Answered Canadian Moving to Okinawa in Spring 2020

rad33

New member
Hi everyone!

This is my first post here and I am excited to share that I will be moving to Okinawa with my Japanese wife and Canadian/Japanese daughter who is turning 4 next summer. We currently reside in Vancouver and plan to live hopefully in Chatan area or perhaps further north depending on where we are able to find employment.

I just had a few questions that I was hoping this community could help to answer. I look forward to reading through some of these threads and learning more in order to prepare for this transition.

1.) As my wife and I are both working for a large hotel brand, we were wondering if service workers (restaurant servers, bartenders, banquets) received gratuities as part of their salary

2.) When looking for a place to live, did you solicit an agent to help on your behalf? It seems when I look online that Japanese prices and American prices are different for the similar apartments

3.) What do you pay for car insurance per month? Looking to buy a used car from one of the popular ones that I found through google searching, but was also interested in potentially buying from a Japanese retailer.


Thank you very much and looking forward to connect with you soon.

-Radley
 
The views expressed on this page by users and staff are their own, not those of Okinawa.Org.

David

Founder
Okinawa.Org Staff
@rad33 ,

This is what I would say about it:
  1. 1) I've seen ANA InterContinental Manza Beach Resort job postings that provided much more than a base salary. From memory, I believe they provided room and board and other such perks. This is probably negotiable with the contracting companies or hotels that you plan on working for (i.e. whether a dinner buffet is provided, staff parking available, etc.) where you don't even need to worry about rent, if you can get your own room and not share with others.

    ANA InterContinental Manza Beach Resort

    North  ANA InterContinental Manza Beach Resort

    ANA InterContinental Manza Beach Resort is a 5-star resort located in Onna, Okinawa.

    I'm really not the one to ask about this as I've not read too deep into the job descriptions nor contacted the companies seeking employees for benefits other than pay, which is decent for Okinawa living.

  2. If you don't end up getting a room at the hotel, your Japanese wife will want to find a local realtor as you will be able to get a house at what I call "fair market value". The price discrepancies between American and Japanese are because the homes for Americans are intended on being rented out to Active Duty service members and their dependents as well as civilians and contractors that receive a housing allowance on top of their base pay.

    This is because those homes meet American fire code and other such housing codes as having handrailings, required by American buildings. The Japanese have their own codes, which are just as safe; there's nothing to worry about.

  3. Your car insurance should be around 3000 yen per month with basic coverage, which hopefully your wife can understand as they will describe in detail how much is paid to who and for what in an accident and will not cover damages to your own car. There are other factors involved such as your age, driving record, and car size. But, at around 26 years old, I was still paying around 3200 a month (it decreased since then because of my age now [32] and record).

    I personally pay 2440 yen per month through JAおきなわ (JA Okinawa).

    There are many car lots on the Japanese and "American" side that offer very competitive warranties.

    If you choose to buy on the Japanese side, it usually only comes with a 3-month dealership only and you will have to purchase an extended policy on top of the price if you want the added protection.

    I've gone through the American side for my first car that lasted 7 years and came with a 2-year warranty. The current car that I have, I went through the Japanese side because no American lots had what I needed, and we needed a car right away, and ended up paying an additional 50,000 yen for 2 years bumper-to-bumper (besides scratches and dents, of course) protection, which I'm glad I did because my AC went out and that is a 100,000+ yen repair. Both, of course, giving you a rental until repairs are done.

    All-in-all, we paid roughly the same price as what we would've paid on the American side (which I hear you can negotiate down a bit, though it's still the 'same'), but it's totally up to you on who will be driving the car and who can communicate with the dealership to do the proper paperwork and explain what is wrong with the car if something is to arise.

    If you, in English, are going to be the primary driver, I would suggest the American side. If she is fluent in Japanese, any Japanese dealership should be fine—just remember to purchase that extended warranty because 2 years peace of mind is worth it as you could end up buying a new car in a year or walking to work.

    If you decide to go with the American side, you can find a listing of recommended places to find Okinawa cars for sale in our Places directory on Okinawa.Org where you are able to even ask questions about specific car lots (or other places)
Good luck, and if you have anymore questions about Okinawa living, feel free to ask. 🙂

Hope to see you around here more often, Radley,
-David
 
OP
rad33

rad33

New member
Hi David,

First I just want to say thanks for your thought out reply to my questions! My wife and I were reading them last night and your answers were very helpful. We have visited Okinawa twice now in the past 3 years and also lived in Tokyo for a year in 2016-2017 and we had our daughter there. It has been our goal for the past year to plan and move to Okinawa by 2020.

