Pros and Cons of Living in Okinawa: Part 2

I am lover of list making and I thought it would be fun to create a series where I break down some of the good and not-so-good things about Okinawa, from my perspective as an Expat, with anyone soon-to-be moving to Okinawa. Without further ado here is Part 2 of my Pros and Cons of Living in Okinawa series!

1

This is a pretty obvious pro of living in Japan, i mean what’s better than enjoying authentic Japanese food? Among these delicious foods are: Ramen, Fresh Sushi, Spicy Japanese Curry with White Rice and Soba! Forget those disgusting “instant noodles” this is the real thing!! Plus you can master the art of eating with chopsticks!

2

I love eating out, but my small stomach only lets me eat a certain amount of food and if i eat an appetizer i will certainly not have enough room for my dinner. So, i always rely on bringing home leftovers for later. If i go out for lunch i’ll always eat my leftovers for dinner and if i go out for dinner i’ll eat leftovers the next day. I mean who doesn’t love restaurant leftovers?! Japan on the other hand believes that the customer should order the amount of food they can finish. Portions are usually small here which helps my situation but sometimes you just want to take the rest home. I’m not sure if it’s because of the American influence in Okinawa but some restaurants have begun to give leftovers, mostly rice/meat. They give you a transparent sushi box with a rubber band and a small plastic bag. I’ve never seen a japanese person take leftovers, it’s always us Americans.

3

The japanese have this incredible obsession with vending machines, i mean they’re EVERYWHERE! Every block has 2-3 vending machines on the side of the road. They sell cold/hot drinks in the same machine, cigarettes or even alcohol. It’s an awesome convenience when you’re driving and you’re suddenly feeling thirsty, you just pull up on the side of the road and get yourself a drink! If you Google, “Japan Vending Machines”, you’ll find tons of bizarre things they sell on these machines in mainland Japan, but Okinawa doesn’t have anything that outrageous. I may be wrong though!

4

Living here is not cheap but not as expensive as living in Europe! The currency exchange fluctuates every day. Sometimes it’s in our favor and a $1 = ¥100+, but most times a $1 = ¥80-95. Granted we live on base, so we don’t have to worry about anything regarding our home (PHEW! we’re lucky!). But before we go on adventures we usually take out yen at the ATM on base (because most Japanese ATMs don’t take american cards). The machine only allows us to withdraw¥5000 which equals $50-$60 depending on the yen rate of the day and i swear money always seems to disappear! We finally learned that Japanese post offices have international ATMs and they’re super easy to find using Google Maps, just look for this sign >〒 < in red!

Another con is having to deal with two currencies, but all you need is a wallet that has two money slots and a separate coin purse for your yennies!

5

One of the best things about Japan are these awesome toilets. If you decide to sit down, the toilets have a couple of fun quirks, they come with a bidet that sprays water on you and some even have a drying option. Most toilets allow you to warm the seat and some even play sounds to help you pee and/or disguise the sound of your business (lol)! This specific toilet even came with an air freshener option! Granted this is at the airport in Tokyo and not all are this fancy, but you get the idea. They are simple the best and I totally want to buy a Japanese toilet before we got back to the States!! HA!

6

I still haven’t gone to a bathroom that only offers squat toilets but i have a feeling i’ll happen sooner or later. I confess that i’m already dreading it. Haha!! They are probably not as bad as they look but they make me shiver! I’ll stick to the comfort of western toilets until i have no choice. *Edit* I had no choice but to use a squat toilet while visiting Ishigaki and it was a TERRIBLE experience! HAHA!

7

There’s Family Mart, Lawson and Coco, and you can find them in EVERY CORNER just like vending machines! Family Mart and Lawson are usually one beside the other (think Walgreens and CVS) and there’s always multiple ones on main streets, it’s ridiculous!! Not only can you find junk food and all of the drinks your heart desires, you can actually find delicious bento boxes (lunch boxes) with all sorts of japanese food. Coco unlike the others has some stores with bakeries inside, these are called: Coco de Bake. You can find all sorts of breakfast pastries and sweet pastries, all baked fresh. My friends and i sometimes go on Family Mart Adventures and we hit a couple of stores in search of new things to try.

8

Most places in Okinawa have 30-50 km/hr speed limit. 30km = 18mph // 40km = 24mph // 50km = 31 mph. Which basically mean you have to drive super slow all the time. Most people don’t stick to the speed limit because it’s ridiculous, but lots of times you will get stuck behind a person that will not go over the speed limit or a driving student (the worst!). I swear it will drive you crazy, especially on one lane roads. On base speed limits usually range from 40-60 km/hr. The Expressway is the only place where you can drive 80km/hr and it’s still 50mph but feels so much faster! Thankfully you won’t find that many police cards patrolling the streets, which means you can get away with going at least 10km over the speed limit.

*Please keep in mind that all of these pros & cons are formed simply from my experiences and perspective as an American living abroad*

Do you currently live in Okinawa? Did you live in Okinawa at some point in your life? If so, are there any pros and cons you would add to the list? Let me know in the comments below! Interested in more Pros & Cons of Living in Okinawa? Read the rest of the series!

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Hi! I'm Laura, the girl behind Little Island Takara. I am a military wife and American expat living in Okinawa, Japan! Most days you will find me reading books, wondering what cafe to go to next or daydreaming of my next adventure.

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  • Ashley Santiago

    I love love love this post! I would have never thought that Japan didn't offer leftovers. They're missing out! As to those squat toilets, desperate times call for desperate measures. All india has are squatties! I only recall using it once because the amount of water you drink vs the heat in India means you rarely use the toilet. Your body needs all the water it can get.

  • I love this post because I recognized everything but the corner shops. I remember when I first got to Japan I had to pee when we were waiting for the train and I went in the bathroom and saw a hole in the floor and about died lol there was a regular toilet too thank goodness but I definitely panicked. And everything you said about Ramen! I came home and learned how to make it, I kind of compiled multiple different recipes to get it exactly how we had it there. I may have to make a recipe post about it because it's actually really easy! Oh and the vending machines with the big screens on them and all the chibi animations and stuff! Very cool.

  • Robert Bond

    I left Okinawa three years ago and I miss it a lot. It was weird in many ways but a weird I liked. Soba soup, sushi-go-round, coco's curry, Boss coffee got me through the day several times, fireworks every night in Ginowan city, ten minute walk to the beach off base, and the culture is cool too. One thing still haunts me though, my favorite drink on Oki was this tea that i can see on the vending machines. The red one, middle row, second and third to the right. I can still remember how bitter that tasted yet I loved it. And I DON'T KNOW THE NAME OF IT!

    (Former) L.Cpl. Robert Bond, MACG-18, MWCS-18

  • Chelsea Jander

    I am so glad I found you!! My husband and I are getting flown out to Okinawa in a few weeks for a job interview. We're currently living in Mexico with the Peace Corps. Two things we're nervous about: the language/wanting to speak Spanish all the time and the business/professional culture. Any insights would be so appreciated! Thanks again!

  • How fun!! My husband and me came here from Puerto Rico, so i get the whole wanting to speak Spanish all the time ;). Okinawa is amazing and i know you'll love it!! The language is a bit hard but Okinawa is soooo americanized, you'll see whenever you come here. People speak more english here than in mainland japan. On the other hand i don't really know much about the business/professional culture because i work on-base 🙁 but Okinawans are the sweetest!

    Let me know if you need any info on places to visit 🙂