had to return it.

  35. Hi, everyone! I just sent a VERY lengthy post about housing to Meredith to put up wherever – I wanted to answer a couple of things I see here. We’ve been here almost 2 months with a 5-year-old girl and live off base outside Kadena. Our utility money allowance is covering our usage just fine – but don’t run a/c all day willy-nilly, be conscious of your power usage. We used Joy Housing and are THRILLED with their service; they are responsive and caring. I’d suggest you use the housing websites listed in this thread for an idea of what you can get, but by the time you contact a housing agency (particularly during summer PCS season) the places you see that you think are nice, are gone. So don’t get your heart set on them. Also, rent is a bit negotiable, so tell them exactly what you are willing to spend, not a dime more, and the amenities you think are required, and you’ll see what you want to. You can get cars here for much cheaper in the summertime due to people having to dump them b/c they’re PCS-ing out. We put aside $3500-$4K per car, but spent a bit less than that. The Kadena lemon lot is the best one, have someone show you where that is or find it on the map in the lodge where you stay. Car sales places are good & bad – good because you’ll have current JCI (insurance/inspection) and some kind of warantee, but bad because you can’t test drive them. BE SURE THE A/C IN THE CAR IS VERY COLD. Anywhere you go you can test this out. That, and make sure you bring a calculator to determine the mileage – it’s in kilometers on the car (conversion is 1 mile=1.6 km).

    Jobs: unfortunately you’re limited to working on base – the pay isn’t great, and the good jobs aren’t really plentiful, in my opinion. Local jobs on Marine bases can be found at https://www.mccsokinawa.com/jobws/index.asp and Kadena jobs are here http://www.18services.com/currentjobs.html.

    We have GL broadband and have a DSL connection and had to wait 2 months (still waiting) for a fiberoptic cable connection for internet. WORTH THE WAIT – it’s blazing fast, and with that we can download TV shows for our Apple TV unit from iTunes (hence not as worried about the 5 or so lousy AFN channels). GLBB has great customer service, so far so good. And I agree totally with another post recommending GI Bill Pay – very easy, and you can set it up as you wish (allotting money every paycheck, etc.).

    Finally – I know, I’m a blabbermouth typer – you can always move on or off base if you aren’t happy! You can move for under $500 here, the Japanese work a lot cheaper than American moving companies, so if you aren’t happy or decide you want to change up – you can! Ask your base housing about it. They’re super helpful.

  36. Hi everyone. There’s a lot of good information here! My husband (Navy) is reenlisting in Sept. 07, and he’ll be going to Okinawa shortly thereafter. We definitely want to live on base to save money, so can anyone tell me what it’s like living on base in Okinawa? I hear that there are a variety of differnt building types to live in like the towers, single family homes, etc. Is there any specific type of housing that any of you would recommend? We have a 4 year old daughter who loves to run around, so the on base nearby playgrounds are a plus. I just grauduated with an AS degree in Business Admin., and i was wondering if i’d be able to start my career there since it’s a foreign country, which i haven’t the slightest idea of how to even begin to speak japanese. Any tips would be deeply appreciated. I hear that i can’t take my car with me, so what are the price range for cars in Japan? Thanks everyone for youe help. I look forward to hearing from you.

  37. My husband and I just signed a lease for a house off base. We have lived on base for a little over two years now. My question…who do you recommend for cable/satellite, phone, internet…things like that? We were given pamphlets on GL Broadband, Fad Tech, and Vison One Services.

  38. I have some questions to Anna

    Hi, my husband is currently negotiating with his company to move to Kadena as a contractor. The company only offered $500 for 4 of us to move and $1000 for misc expenses and up to 15 days for hotel and rental car (Base). I don’t know if this will get us through the entire move. I was hopping to take some of our household belongs but I don’t know if this is normal proposition for a contractor’s job in overseas. Can you tell me what I can expect as a contractor in Kadena? I am so excited about moving to Okinawa but I am not really happy about the offer. The company will pay for my two kids to go to the international school but still I don’t think I can live in Okinawa with just suitcase full of clothes for all of us How is a job opportunity if this contractor job doesn’t work out with my husband (IT)? Anything you can share, I would really appreciate it. You have no ideas how many nights; I spent looking for contractor in Okinawa so I can ask these questions.

  39. Justin, the obvious advice is for you to ask an agency for a place farther out and away from the bases. The agencies will work with you. It is doable as I know some enlisted(e4-6) have found decent places just a bit further away.