We would likely be seeking to rent a 1LDK apartment or 2LDK depending on the price of housing in our area, the idea of getting complimentary lodging and food by working at a nice resort is enticing but it probably wouldn't work very well with a young family. My sister in law did move to Naha recently so I will likely reach out the realtor she used to help us find a place after we arrive. Thank you for explaining the reason for the price discrepancy between American homes when compared to Japanese ones, that was very interesting and we did not know that before.

Right now I am paying about $170 CDN for car insurance per month which is around 14,000 yen which is about the median price over here. When you mentioned paying 2400 yen a month, I was pretty shocked. My wife does have the "gold" Japanese license and I have a clean driving abstract for over 12 years in Canada so I hope we are able to get a good rate for our insurance coverage, although I am not sure if my driving record carries over to the Japanese system or if I will have to start from the beginning to receive discounts. We will probably start off with one car for now, something Japanese with at least 5 seats, good cargo space, automatic transmission, and good gas mileage. I love driving so I would eventually love to purchase something with a manual transmission and maybe a convertible top depending on if I have covered parking or not.

After talking to my wife, we will probably end up buying from an American retailer like Payless Motors since although my wife's spoken Japanese is fairly fluent, her reading and writing is not a very high level (she hasn't lived in Japan for more than a year since about 4 years old) Thank you for sharing the advice about purchasing a bumper-to-bumper warranty, I think it is a great idea and as you said out-of-warranty repair costs like a broken AC can make it worth it even just for one thing that could go wrong.

Within the next month or so I will be submitting my application for an extendable Spouse Visa which will allow me to work, hopefully soon after I arrive on the island. For now it is all about getting everything organized before the move, learning Japanese, keeping healthy, and learning more about the culture and people to help with the transition.

Thank you again for your awesome answers to my previous questions! I don't really have any particular questions for now but I am sure that some will come up... Hopefully by reading these forums I will find some more answers to and be able to contribute as well.

-Radley
 

David

Founder
Okinawa.Org Staff
If you are set with a guarantor, a 1(L)DK/2LDK should run you anywhere between 45,000-65,000, even in Naha. The prices may vary up north, meaning cheaper, where you're seeking as it's much more in the capital.

But, without a guarantor, you may need to pay a large deposit in order to get that price.

We had to pay, I think, around 800,000-1,000,000 yen to move into a 3LDK apartment in Naha because of the realtor gift, owner gift, 3-4 months deposit, etc. (though, it's been a while so that figure could include our first cheap furniture as well). Nonetheless, you might need to pay a hefty sum to move in. However, I heard that system has changed and it no longer required, quite possibly to get people to move in.

A gold Japanese license will surely get her down to my rates, and maybe even lower. I was in a "grey" area of driving under a AAA Int'l license for years, as well as SOFA (job on base), while keeping the same insurance. All of that time accumulated under the same company resulted in cheaper prices. Both of you together may not even be more than 5000 yen.

You have to also know that a manual transmission and automatic transmission are treated differently here. She may have "AT" or "MT" on her license, indicating which type she's able to drive (MT or nothing being both).

You will start from the beginning and get a "green" license, which I now have, though my rates didn't go up because of my driving record. But, you'll need to test in either an MT or AT to get the correct license. Just a fair warning, might not be so pretty for you if caught driving a manual with an AT license, costing you even more in insurance.

Most apartments have covered parking as 1F is typically parking and underneath the building, but some have parking alongside the building, so it will all depend.

I, personally, wouldn't get a convertible here. I just think in the summer months that it'd be too hot with the top up and the AC on because it's raining. Though, I know of nobody else who owns one that can confirm that theory.

All the dealerships in our listing have competitive pricing. Just ensure that the 2-year warranty covers what you think may happen as some dealers cover everything while others cover "everything" (to be completely honest, with the claims made, I don't know which ones cover everything to even make an informed suggestion).

A spouse visa will definitely allow you to work. But as Canadian, it'll be more difficult to do so because you may not be able to on base (unsure on the citizenships that are dis/allowed to work on base), which are typically easy jobs to obtain for Americans. I know that my good friend, Rahul, at Bollywood, is almost always hiring because his churn is so high, even with great pay for the area.

Bollywood Dreams

Central  Bollywood Dreams

It is where the flavors and spices of India come to life.

