Showing posts with label Living in Okinawa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Living in Okinawa. Show all posts

September 6, 2013

7 Essential Japanese Words and Phrases

7 Japanese Words and Phrases Everyone Can Use

Knowing a few words in Japanese can go a long way in making it easier to live in or visit Japan. While a number of Japanese people do know some English, anyone living in Japan should know these essential words and phrases to make life easier and more fun.

7 essential basic japanese words phrases
Basic Japanese Words and Phrases
Using your Japanese, even if you only know a few words, will go a long way in making the Japanese feel like you care about their country. They will often be more willing to give you good advice and help if you are in need. It shows that you are more savvy than the average traveler, and will often bring a smile to those you try to speak to.

Many American's know a few words of Japanese, so some of these you may already know. But learning all these words and phrases will put you ahead of most foreigners in Japan.

These are just the seven basic words or phrases that are most useful to know. Read them, practice saying them, and eventually practice saying them to Japanese people. It takes practice to learn Japanese, so don't just try to memorize them.

The words below are in English - then Japanese - and then the pronunciation
  1. Hello - Konichiwa - (Ko-ni-chi-wa)
  2. Yes/No - Hai/ Iie - (Ha-i/ Ii-e)
  3. Thanks - Domo - (Do-mo)
  4. Excuse Me - Sumimasen - (Su-mi-ma-sen)
  5. Nice to Meet You - Yoroshiku - (Yo-ro-shi-ku)
  6. How Much Is This? - Ikura - (I-ku-ra?) (informal)
  7. Where is the Restroom? - Otearai wa Doko? - (O-te-a-ra-i wa do-ko?) (informal)

How did you do with those words and phrases? If you think you have them down, or already knew them, move on to these two bonus phrases that may prove useful! Also note the '(informal)'
at the end of some of the phrases. Japanese has a variety of levels of formality, and these phrases are meant for more informal situations. Like in a restaurant, store or with friends. For more formal situations, like at a business meeting or when speaking to elderly Japanese, look up the formal form.

Two more phrases that are very useful:

     8. More water please - Moto mizu onegai - (Mo-to mi-zu o-ne-ga-i) (informal)
     9. See you later - Mata ne - (Ma-ta ne) (informal)

Often when one is at a restaurant it is useful to know how to ask for more water. A simple 'Moto mizu onegai' to the waitress with 'Domo' when she comes back will go a long way in getting what you want without blundering around and gesturing at your cup.
basic japanese words and phrases
Japanese - English

Many American's know the Japanese word for goodbye - Sayonara. But this word is not often used in Japan, as it is more formal, or for more long term goodbye situations. Instead use 'Mata ne' which means 'see you later' or 'later'.

Quick Tip: A great resource for when you need to know or look up a word in Japanese, is a Japanese-English Dictionary. It will come in handy if you ever live or travel in Japan!

Now, one more phrase for the overachievers out there. This phrase is really just a direct translation of the English phrase 'have a nice day'. It will often bring a smile to stranger's faces, and can be used in many situations.

Bonus phrase for the overachievers:

Have a good day "have nice day' - Yoi ichi-nichi o - Yo-i I-chi-ni-chi o

Learn these 7 essential Japanese words, and the 3 bonus words, and you will be a head of the majority of foreigners living in Japan.

Remember to practice these words, and learn the correct pronunciation. Ask Japanese friends or coworkers for the correct pronunciation if you need help.

We hope you find this useful and practical. Leave a comment with any thoughts or questions.

If you enjoyed learning these Japanese phrases, you will love our recent post with some of the Basic Words from the Okinawan Dialect.

Also check out our recent guides to Hiking Hiji Falls as well as the Japanese Convenient Store Familymart

And if you plan to enjoy the waters around Okinawa, Learn How to Check the Water Conditions before you go.

August 21, 2013

How To Check Water Conditions Around Okinawa

How To Check Sea Conditions Before Enjoying Water Activities on Okinawa

Okinawa offers a wide variety of water activities in both the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan,
which provide an almost endless supply of aquatic options.

water conditions in Okianawa
A Perfect Calm Day in Okinawa
But the water is not always safe for activities, and it is important to know when to enjoy the ocean, and when to keep your distance.

When Typhoons come through, the ocean can become an angry, swelling mass of energy and power that will ruin your day if you try to go snorkeling, scuba diving or other activities.

Even if there isn't a typhoon in the area, the ocean around Okinawa can become dangerous in hours if the right conditions are present.

So how do you know when it is safe to enjoy the beautiful ocean around Okinawa?

Learn from our tips below!

How To Stay Safe While Enjoying Water Activities Around Okinawa

Following these simple tips will help you stay safe while partaking in water sports on Okinawa.