  40. need help in finding a nice house/apartment for me and my japanese wofe to live in. i just moved here 7 months ago but she is now pregnant and i am only an e-3. so my ceiling sucks but want to find a nice place close to kadena, courtney, or white beach, just want to find a supermarket and bookstore that is close enough where she can walk to since she does not and will not get her drivers license until we move in 2 years to america. please help me. send email to [email protected] this is my friends email. i dont have internet. thank you sooo much.

  41. As the summer is heating up, you might also consider how much heat and light windows let in. We have lots of windows and the heat pours right through them. Just today I bought some stick curtains called YOSHIZU (http://www.katodenzo.com/item/yoshizu/item_yoshizu.html), I think. I lean them against our windows from outside and PRAY that they take the first beating from the heat and leave us to some air-conditioned bliss on the inside.
    Windows are lovely but the heat is brutal!

  42. One other piece of advice for people with kids when looking for potential off base house is get a place with covered parking. It has been a great benefit since it does rain quite often and keeps your car cool.

  43. Hi Julie,
    So glad you find this info. helpful. One of my kids goes to school on-base and we live off-base in Chatan. Kids off-base definitely have the option of riding the schoolbus to a DODS school on-base. There are several bus stops off-base that take the kids to school. School and bus zoning will be dependent on where you choose to live off-base. My husband also works for 3MARDIV and we live very near Kadena 100 meters from the East China Sea and love it! If you choose to live on-base w/in a mile of the school that your child(ren) will be attending, then bussing will not be allowed b/c they consider that close enough for the kids to walk. Hope this info. helps!

  44. THANK YOU FOR THIS WEBSITE!!!

    You all have just answered some of my biggest questions and I really appreciate it. My husband and I will be moving to Oki in July 07. (side note here, we met in Oki back in 93, both active duty) but we lived in the barracks on Futenma. Then, all I had to pack was my seabag, now it’s 2 kids, a dog and a household. We have/had every intention of living on base until I saw pictures of our sponsors apt. (ocean front view), so of course that got me thinking, hmmm, how great would that be to get up to that view every morning and go for a walk on the beach. The pro’s and con’s you all have listed on here have me thinking even harder about this now. I do have a question, if anyone here knows the answer. Do school buses on base pick up children for school that live off base? I’m not sure where we’ll be living yet, my husband will be with the 3rdMarDiv the first year here (ground job) and then he’ll be at Futenma with the squadron for the next 2 years, so i’m assumming we’ll be somewhere in between Futenma and Kadena.

    Again, thanks so much for this forum, i’m bookmarking it so I can come back and check out new info.

  45. Found out I will be stationed at Kadena this October. My situation seems to be a little different from everyone else who posted. I am single and not sure if it would be better to live in the Senior NCO dorms or get a place off base? My rent ceiling is 180,000 Yen which seems to be adequate enough to cover rent without paying out of pocket. The apartment buildings there look like they have great views. Guess I’ll have to wait till I get there to see for myself. Nice to read everyone’s opinion.

  46. Its really helpful to read some great advice about the living situation in Okinawa. We’re on our way there (July) & had kept in touch with few Hsg Agencies. Any tips on what i need to pack??? We lived in Hawaii for years & loved it. Im sure we’ll feel the same about Oki. Thanks for all the input & keep it going.

  47. Hey Teddi,
    Check on Mereditz’s post on “should it have stayed or come” under For Island Newbies. It addresses the topic of what to bring. Or post specific questions on what you’re unsure about. Have a good move to Okinawa!

  48. I am an army wife and wanted to make a comment on housing. If you are assigned to Torii you will be offered housing on Kadena Air Force Base. Torii is very small but has a great beach and a lot of services for Army folk. Most people live on Kadena some live off base near Torii. The housing agents will ask you for your rank and then they will show you homes that are at your BHA level. They know what the levels are.
    When you arrive the army also has a the Army Group of Okinawa. We meet socially once a month. If you have any other Army questions please feel free to ask. Hope you have a great move.

  49. yep-it’s torii. i’d like to live closer to that base… the less time my hubby has to drive, the more i can see him… that’s my philosophy. thanks all for the info. i’ve contacted a few agencies already. any further info is much appreciated. any good neighborhoods to look into?

  50. I believe the Army Base here is Torii Station, which is near the Yomitan area? From the couple of single family homes that we looked at in this area, it’s a quiet, naturally beautiful area. The homes seemed larger than the homes closer to the Kadena or Marine Corps bases for the same amount of rent (around 180,000/200,000 yen per month). I completely agree with Mere that the housing agencies are pretty trustworthy and understand the relationship between their house-owning clients and military clients. We use Seaside Housing and love them. Hope this helps!