Japanese will surely help you get jobs, but, they definitely will be "starter" jobs which would pay a lot less than service jobs requiring English (you do get paid about 50 yen more per hour for English ability, but still less).

I'm always here to give as detailed of an answer as I can as I've been in your position before and hope you're not stuck in a rut as long as we were. :)
 

Snow

Co-Founder
Okinawa.Org Staff
@rad33
Welcome to Okinawa.org! :)
We hope you and your family will have a spectacular life once you all move in here! ;)

If you have any pictures of Okinawa from your last visits, we would love for you to share them with us!
Thanks :)
 
OP
rad33

rad33

New member
First just want to thank David again, honestly I was not expecting answers that were as detailed and informative as yours when I had first signed up on this forum. Also thank you Snow for your kind welcome! I have attached some photos of our recent trip to Okinawa this past August.

David, your story about your experience with getting your 3LDK apartment in Naha was very interesting to me. When I did some research about how the rental system worked, I did hear about the "presents" and "fees" that were paid to realtors and the owners however it seemed like this amount was disclosed on the website where the listing was being advertised. Rent where I am right now is more than double the amount in Okinawa but I understand that I will have to accept making a lower salary while I am new to the country and develop my language ability and skills.

I had heard about the separate test and licensing for manual transmission vs. automatic but it didn't occur to me until now about the challenges that it might face. I appreciate your views on the convertible and I totally agree as I have owned a convertible before and in Vancouver it rains a lot so getting leaks can always be a problem if the drainage pipes around the car aren't cleaned properly. For now it is more of a "dream" or "goal" to work towards once I have become more established and have acclimated to the change in environment. Also I am aware of being careful with understanding the fine-print of bumper-to-bumper warranties, often times not everything is covered and there are limitations and exceptions, which is why I will probably buy from an English speaking place.

It's funny how you mentioned Bollywood Dreams... I was watching a youtube video of an American family that was visiting that restaurant and were raving about how it was their favourite place to eat. I was looking up videos on Hilton Chatan Resort (This is where my wife and/or I would like to work ideally...) and found their channel. When you say "churning" I take it to mean "turnover?" In any case I do feel a bit nervous about working at first as I know it will be challenging, however to be honest I am open to working pretty much any job as long as I can keep improving my Japanese and still be able to put food on the table.

We are trying our best to prepare as much as we can so we don't end up in a "rut" as much as possible, but of course no matter how hard you try there will always be surprises and challenges along the way. I am looking forward to moving here but I have to admit there are still some butterflies in my stomach.

Thanks again for the great responses, I also have some more pictures shared here:

8 new photos by Radley So

-Radley
 

Attachments

David

Founder
Okinawa.Org Staff
First just want to thank David again, honestly I was not expecting answers that were as detailed and informative as yours when I had first signed up on this forum.
That's the difference between a forum and "traditional" (now) social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (comparable to our Okinawa Media gallery, but we allow 5, 10, 30, 50, 60+ megapixels to be uploaded and preserved for the future; try that on Instagram! 😲

I grew up on forums from the late 1990s and always questioned why people would still use Facebook to seek knowledge or even talk... I suppose it's easier to just answer a question without justification.

Example (which I'm searching for now because it popped in my mind to know): Someone could ask, "why is Japanese rice sticky?" On Facebook most of the answers could be, "because it's grown in Japan." 🤨

Though, most, if not all, won't take the time to research the question themselves and make assumptions or base their answers on personal anecdotes. I, on the other hand, try to be as thorough and as detailed as possible, researching it myself, even if I know but am uncertain; I've even been told that my answers are like books 🤣.

But to answer the question regarding rice (summed up and not in a full report), and to see my process why: It's because Japanese rice has a higher proportion of starch and moisture content, which makes it more clingy and stickier than rice in which you would find in Western countries (JUST ONE COOKBOOK, 2019).

I study it, but I won't give APA citations :LOL:. I will usually add just [1]. [2], [3], etc. after a sentence and the sources with a link in the "footnotes" of the question posts to let them ultimately make the final decision.

A forum, however, allows you to answer in more detail (which I'll get to later on too).