The first tip is to simply check weather conditions online at the many weather websites available. If conditions are stormy, it is likely the water will also be rough and possibly unsafe. Look for clear sunny days, which will also help with water visibility if you are diving or snorkeling.

Next, take a look at the water you are thinking of entering. The water around Okinawa is very accessible and can be seen from most locations on Okinawa. So get near the water, and evaluate the swells, the waves, and how rough it appears. If it isn't calm and there are extra risks involved, such as a coral reef, reconsider your aquatic plans and if you still think it is good to enter the water.

Finally, there are several online resources fro providing you more information about the water around Okinawa, and if it is safe to enjoy.

Kadena Weather provides a simple site with a rating of All Clear, Caution, or Danger to inform you of the water conditions on each side of Okinawa.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center is a very good website for tracking and getting information about tropical storms and typhoons, which can quickly cause water conditions to become unsafe.

In the end, Okinawa offers some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the world, but be sure to stay safe, and know the water conditions before you enter the water.

One final bit of advice is this, if you don't see others in the water at the location you are diving/snorkeling, it might be a sign that the conditions are unsafe. Learn from the locals who know the water better than you.

If you found this useful, you might enjoy some of our other recent posts, such as our Review of FamilyMart, or everything you need to know about Hiking Hiji Falls.

One of our more popular posts: 10 Important Sushi Tips 

Leave a comment with any thoughts or questions, and share with others to help keep everyone on Okinawa safe while enjoying the wonderful water.

August 12, 2013

Okinawa Review - FamilyMart

All About FamilyMart Convenience Stores on Okinawa

Have you ever been exploring Okinawa when you discovered you were hungry or thirsty? Or perhaps you have seen the small stores with white, green and blue markings and a big FamilyMart sign and wondered what could be found inside.

You might even have no idea what FamilyMart is, so no matter your level of knowledge, here you will learn about FamilyMart, what they have to offer, and a general review of the service and quality provided by this Japanese store.

About FamilyMart

review and information okinawa familymart
FamilyMart view of front doors
FamilyMart is a Japanese Convenience store chain based in Tokyo, Japan with stores all over Japan, and even many other countries in Asia. They also have about 10 stores in the US.

There are several different convenience store companies in Japan, including Lawson, 7Eleven, CoCo and others. But we will focus on FamilyMart here.

You can find FamilyMarts in many locations all over Okinawa. They are often on busy streets or street corners in plain view and with at least some parking.

What You Can Find at FamilyMart

FamilyMart has a surprisingly wide variety of items for such a small convenience store. They primarily have food/snacks and drinks.

Foods Commonly Found in FamilyMart:

  • Fresh breads - a wide assortment of breads are usually available
  • Onigiri, bento's and other Japanese foods
  • Pre-packaged hamburgers, sandwiches and similar items
  • Desserts - custerds, pudding and other sweet treats
  • Snacks, chips, cookies, candy, many other Japanese snacks
  • Fried foods - Variety of fried foods available at the counter, (ask for Spicy Chicken!)
  • Instant foods like Ramen and canned foods
  • Lots of other options, so wander around and try new things
Besides plenty of food choices, FamilyMart will typically have a great selection of drinks and even ice creams to choose from. They have sodas, tea, sports drinks, dairy drinks, coffees, other kinds of drinks, and alcoholic drinks.
review of Family mart okinawa
View of the many drinks available in FamilyMart

FamilyMart doesn't stop at just food and drinks though, they also have newspapers, magazines, manga, personal hygiene products, household products and sometimes seasonal items like fireworks. 

Copy machines and ATM's are also usually available in FamilyMart, along with postal, bill pay and ticket services.

Truly they pack a lot into these small stores, and you may be surprised at the things you can find in them.

Now, let's look at a review of FamilyMart's service and quality

Review of FamilyMart - Service and Quality

At FamilyMart, as with most Japanese service busninesses, the workers are polite and efficient. They are quick to help or answer questions, and will usually smile if you try using some Japanese words.

For those who might not know much or any Japanese, don't worry! The workers are generally very understanding, and will show you the final cost of whatever you are purchasing. 

The facility itself is usually very well maintained with a lot of pride taken by the workers in keeping it nice. Bathrooms are available, and almost always clean and easy to spot when in a hurry.

Overall, FamilyMart is a wonderful part of Okinawa that must be enjoyed and explored like the rest of the island. Try dropping by a FamilyMart and pick up lunch sometime. You will be surprised at how good it is, and even how reasonable the cost can be.

We hope you enjoyed learning a little more about FamilyMart and what it has to offer. Leave a comment with your thoughts or questions!