  51. ma,

    I may be extra-trusting but I don’t think you need to be worried much about being taken for a ride by the housing agencies. The housing that the J’ese can offer us has been approved and inspected by the military so you’re not flying solo in that sense. THere are many, many housing agencies on island. I don’t know how many deal with property for the military but you hear the same names over and over. Joy Housing. Central Housing. Seaside Housing. Tokuzato Housing. Kanae Housing. I have heard few complaints from anyone about their agencies. I say this because these agencies are very familiar with our numbers. If you give a price range, I suspect they know more about your situation than you’d expect them to. Maybe I’m way off. It doesn’t feel like a game in the same way it does at home. More like this is what we have, do you like it?

    I don’t know what the army base is… Is there one? I know there are Army folks on Kadena, does that ring a bell?

  52. thanks so much all for the information. gas here is about $2.50 for 87. as far as housing prices goes, we’re o-3. should we offer that information out to renters or should we just say that we’re in the so-and-so price range…? seems like putting yourself out there a little too far if they know how much you’re worth, isn’t it? =o) i guess i’m just always on the lookout.
    those electric bills sound rather steep– guess we’ll be sweating a lot. haha. i think we’ll be at the army base there (i forgot the name). are there any neighborhoods really close that are nice to there? thanks again ladies. you’re great!

  53. Hi Anna,
    Thank you so much for responding to my posting. Your information was most helpful. I now know that I need to increase our budget for living expenses and ask for more money in the salary negoitations. Unfortunately, I will not be getting any type of housing allowance, and I’m not sure if or when my husband will find employment. If I accept the job I will be on Camp Butler. I’m going to ask Mereditz to forward you my email. I would love to chat more about life as a contractor for the military so please contact me.

    THANKS again!!:)

  54. ma,

    Thanks for the questions! Many things are variable. Anna touched on that in her comment to Nana above. We have a 3 bedroom house and a dog. We wanted that size and looked for housing that was available in the price range that my husband’s rank affords. Many of the houses and apartments are priced in that way it seems. If I were working or if we wanted to pay more than we were allotted we would be free to. There is housing in all ranges. I would look around a lot. We did not. I am happy with where we are but I think we could have made a better decision if we hadn’t just jumped on something quickly.

    Are you affiliated with the military? Do you know which base you’ll be working on?

    We were able to roll water and some other cost into our monthly rent. Electricity is pricey for sure. I run my AC more than it sounds like Anna does. We had bills up to 400 dollars in the peak of the heat. Then sometimes that went as low as 50 bucks recently.

    As for gas, if you’re getting it on-base, it’s sold at some sort of montly average of American gasoline. Couldn’t tell you what it is at the moment other than it is MUCH cheaper than buying gas off-base.

  55. Hi everyone, great thread.
    This is to Nana–
    As a fellow contractor (what company you with?), I can tell you that the rent you will pay, will be most likely be on the high side. Usually housing agencies ask what your rank or GS equivalent is first and then show you the houses that fall into that category. When you state you are a contractor (neither military, nor GS), the agencies don’t really understand where you fall because contractors out here all get different allowances and pay. I have seen rents from $1800-5000 a month depending on your comfort level.
    What base will you be working on?
    Utilities can be a killer, again depending on your comfort level. I like the warm humid weather (well, when I am not pregnant) so we don’t run the air that often. Some of my friends get electric bills in the $200-400 range but ours is low around $150 or below. The water and other utilities are about the same as in the States, I guess.
    Some other costs to consider off base are phone service/ISP and cable/satellite. We don’t have anything beyond the 3 Japanese channels and 1 AFN so, I don’t know the cost of satellite service.
    Besides the cost, the environment off base (we live in Yomitan too) is wonderful for us. I love throwing my kid in the stroller and walking around looking at the homes and yards and finding new places. Plus I have Okinawan family and friends who drop by, which could not happen on base.

  56. This information is great. I received a job offer as a contract employee in Okinawa. Housing will not be provided so I am trying to figure out what the cost of housing and utilities (particularily utilities) will be. My husband and I hope to rent a 2 br apt. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!!

  57. i’d love to hear more about the off-base housing costs (ie rent for a 3 br w/ yard for dog, water, sewer, elect bills monthly, gas prices, etc.) thanks so much for all of this information! it’s great!

