Okinawa Essentials

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Helpful information BEFORE you make the move: 

Quick snippets and sage advice on your overseas assignment

First off - where exactly is Okinawa anyway and how big is it?  Same question I had at first, so check out these maps for more details of this.  In short, it is 67 miles long and varies in width from 2-17 miles wide.  Though the length sounds short, it will take you well over 3 hours to traverse the full length due to the roads, traffic, and speed limits.

I'm confused.  I saw online that Okinawa was a city, but I though it was an island. Which is it?  Both - and more!  Okinawa is the name for a city, an island, and a group of islands.  Okinawa island (where the US military bases are) is the main island of the Okinawa Prefecture (prefecture is a term used to describe a geographic/political section, much like we use the term "county" or, more accurately, "state).  Okinawa Prefecture includes 159 more islands. Okinawa is often referred to as the "Keystone of the Pacific" because of its strategic location with respect to major Far East cities.  Indeed, Okinawa is approximately as close to Seoul (Korea), Manila (Philippines), and Hong Kong (China) as it is to Tokyo (Japan). . .each are about 850-1,000 miles away.  

What exactly does Okinawa look like?  Check out our panoramic slideshow, the homepage slideshow (top right) and the various beach slideshows

How long does mail take to get to Okinawa?  Can people ship stuff to me?  The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the Department of Defense (DoD) made an agreement years ago for overseas military mail.  In short, you will receive an APO box (Army Post Office) or an FPO box (Fleet Post Office) - talk to your sponsor who can set this up in advance for you and with a power of attorney can also pick up any boxes you send in advance of your move!!!  We're looking for a copy of the form for you to download.

For the Pacific, all mail goes to San Francisco via USPS and is then shipped over here.  Priority mail takes 4-14 days depending on where in the U.S. it is sent from (West coast is obviously faster).  Parcel post is hit-or-miss (as long as 1.5 months; average of about 4-6 weeks).

What is the housing like on-base?  What about off-base?  How many housing units are there?  Kadena's housing totals more than 8,120 units in 19 areas.  More soon here.

What about purchasing a car on or off base?  Click here for the scoop on buying cars, trucks, or vans at the lemon lots on-base versus a dealership off-base.

Where is everything located on Kadena AB?  Find it here on this map (opens in new window).

STAP:  Spouse Tuition Assistance Program.  In short, as the spouse of an overseas based military member, you are eligible for up to $1500/year towards your degree (undergraduate or graduate!).  See your local education office for more details.

American fast-food restaurants off-base/post:  McDonald's, A&W, KFC.  Menus slightly altered from stateside equivalents.  A Wendy's also just opened near Gate 2 of Kadena AB.

American fast-food restaurants on-base/post:  Anthony's Pizza, Subway, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Popeye's, Charlie's Steakery.

American sit-down food on base/post:  Chili's (on Kadena AB), Macaroni Grill (on Camp Foster).

Furniture:  There is only one American furniture store and it is located on Camp Foster.  Many folks like the furniture off-base though and do buy stuff there. You are provided with everything you could need for your tour here, but most people wish they had brought their own bed and living room furniture. 

Carpets:  You will want to consider bringing these.  Most of the newly renovated multiplex models do have carpet in them.  Older models do NOT have any carpet at all.  Carpet selection at the furniture store is usually very limited on colors.  NOTE:  You can ship your carpets without affecting your weight allowance. 

Curtains:  The exchanges are very limited on selection for curtain rods;  those they do have do not necessarily fit housing.  You may want to consider buying longer curtain rods that you like and then cutting them to fit.

Animals & Housing:  Pets are allowed in base housing with the exception of the towers.  Please contact the Housing office for more information.

Animals & TLF:  If you are staying on Kadena AB for your temporary lodging and you have pets, have your sponsor reserve one of the new Shogun Inn Pet TLFs.  There are 8 rooms total that are specifically designed for families with pets, including in-room kennels.  They (or you) can reach the Shogun Inn at DSN 315-632-1010 for more information or to book a room.

Driving age:  You must be 18 years old to drive out in town (off-base/post) on Okinawa.  At 16 years old, you can pick up your driver's permit to drive on base or post.

***If you think you'll want it while you're here, buy it before you come.  Chances are someone else will want it too - you can always resell it.  Hard to find items are in high demand - especially if the item cannot be shipped here.  The Exchange has limited inventory / selection, so think ahead!  You'll be glad you did! :-)