Visit some of our other recent posts, such as our Guide to Hiking Hiji Falls or our Guide Buying and Selling on Okinawa.

July 2, 2013

Basic Words in the Okinawan Dialect

Okinawan Dialect: Simple Words and Phrases

okinawa dialect words and phrases
An Eclectic Version of an Old Okinwan House
Okinawa has its own dialect that is different from Japanese. In fact, Okinawa and the surrounding islands have many different dialects, but the dialect used on Okinawa is typically the most common and well known.

The Okinawan's used their dialect for many years, from sometime around 1400's or before, to the 1800's when Japan seized Okinawa and the official language was changed to Japanese.

While learning the Okinawan dialect might not be the best choice if you simply want to learn words to help you get around the island, it is a lot of fun to use with the elderly Okinawan's and it usually brings a smile to their face.

Here are just a few simply words to say in the Okinawan dialect. One should also learn as many basic phrases and words in Japanese as possible to make getting around Okinawa that much easier.

7 Simple Okinawan Dialect Words to Use in Okinwa

We will show the word in Okinawan, then with some pronunciation help, and the translation to English. If you don't think you can learn all seven words, try just one at a time.

Word -- Pronunciation = Meaning in English

Haisai -- Hai sai = Hello

Nifeedeebiru -- Ni Hey De Biru = Thank You

Chya ganjyuu -- Chi ya gan jew = Are You Healthy? (How are you?)

Mensoree -- Men so re e = Welcome

Chyuurakagi -- Chyu ra kagi = Good Looking or Beautiful

Deijii -- De i jii = Very (deijii oishii = very delicious)

Uchinanchu -- U Chi Nan Chu = Okinawan or a person from Okinawa

okinawan dialect basic words
Okinawan - English
The best way to learn these is through practice with others, especially Okinawans! So learn one or a few of these words, and try to use them as you interact with the people in Okinawa. Just remember that not everyone will know these words, so if you get a funny or confused look, it may be best to not try any other Okinawan phrases on them.

We hope you will have fun with these words, and enjoy Okinawa a little more as you get out and use them. Share this with others who might find it useful and entertaining, and leave a comment with any thoughts or questions!

Looking for ideas of things to do? Look no further than our Top 10 Things to Do in Okinawa. Or you might be interested in learn more about Typhoon Season in Okinawa.

And who wouldn't want to read our Sushi Etiquette Guide to make your next sushi adventure enjoyable, and respectful.

If you are particularly studious or ambitions, you can check out this website, which contains a list of many more words in the Okinawan dialect which you can learn, and use!

June 20, 2013

How to Prepare for Typhoon Season in Okinawa

Getting Ready for Typhoon Season with a Typhoon Checklist

Typhoon season runs from May through November in Okinawa and being prepared is big step towards surviving them without any problems.

typhoon season in okinawa, typhoon checklist
Get the Complete Hurricane
Typhoon and Cyclone guide!
Okinawa tends to get hit with a lot of typhoons. Some or rather weak and do little, while other have winds of over 150 miles an hour, and can do some damage. Fortunately houses, and telephone poles, are made from concrete which makes them sturdy enough to withstand anything a typhoon can throw at them. 

Provided below is a simply guide to creating a typhoon checklist to help you be prepared for the next storm to hit Okinawa.

Be sure to visit our Typhoon Tips page for a list of items to put in your typhoon survival kit.

Guide to Creating a Typhoon Checklist

What is a typhoon checklist? It is a series of things to do before a typhoon hits, perhaps even at the beginning of typhoon season, so that you will be prepared when the winds start to pick up.

It is important to customize your typhoon checklist to fit your needs and circumstances. So use the information below to guide you in creating your list, but also be aware that you may have unique things that should also be included in your list.

Things to include in your typhoon checklist - to be done before each typhoon:
  • Secure outside items such as patio furniture, grills, trashcans, children's play equipment, trampolines, lawn decorations etc. Either store them in your house/shed, or tie them securely to something that cannot move.
  • Trim or cut down trees and branches that could be blown over and damage your house or car.
  • Do a final outside walk around of your house to ensure it is secure with no items left to blow in the wind.
  • Fill your car with gas, and park it in a partially or fully sheltered location - somewhere it will be out of the full force of the wind, like behind a building or house.
  • Check your Typhoon Kit and add any items that may be expired or used. The kit should include things like flashlights, food, and more.
  • Have mops, towels and paper towels handy in case water somehow leaks into your house.
  • Turn your refrigerator/freezer to its coldest setting to help the food last longer in the even of a power loss. If power is lost, avoid opening the refrigerator doors.
  • If power is lost, it may be useful to have a battery operated radio to allow you to monitor the storm condition.
  • Include any other items that may be specific to your unique situation. This could include being prepared to evacuate if you live close to the water. Tailor this list to suit your needs.
  • Finally, make sure you have a variety of games and things to do while the typhoon is raging outside. It can get very boring being trapped inside waiting out the weather, so prepare some fun activities in advance.
This list should serve as a guide to help you develop your own typhoon checklist to use every time a typhoon warning is issued. Always check with others around you, including neighbors, to help you know exactly what should be on your checklist. 

