Commissary: You can do your grocery shopping on base. They do carry a lot of the local vegetables and other grocery items. You’ll probably be missing some of the staples you can buy in the US. But if you’re open to trying new things, you just might find out that you will like and even miss some of these regional delicacies when you return to the states.
Exchange: The exchange is pretty good here at Iwakuni.
Off Base Shopping: You can go shopping off base for many things and there’s a much wider cultural variety out in town. There are even carts with fresh produce, ran on the honor system; you just take what you need and drop your money in the box. People have raved about great sushi, yakisoba noodles, fresh vegetables like bok choy and cabbage. There’s a grocery store in town called Jusco where they have certain foods for 99 cents on Wednesdays. A great way to stretch your dollar.
Note you will have to have cold hard cash, better called the Japanese Yen, when shopping out in town. Your credit card will charge you a fee for changing your currency and can add up quickly. You can change money at the bank on base or exchange at the machines at Jusco, San-A or 7-11, however the exchange rate may not be as good. Many local restaurants and shops will take US dollars, but they will not give you a very good rate.
Homestore: You are given a yearly allowance on the base homestore, you will not receive this money in your paycheck. This is based off rank and dependants. It can average from around $1000+. You can use this money to buy baby products, paint, or any other household items they have. There’s also a place you can checkout yard supplies like lawnmowers.
Be forewarned, only those living on base can use the homestore. For those living off base, there is a Makemans store (otherwise known as the Monkey-Man store because you will see a large happy money on the sign) that is basically something between a plant shop, hardware shop or Home Depot.
Cars: What to do for a car in Iwakuni? Unless you want to pay tons of money, don’t plan on bringing your vehicle with you. When you get to Iwakuni, go to the “Lemon Lot” (cars from private people). You can pick up a really reliable car for around $3500, or a really crappy car for around $50. There’s several used car lots (businesses) on Iwakuni, but you may end up paying more and can possibly get a warranty on. There are classes offered for buying cars that you can take through MCCS. Once you buy a car, you will be required to pay a road tax of approximately $65 or $155 a year.
All US Citizens are required to get a Japanese driver’s license. If you are under the age of 26 with or accompanied by someone with military orders, you are required to take a driving class before you can drive there. They do conform to international driving signs and rules, not the US way of doing things: that means driving on the left side of the road.
Recycling: Recycling is mandatory off base and highly encouraged on base in Iwakuni. Each base and area differs on rules for recycling practices; plan on sorting through everything or else they won’t pick up anything. You have to recycle aluminum cans, glass and plastic drink bottles.
Events: There is always something going on in Iwakuni. There are tons of festivals out in town and the base provides a myriad of activities.
Out the Gate: A guide to off-base activities in Iwakuni.
ITT: Check out the ITT link for military discounts and more.
Outdoor Recreation: Here’s a great resource for things to do outside in Iwakuni: Climbing Mt Fuji, surfing trips and more.
Bowling Alley: There are bowling alleys on every base and are pretty busy at all times. There’s many bowling lanes out in town as well as bowling is a very popular Japanese pastime, but can be very expensive.
Pools: There’s one indoor pool at the IronWorks Gym and two season pools on base.
Yamaguchi Flea Market: There is a great flea market to check out and get some hard to find items.
Sakura Movie Theater: Buy a REEL CARD for 10 movies in advance, you get free goodies and snacks. Adults and children 12+ are $2.50, ages 6-11 are $1.00 and children 5 and under are free.
Torii Pines Golf Course: There’s a beautiful golf course on Iwakuni.
Fish Tales Marina Boating and Fishing: Rentals are to be had here: jet ski rentals, sailboats, kayaks, windsurfing rigs, and boats. Take a fishing charter, dive charter, or banana boat ride.
Maps: Remember that things look close on the map, but something as close as 2 miles away can take 20 minutes. We’ve found a great link for several maps for your viewing pleasure; hope that this helps makes getting around easier for you. A free paper map is available in the yellow pages.