  58. We live off base near Foster commissary gate and have enjoyed it. I really did not like the old housing on base and wanted something newer. We are the first renters in our place. We went through Joy housing and really have not talked to them since as we have not had any problems and we talk to the owners. Also we use GI Bill Pay to pay all of our bills. It is very convenient, so convenient that I never check on my bills anymore. They are located across from kadena gate 1, next to the pizza restaurant. http://www.gibillpay.com/.

    I also like the fact that we live among the Japanese people even though the most interaction we have is with a Japanese dog in our neighborhood.

  59. I’m yet another denizen of off base housing. My husband and I live in Yomitan, along with a growing number of other Americans. For us, living on base wasn’t even a question. Our thought was that if we were going to live in Japan, we really wanted to live in Japan. We were going to be one with the Japanese people, delving deeply into their language and culture! (Okay, that was probably more me than him.) And we haven’t been unhappy with our decision. We live in a gorgeous home (a Tokuzato), with a breathtaking view. Our housing agency is responsive to any problems we might face. We are a little far from Camp Foster, where we work (about 25 minutes), but if we ever need any “base goods” on the weekend – say gas, movies, a gym workout – we can make use of Torii Station. We’ve got great restaurants nearby, which we can visit during typhoons without fear of getting locked off base. And, we can hang pictures and paintings on the wall without a drill. We don’t have loads of cable, so our TV options are limited to the 10 AFN Channels, which basically means CSI every night.

    The best part of our decision to live off base is our little community of Yomitan. Although there are cars and buildings and traffic, now that I’ve been in Okinawa for over a year, it almost feels like living in the countryside. It’s got a charming small-town feel that is a really nice fit for us. But have we immersed ourselves in the culture? Alas, no. For all our good intentions, we ended up opting for an American style house (American outlets, appliances, layout) and while we do go to a lot of local restaurants, it’s almost always (okay, always) with American friends. As for shopping, I do frequent the local produce stand and bakery (see Cocques), but for groceries go to the commissary because it’s so much cheaper. So, even though we love living off base, the reasons for it have evolved. Now, I’d have to say that I enjoy it more for the peacefulness, beauty and quaintness of the community and sense of privacy and separation from the workplace than anything else. On the weekend we can just be a family and not feel defined by our association with the military. Oh, and also the view.

    Side note: I was a military brat who lived abroad three times while growing up. I lived both on base (as a senior in high school in Germany) and off base (1st and 2nd grade in England, 3rd and 4th in Germany). I don’t know how my mom felt about hauling me and my brother and sister all over the place to hang out with American friends in Germany, but I loved it there and don’t remember being jealous of my on-base buddies. My senior year, I lived on base. I loved that too. I could walk to school and easily visit friends’ houses. Also, I never had a hard time getting home from parties and things because most of my other friends lived on base too. On the other hand, my friends off base would have to find a way home late at night while tired and/or drunk. If I were a parent of older kids, I suppose that would be a concern. Although, here I think kids aren’t even allowed to drive off base until they are 19 (?)

  60. Thanks so much to everybody who weighed in here. I think this is veyr helpful!

    Here are a few off-base housing agencies with websites. The first agency, Tokuzato, is the one that Lady K speaks highly of in the first comment above.

    For those that might read this and have not yet arrived these sites will give you an idea of what off-base housing may look like and how much it will cost.

    http://www.kanaehomes.com/english/
    http://www.tokuzato-hsg.jp/
    http://joy-housing.com/
    http://www.central-housing.jp/001introduce/

  61. We love living off-base, but absolutely understand the pro’s of living on-base. After 3 weeks in TLF, it no longer felt like a vacation in a foreign country and reality set in that we had better settle down somewhere. We must have looked at over 15 apartments and houses and finally settled into a single-family home in what I affectionately call “American Town” (similar to the places in the states dubbed “Litte Saigon”, “China Town”, “Korea Town”, etc.) We even have the Japanese tourists who stop on our street and take pictures! Gotta love that!
    The big pro’s of living off-base in our area in Chatan is the natural beauty of living so close to the East China Sea, the convenience of having Japanese grocery stores, laundromats, pharmacies, bakery, coffe shops, parks, etc. within walking distance. We went through Seaside Housing and couldn’t be happier with the management services provided.
    Having said that, every now and then I do feel a pang of loss for such Westernized conveniences as having a dishwasher and garbage disposal, a large yard, and more storage room as well as having your utility bills paid for, but I wouldn’t trade our experiences living off-base for anything. We’ll have those American conveniences again soon enough and when we do, I’ll never take a dishwasher for granted again!

