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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!