Housing Construction in Okinawa Japan
All of the houses in Okinawa are made out of concrete and the new renovated ones are multiplexes or towers so be ready for close living. Many of the homes in Okinawa are currently under renovation but if you get stuck in the old housing and towers the floors are made from concrete so bring your own rugs and carpet padding with you! It will be hard (or expensive) to find anything to put down, so plan on bringing things from the states on your move over. Some of the new housing does have carpet though.
It is extremely humid and mold is a huge problem. Leave anything expensive or your family treasures behind if mold can damage it. Leather, fabrics, anything in the right condition in humidity can and will mold. If you live on base you can use a free dehumidifier for the duration of your tour, but you might want to bring one with you. Depending on where you live will affect the amount of mold you have even if you are Mr. Clean. Closets are an easy target as well so you may want to purchase some Damp Rids or cedar bars. You also will need to run your air conditioning unit for most of the year to keep the air circulating.
You do receive COLA in Okinawa, which stands for Cost of Living Allowance. They give you a stipend depending on your rank and dependents because the cost of living is so much higher than in the states. You’ll receive this in your paycheck and can range from $500-$900; this is given out on a monthly basis and fluctuates with the yen to dollar exchange. Click on the link, Japan Okinawa and enter your member information to find out what you rate.
Military Housing on Okinawa Japan Marine Corps Base
Base housing is administered by the Air Force. It is great for those who are interested in getting to know your neighbors and developing a tight-knit community around you. It’s pretty small there so you have a neat opportunity to develop close bonds with those around you. And you will manage to run into everyone you know whenever you leave the house.
Base housing is mandatory for almost everyone coming to Okinawa if the housing is not at 95% occupancy. All of the schools are on base and you are very close to playgrounds and community activities. Living on base all of your water and electric expenses are paid for, which are extremely expensive. For those who can live off base, the housing areas aren’t as large out in town, but the community and amenities offered on base easily negate that. Lastly, if you live on base, you will have access to approximately 40 American TV channels (AFN).
If you are PCSing with a pet, you may want to consider living on base. Moving with a pet off base is extremely expensive and there are many fees involved. It can add up to be quite a bit of money.
Families that are stationed at Camp Hansen tend to live at Camp Courtney which is 20-30 minutes drive or Shields/Chibana which is 30-40 minutes. Families that are stationed at Futenma and Foster tend to live at Foster. And those at Kinser live there.
Housing Rentals Off Base in Okinawa Japan
A 2009 base order requires housing to be at 95% occupancy before you are allowed to live off base. Depending on where you or your spouse works, there are many great homes, apartments or mansions (one level apartments) you can live in. Some areas will have majority service members and other areas will have you the only English speaker in a 5 mile radius. This is a place that you can easily live with a beach view or in walking distance to a beach you might get lucky and have a home on the beach! It usually very safe off base but the amount of car break ins are increasing as of 2013. The government will give you a housing allowance based off your rank and dependents just like in the states (OHA – Overseas Housing Allowance).
Housing Agencies: Where it differs is that you will check in with a Housing Agency and they will give you a choice of homes that you “qualify” for off base. They will offer you the homes, you pick one, they keep your OHA regardless if you spend it all or not. You might want to ask around for recommendations because there are some questionable agencies. Most of the places out in town are less than 4 bedrooms, so if you need a lot of rooms, this might not be the best option.
Utilities: Depending on the season and the time the out of pocket utility costs can be so high, many move back on base after some time. Some companies charge double during the hours of 1200-1600 so you might get slammed with a $500-800 electricity bill. If you are moving with a pet, make sure you read about pets below. You will have limited American television out in town and will have to purchase a dish for the AFN channels so many opt for a Sling Box or Apple TV instead.
Appliances: Also, you might have Japanese appliances out in town, which means they will be in kanjii and they will be small. Many will be different in each unit so ask your agency how to use all of those.(Ask for copies of each appliance with the translations). Most Japanese homes don’t have dishwashers or garbage disposals. And you will have to use special trash bags that can be purchased out in town. Housing will also give you an electric transformer, but some American appliances may not work as well. Some opt to buy Japanese appliances once they get here. Some people have to wash and dry at the laundromat on base due to amount of time it takes to dry clothes in the small dryers.
Paying bills: If you live out in town you will have to pay your bills at one of the many convenience stores like Family Mart. If you don’t feel like dealing with all of that, GI Bill Pay will do it for you for a small fee each month.
One last tip, when you check in with the agency, withhold your spouse’s rank and number of dependents Only tell them what type of home you are looking for, how far you are willing to drive, bedrooms and max amount you are willing to pay. So many people have relayed that they raise the prices of homes (whether the rent should be that or not) to the maximum price the government gives you. You might find a place willing to lower the price or even include utilities.
Off Base Housing in Okinawa
Shisha Housing Okinawa has a total listing of agencies and homes