JUST ONE COOKBOOK. (2019, February 13). Japanese Rice - Everything You Need to Know • Just One Cookbook. Retrieved December 22, 2019, from Japanese Rice - Everything You Need to Know • Just One Cookbook.
Rent where I am right now is more than double the amount in Okinawa but I understand that I will have to accept making a lower salary while I am new to the country and develop my language ability and skills.
Which a lower salary is okay to have because rent is generally a lot lower here anyway. It'd be nice to have the amount that you pay in rent now leftover as you can either save to buy land at one point or splurge to go out and have a great time sometimes.
I had heard about the separate test and licensing for manual transmission vs. automatic but it didn't occur to me until now about the challenges that it might face.
I just recalled that you were from Canada. You are one of the few lucky ones if you have a license right now. Like me as Washington State (USA) resident, I could, as you can, convert straight over with simple paperwork costing about 10,000 yen as opposed to testing and failing 5+ times to get a license.[1]
Group 1 – Convert Directly to a Japanese License (JDL)
The first group includes license holders able to convert their foreign licenses directly to a Japanese license. For this group, conversion is a shorter bureaucratic paperwork process that takes a couple of weeks and one to two visits to the License Center. If your license was issued in one of these countries;

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, or USA (only Maryland [from Jan 2016] or Washington [from Jan 2017] )
Be sure to bring pay stubs, rent receipts, tax returns, a record that you took a driving course (not really necessary but would help), etc. with you that can prove that you drove in Canada 90 days after the issue date of your current license.

Ninety days, that's it (but bring a few more documents just in case because they may give you trouble).

They will explain the conversion process there, but bring a ton of paperwork proof if you have it as they even asked for my official (stamped) high-school transcripts when I graduated nearly 10 years prior.

One thing that I must add is that my license doesn't say AT (can only drive automatics) or MT on it like most other licenses that I've seen.
I appreciate your views on the convertible and I totally agree as I have owned a convertible before and in Vancouver it rains a lot so getting leaks can always be a problem if the drainage pipes around the car aren't cleaned properly.
We have a rainy season as well as a typhoon season here which combined last for several months and rain can be an issue.

But as far as convertibles go, I wouldn't get a soft top because it'd eventually fade in the sun nor would I get a hard top cause I wouldn't trust a "category 5" typhoon blowing so fast that it has enough pressure to break the seals for water to enter to get it wet enough inside to mold, which is still even a problem with door seals on older cars.
Also I am aware of being careful with understanding the fine-print of bumper-to-bumper warranties, often times not everything is covered and there are limitations and exceptions, which is why I will probably buy from an English speaking place.
That is the best option, but don't rely on popular opinion. Ask each dealership, face to face, listed in the Okinawa cars category of our Places directory what their warranties are and exactly what they do and do not cover.

This will help you select the best car insurance, as you may get "full coverage" as opposed to the minimum like me, which if it were my fault, my insurance would pay out the minimum—most likely enough to cover their damage—and not pay me for a new car.

However, like rent, cars are so cheap here anyway that you could go buy an 80,000-100,000 yen car until you have enough to get a new one.
It's funny how you mentioned Bollywood Dreams... I was watching a youtube video of an American family that was visiting that restaurant and were raving about how it was their favourite place to eat.
Bollywood Dreams is great, as is Bollywood Jewel, each having a different atmosphere with a different taste. Both just sitting about 200 meters away from each other.

In fact, we actually have coupons for them both to save 10% on your meals. Simply click the "Coupon" tab at the top of the listings and show that page to the cashier (registered members only).

This will surely help you save a few yennies until you don't need to coupon anymore (but why not, especially when we'll eventually have more by the time you're here?).
I was looking up videos on Hilton Chatan Resort (This is where my wife and/or I would like to work ideally...) and found their channel.
A good place to work. However, I hear there's another Hilton coming soon (2020-2021) more northern so you might have better luck getting a position there as opposed to waiting for one in Mihama/Chatan.
When you say "churning" I take it to mean "turnover?"
Yeah, churning is a business term for turnover, but I should've used turnover instead of churn as churn mostly relates to customers coming and going.
I am open to working pretty much any job as long as I can keep improving my Japanese and still be able to put food on the table.
Don't sweat it. There are plenty of jobs here, but, you're going to need to work for them and not be lazy. If you sit around, you won't get anything at all.
We are trying our best to prepare as much as we can so we don't end up in a "rut" as much as possible, but of course no matter how hard you try there will always be surprises and challenges along the way.
Yep. I thought life would be a breeze when I came back and that I could quickly get a job on a US base. Though, I was sadly mistaken. It took us a couple of years to get up and up. But, you'll be fine as long as you remember "time" is all it takes. (y)
I am looking forward to moving here but I have to admit there are still some butterflies in my stomach.
I'm sure everyone feels the same way about moving to Okinawa for the first time, especially if used to another country. You may experience culture shock along with a rut—a bad combo, but one you can overcome.