Being prepared goes a long way in surviving the storm without problems. So always be as prepared as possible.

And once the storm has passed, why not get out and enjoy shopping at Jusco, or one of the other Top 10 Things to do in Okinawa.

Stay safe, leave a comment with questions or thoughts, and share with others if you found it useful!

May 22, 2013

Where to Buy and Sell on Okinawa

The Best Places to Buy and Sell Stuff on Okinawa and Tips for Flea Markets

Looking for a venue to buy and sell in Okinawa? Here are a few easy-to-use must-know venues for finding that new piece of furniture or equipment, selling those books you don't want to carry back to the States, or swapping out your wardrobe!
With a constant flow of military service members coming to Okinawa or leave, there is plenty of items that get sold at the flee markets or online classifieds. You can even find plenty of things in the base newspapers.

On Okinawa, things like furniture, cars, snorkeling or scuba gear and other items can often be found at a good price from a variety of sources listed below. Often someone is leaving Okinawa and just can't take everything with them that they would want, or they don't plan to use it again.

So check out the options listed below before you go our and spend big bucks on a new item.

Okinawa Yard Sales - Website

This website is very much the "Craigslist" of Okinawa! Here residents on Okinawa can post items for sale and make contact with individuals interested in the offered products. Similar rules to "Craigslist" and posting on public internet forums apply: do not post personal information; beware of scams; use common sense and caution when posting, meeting, and purchasing materials.
Japan Update Classified Ads - Newspaper Classified Ads

Often along with local news, Japan Update newspaper contains a section for classified ads ranging through clothing, cars, technology, books, furniture, equipment, services, pets, and others items. The paper comes out weekly-biweekly.
buying and selling in okinawa chibana flea market
Chibana Flea Market - Source JensensInJapan

Chibana Flea Market - Flea Market

For an exciting adventure of treasure hunting and great-priced discoveries, Chibana Flea Market offers buyers a varying array of products being sold by owners, often at great prices!
Sellers interested in clearing out closets before military moves or just spring cleaning can purchase a spot for $15 for the first and third weekends of the month through Kadena AB Outdoor Rec Center ( and follow instructions for times and setup. This venue is great particularly because of the opportunity to the local community who covet American clothing, beauty products, supplies, jewelry, and misc. materials.

A Few Essential Tips for Sellers:

- Seller slots are set up to park your car and sell out of your trunk, arrive early for a good spot and time to set up. Best spots are those that are close to entrances.
- Bring change in both American and Japanese currency - think breaking $10-$20 and Y500-Y1000.
- Only "USED" items may be sold at Flea Market. Resale of base commissary or exchange products is strictly prohibited.
- A card table, tarp and boxes help display or sort your products for easy purchase.
- Plastic bags are a courtesy to offer buyers something to put purchases into.
- Know that the first rush of people through the gate is a little wild. (Hand gestures and knowing a few Japanese phrases can make your day easier! "Do-zo" - Please (come/look); "Hi-ya-ku-en" - Y100 (one dollar); "Go-hi-ya-ku-en" - Y500 (five dollars); "A-ri-ga-to" - Thank you)
- Bartering is KEY! Be ready to bargain, bundle, or haggle with buyers so you both walk away happy.
- Bring water/snacks for yourself and anyone helping you. Okinawa summer sales can get hot.
- Avoid being asked to "hold" items for people, whether pre- or post-purchase! It is very hard to remember who asked you to hold what for them with so many people coming through. Put a name down on large items if you hold them until the end of the sale or for later arranged pickup.
- Don't put out anything you don't want to be offered a price for, and keep an eye on products - unfortunately items occasionally walk off.
Okinawa travel guide book
Okinawa Travel Guide
- Take small bills - $1, $5, $10's as they are easier for sellers to break than $20's.
- Take water! Okinawa summer sales are hot!
- Know that you will need to carry your purchases to your car. Arrange with sellers how to collect large items during or after the sale.
- SOFA personnel has first pick of items by a half hour. After that, all locals (military and non) have the equal opportunity to products.
- Enjoy the adventure!
Looking for more things to do? Check out our Top 10 Things to do in Okinawa!

