Last year (2012) we lived in Okinawa City, Takahara. And I wanted to give some insight into the first place we decided to live when we arrived on Okinawa. The general area of the house we selected was the Takara/Awase area. Although we LOVED the house, the location ended up being a little far for us from Kadena, especially since we found ourselves near Kadena most often. The drive time to Kadena was approximately 20 minutes, and 15 minutes to Camp Foster.
Our neighborhood was predominantly Japanese. We lived in a single story house in a grouping of 4 houses (all Americans) everyone else is Japanese that we could see. Our Japanese neighbors were very friendly. We lived behind a pachinko parlor and multi level apartment building. We have two dogs and luckily had 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 was the perfect fit at the time.
Within walking distance there is a grocery store, lots of restaurants, Toys R Us, Shoppers Awase, farmers market, and a wholesale super mart, and that is just what we have found so far.
The house was about 1800 square feet.
It had three bedrooms,
and yes the toilet is separate from the bathtub in the hallway bathroom,
a large “great room” that served as the dining-living,
separate dining room we used as an office,
laundry area and fenced yard.
The master bedroom would fit the other two bedrooms in it. We had plenty of closet and cabinet space. We paid 320,000 yen/month.
As for appliances, we obtained the normal appliances from the government housing office. All outlets were westernized.
As for additional costs, it costs a lot of money up front to live off-base but we got 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.
As for parking, we had three spaces and on-street parking was okay.
We had 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 was perfect for our two schnauzers, just enough for them to run back and forth. We also had a yard off of our large front porch area, which was also gated in. As for parks, we were just a 5 minute drive away from Comprehensive Park.
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 was 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
Tokuzato maintenance was 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.
I also 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.
Yes 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 American’s 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.
Photos by: Ryan Burger (www.rpbphotos.com)