Good luck and we're always here to help you (with information, that is).

PS: Nice family you got there. You should introduce yourself to everyone in our ☆ Meet and Greet forum with some more pictures to try to network, not only for a job but to see if there are any spouse or couples clubs you can join, or even set up kids play dates!

[1] Converting your Foreign License to a Japanese Driver's License | H&R Group K.K.
 
OP
rad33

rad33

New member
Hi David,

Thanks again for all of the great information in your post. I really feel like I have been transported back into the late 90's and early 00's when people spent more time to write a thoughtful and articulate reply to someone else's questions.

Which a lower salary is okay to have because rent is generally a lot lower here anyway. It'd be nice to have the amount that you pay in rent now leftover as you can either save to buy land at one point or splurge to go out and have a great time sometimes.
That is definitely a good point, ideally we would like to rent for a period of time before looking to purchase property. Luckily my wife has Japanese citizenship but it may take a while as we do not have much in terms of an established credit history in Japan.

Be sure to bring pay stubs, rent receipts, tax returns, a record that you took a driving course (not really necessary but would help), etc. with you that can prove that you drove in Canada 90 days after the issue date of your current license.

Ninety days, that's it (but bring a few more documents just in case because they may give you trouble).

They will explain the conversion process there, but bring a ton of paperwork proof if you have it as they even asked for my official (stamped) high-school transcripts when I graduated nearly 10 years prior.

One thing that I must add is that my license doesn't say AT (can only drive automatics) or MT on it like most other licenses that I've seen.
Wow thanks, this is super helpful since I did have a rough idea about the process but the way you outlined it was perfect and easy to understand. I will definitely start compiling whatever documents I can muster from the bank, my old high school, university, etc. I am somewhat familiar with the Japanese Bureaucracy and understand that you have to really have all of your ducks in a row before applying to anything otherwise you will be rejected.

Bollywood Dreams is great, as is Bollywood Jewel, each having a different atmosphere with a different taste. Both just sitting about 200 meters away from each other.

In fact, we actually have coupons for them both to save 10% on your meals. Simply click the "Coupon" tab at the top of the listings and show that page to the cashier (registered members only).

This will surely help you save a few yennies until you don't need to coupon anymore (but why not, especially when we'll eventually have more by the time you're here?).
Will definitely have to check this out! Thank you for sharing the discounts. I love Indian food but haven't really had it in a while...

A good place to work. However, I hear there's another Hilton coming soon (2020-2021) more northern so you might have better luck getting a position there as opposed to waiting for one in Mihama/Chatan.
My wife and I are actually signed up to receive notifications from this new Hilton property through an intermediary website and it seems like they are basically hiring for all of the leadership roles first and then they will start to hire supervisory and starting positions. This could be a great opportunity for us as I love the location and it looks like this will be a beautiful property. My main concern is my current lack of Japanese ability, but as long as I can get my foot in the door (or my wife) I feel confident that we will be able to move up within the company.

Yep. I thought life would be a breeze when I came back and that I could quickly get a job on a US base. Though, I was sadly mistaken. It took us a couple of years to get up and up. But, you'll be fine as long as you remember "time" is all it takes. (y)
Thanks for sharing your experience, I will definitely take those words to heart. I already feel better equipped for this move than I did a few weeks ago before I joined this forum.

I hope people who are lurking on this thread feel empowered to join, share and contribute their own thoughts and ideas as well.

-Rad
 

David

Founder
Okinawa.Org Staff
Thanks for sharing your experience, I will definitely take those words to heart. I already feel better equipped for this move than I did a few weeks ago before I joined this forum.
Sure, no problem!

If you need to know anything else about your move, feel free to ask away with a new question in Okinawa Questions so that it all doesn't get jumbled into one long thread. :)

In the meanwhile, we wouldn't mind you dropping by every now and then to play any of one of our games in our
Contests and Online Fun forum. While the four and five letter games may just be there to solely pass time, the shiritori game may just help you prepare for life overseas by learning, or teaching others, new words and even attempting to use them in sentences (we also have the Language Exchange forum).

Additionally, it'd be beneficial to other Canadians seeking to move to Okinawa if you share what you learn from other resources in Everything Okinawa. (y)

Have a great Sunday,
-David 😇
 

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