  62. Just wanted to add my thoughts, as housing is constantly on my mind lately as we contemplate cramming a newborn into our “cozy” 2-bedroom multiplex!
    My husband is enlisted, and I think that many enlisted people choose to live on base because, realistically, they will not be able to afford nice housing off base. I have heard that some people find a decent apartment within their housing allowance range, but the few I’ve known who have lived off base have eventually moved on base due to high out-of-pocket utility and other housing expenses. So, for many enlisted families who are trying to save up to buy a home when they move back to the States (OK, so maybe just mine) =) , living on base seems to be the only practical option.
    There are definitely advantages to living on base. There is a feeling of security knowing that you can get help in any situation – think leaky toilets – when your spouse deploys, and the neighborhood also feels extremely safe. It’s also nice to be able to walk to the post office each day and to have short commutes to other base services.
    Of course, it also means living in close proximity to other Americans, some of whom aren’t as considerate as you might like (think dog droppings and loud bass). Some of the older housing, quite frankly, is kind of gross. It’s more difficult to make Japanese friends and explore the “outside world” when you live on base, I think, but that is dependent upon your effort, I am sure.
    Hmm, so what do I recommend to others who are moving here… money isn’t everything, but sometimes we sacrifice our ideal situation for the one that meets our needs in the long run. I guess it really then is just a personal decision, based on your housing allowance, your wishes, and your priorities.
    As for our family, I’m not sure what we’ll do! We might move home early due to my husband’s deployment schedule. I suppose that’s another concern to raise to new families – are you sure that you want accompanied orders here? Depending on where your spouse will serve, you might not see him/her very much anyways, and it might be more reassuring to stay in the States and have support there. You’d miss out on the beauty of Okinawa and Japanese culture, however.
    Good luck making your decisions! Nothing will be perfect, which also means that whatever you choose will work out just fine. =)

  63. May marks our two year anniversary of living here in Okinawa and marks our half-way point since we extended till ’09. We live in Awase is a beautiful, brand new home in a quiet and quaint neighborhood with very few American neighbors and very friendly Japanese ones.
    Our home is rented from and built by TOKUSATO HOUSING and about a third of my husbands office live in this housing agency’s rental properties.
    The layout is wonderful and the space is plentiful. We have a large yard for our dog and love the privacy we feel we have. When we moved here in ’05 I wasn’t too keen on the idea of living off base but then we started looking at houses out in town and decided we would definately get more space off base than on. We didn’t even look at on-base housing when our name finally came up on the list and after looking at 20 or so houses we chose the one we live in before it was even completed.
    We know we are lucky with our little “Island Jewel” of a home and not having children makes it easier not having to worry about schools, playmates and commutes for afterschool activities (though we are only twenty minutes from Foster, Kadena adn Courtney/McT) but even if we did have kids, we still might have made the same choice.
    You can make your experience here in Okinawa as Japanese or as American as you would like. It’s really up to you.

  64. What a great discussion topic! When we moved to Japan this was our first overseas assignment (ok, our first military assignment ever) and we weren’t sure about how difficult it would be to live off base. Plus, its very disorienting the first few weeks here and you feel pressured to buy the first car, the first house, etc. A friend here tipped us off and said that no matter what the housing office says if you want to live on base just keep checking back at the housing office.They will tell you there is a 6 month wait but after about 2 -3 weeks most others drop off the list and you’ll get a spot. That’s exactly what happened!
    We’ve lived in two places on kadena. One was an up and down multiplex, the other current one is a ranch style single dwelling. Both have been old but nice. Definitely the off base places are more aesthetically pleasing.
    However, I love the fact that we have a big backyard and the playgrounds are close.The real kicker though is the fact that all our electricity and water is paid for. My husband has always run the a/c full tilt and I cannot imagine what our electric bill would be off base.Plus we don’t need transformers. Oh yeah, and the access to 40 plus american cable channels. I definitely think for us we needed a place in Japan that was a little closer to what we were used to in the US. Just because we needed the adjustment time. So on base was definitely the right decision at the time.Now that we are more acculturated, there are definitely some things I envy about off base.Like the ability to immerse yourself in Japan and the nicer digs. Hope that helps! :}

  65. Thanks so much for your thoughtful input here. Your place sounds wonderful. We rent through Kanae Homes and have been very pleased with them. Thank you for reminding me to mention the housing agents! I wish we had spent more time looking around and thinking more about the commute than we did. We felt rushed alhtough we really shouldn’t have. I think we were just anxious to put our feet down and call some place, ANY place home. I have no regrets and I do feel at home here HOWEVER if I could do it again, like I said, I might also add that I would have looked around more before deciding on our house.

    Thanks for coming by, Lady K!

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