April 25, 2013

Best Locations to Live in Okinawa

Where Are the Best Places to Live in Okinawa?

With all the American military bases around Okinawa, there is a continues flow of people moving to Okinawa. So where are the best places to live if you are moving to Okinawa?

Most people move to Okinawa because of the Military, either they are stationed there, or working as a civilian for the military. Some people also move to Okinawa for a variety of other jobs, like teaching English. No matter what the reason for the move, this guide should give you a better understanding of where to live in Okinawa.

where to live in okinawa
Okinawa Houses By Ricymar Photography

Factors that Go into Choosing a Location

There are a lot of factors that go into choosing where to live in Okinawa. So let's take a look at them to help break things down.

First of all, for the majority of people moving to Okinawa, renting is the best option. Buying a house in Okinawa is a challenging process, with a lot of Japanese laws that can be confusing to foreigners. However, for those planning on staying on Okinawa for an extended time, buying, or even building a house, can be done.

The next important factor is, what do you want to be close to? Okinawa offers a lot of diversity.. There are houses for rent with busy shops in easy walking distance, or quite places on a hillside. You can live next to a seawall, or near a beach. You can choose to live next to a base, or far from them if you desire. So it is important to know what you like. If you want to live close to shops and popular areas, you may have to sacrifice space and money. Living further out in more rural areas will give you more for your money, with a larger house.

Another important consideration for those moving to Okinawa because of the military, is whether to live on base or off. It really comes down to personal preference, and what you feel comfortable with. Living on base is easy, but can be somewhat boring if you don't get out and enjoy the island. Living off base has its challenges too, but one major benefit is during a typhoon, everyone on base must stay inside, while off base the Japanese tend to go shopping.

Of course, different people there are other factors that may be important, so perhaps make a list of important factors for where to live in Okinawa, and use that to help guide your decision.

Now let's look st some of the places to live in Okinawa

Where to Live in Okinawa

We begin by examine some of the more popular areas where American's and other foreigners tend to live. Then we will look at other possibilities.

Sunabe, Chatan, Mihama Area
where to live in okinawa mihama area
View of Chatan/Mihama area with Jusco in background
Located very close to Kadena AFB and Camp Foster, this area is popular among the American Military. It has both seawall, and some beaches scattered in between. This area also has a lot of popular shopping places, with many small shops as well as a large Jusco.

Rent in this area tends to be higher than most places around Okinawa(except Naha) because it caters to the American Military. Houses can be found in a variety of sizes, although they tend to be smaller in this area, but with American features. This location is nice for those who want to be close to Kadena or Foster, and enjoy the snorkeling and water activities at Sunabe seawall and the shopping in Mihama.

Yomitan Area
Located north of Kadana AFB, on the west side of the island, north of Sunaba and Mihama area, near Torii Staton, this area is becoming more and more popular. While it is a little further away from the military bases, it offers quieter neighborhoods, great beaches and more authentic feel to living in Okinawa compared to the often Americanized houses around Sunabe seawall.

While rent is typically lower in this area, it depends on the size of the house or apartment, and what kind of features it offers. Many people like living in Yomitan area because it is more quite and secluded compared to other locations.

Kitanakagusuku, Okinawa City Area
Located on the East side of Okinawa, out Kadena Gate 2 and 5, this area is close to Kadena and Foster, while not being overly Americanized. The beaches in this area are not quite as good as on the west side of the island, but one great feature of this area is the Comprehensive Park, which is a huge park located next to the ocean. It has plenty to offer for kids, and adults with playgrounds  walking paths, sports facilities, ponds, and so much more.

Houses and prices vary, but you can typically get more for your money in this area, although it is less setup for Americans. With relatively easy access to the Okinawa expressway, traveling to Naha or Nago from the Kitanakagusuku/Kadena Gate 2 area is very quick.

Other Areas Worth Considering
There are several more areas worth considering, including Uruma, Onna, Nakagusuku, and Urosoe. These locations are somewhat further from central Okianwa, with Urosoe and Nakagusuku located between Naha and Okinawa City, and Onna and Uruma located north of Kadena AFB, near Yomitan. They each have benefits and drawbacks, but may be worth investigating if other locations don't meet your needs.

In the end, Okinawa is a beautiful island, and small enough to drive anywhere you want to enjoy it. No matter where you live, there are things to discover in that area and activities to do. There isn't any one 'best' location because it depends on what you are looking for, and what you like to do.

If you need some ideas for activities, check out our Top 10 Things to do In Okinawa, or 7 More Things to do in Okinawa

Be sure to leave a comment with any questions that we can help answer!