When I woke up this morning I had a very exciting email waiting for me in my inbox. A good friend wrote to tell me she’s thinking about moving to Japan and wondered if I could fill her in on the Yokosuka housing options. So first of all: yes, of course, just get here! And second of all, oh my goodness, I can relate! Every time we move I scour the internet for information about housing, but there’s never enough information to be had and it’s never what I’m needing; so, without further ado, for all you military friends and strangers, here’s what I know about Yokosuka military housing.
If you’re planning to live on base, you’ll have three options: Yokosuka Housing (on the main base), Ikego Housing (a support site in Zushi, which is about 20 minutes away from Yokosuka), and Negishi Housing (a support site in Yokohama, the second largest city in Japan, which is about an hour away from Yokosuka).
There’s just no getting around the fact that the main base is really ugly, but there are still advantages to living in Yokosuka: after all, if you live there you’ll have a shorter daily commute and more access to all things both familiar and American. There’s a large commissary, a sprawling NEX (seriously, sprawling; it encompasses, like, three different buildings), a food court with a plethora of fast food restaurants (most of which deliver), and a building that serves as a church, a synagogue, and a temple. In Yokosuka, you’ll also have a hospital, a hair salon, a tailor, a good school, and probably lots of other useful things that I’m forgetting.
If you plan to live in Yokosuka though, be prepared to wait a few months. Most likely, you’ll camp out in the Navy Lodge for awhile and then you’ll be offered either a townhouse or an apartment. (Somehow I don’t have any pictures of the housing in Yokosuka, but it looks almost exactly like the housing in Ikego, so you can reference those pictures if you’re interested.) Since Yokosuka housing can be hard to come by, you probably won’t have much choice about where you end up living on the base. You might have a great view of Tokyo Bay with Mt. Fuji in the distance or you might be looking straight out at somebody else’s apartment.
Yokosuka itself (as in the Japanese city) seems great, but the major drawback I hear about life on the Yokosuka base is that, with all that easy access to American stuff, it can be hard to motivate yourself to get off the base and start exploring. Theoretically, you could spend years on the Yokosuka base without ever leaving; for better or worse, it’s that self-sufficient.
Ikego Housing is in Zushi (a small city about 20 minutes from the main base), and compared to the Yokosuka base I think the housing here is attractive. You’ll get the same ugly buildings of course, but Ikego is settled into a rolling hill at the edge of a forest. If you live here you’re likely to have trees and birds — hawks and blackbirds, mostly — outside your window. In addition to a mini-mart, a small restaurant, an elementary school (until 3rd grade), and a swimming pool, Ikego Housing has hiking trails, log cabins, and campgrounds to tempt you. (Plus, there’s a great beach just minutes away.) The Yokosuka base has a large MWR office with lots of classes for adults and children (which I think I forgot to mention), and Ikego Housing has a smaller branch as well. I haven’t looked into which classes they offer for adults, but your kids can take karate lessons, ballet lessons, and piano lessons (and probably more) in Ikego. There’s also a soccer team here and I think they offer cheerleading.
Better yet, there’s a side gate into Ikego Housing that opens out onto the train station, which makes for very convenient travel; and, if you live in Ikego you’ll have to travel. Unlike Yokosuka, Ikego Housing isn’t totally self-sufficient. At the very least, you’ll have to run out to the grocery store once in awhile. Fortunately, there are lots of great Japanese groceries stores nearby, two of which are a short walk from the main gate and the rest of which are only a train stop away.
Oh! And the single best ramen restaurant in Japan (according to me) is immediately outside the main gate in Ikego, which is reason enough to move here, I think; but if you are feeling too lazy to get off base, there’s also a fairly good American pizza delivery.
As with the Yokosuka base, if you live in Ikego you’ll either have a townhouse:
Like I said, the buildings are ugly; the surrounding area is much prettier.
Looking at the front door from the living room
The laundry room leads into the kitchen (not so good for hiding dirty laundry!)
Some of the townhouse kitchens seemed long and narrow…
…and the stairs were steep and narrow, too, which is why we chose an apartment.
Or an apartment:
The kitchen is boxy, which I like, and the stainless steel counters are nice for pastry baking
A bedroom, all fitted out with loaner furniture
Chris in the hall, which tells you nothing about the housing — sorry!
But at least the laundry room is hidden!
The fact is, I don’t know a whole lot about Negishi Housing. I think it has an elementary school (until 5th grade), a grocery store, various classes for kids and adults, at least one restaurant, and a pool. It’s also in Yokohama, which is a really great city with lots of shopping, an aquarium, amazing restaurants, and a lively China Town. The drawback is, it’s an hour away (by car!) from the main base in Yokosuka.
Aside from the commute problem though, Negishi generally seems like a nice place to live. First of all, when you’re there you don’t feel like you’re in military housing at all. Many of the houses are actual freestanding houses, and the architecture isn’t all just industrial-generic, either. The neighborhoods in Negishi feel like real neighborhoods with big yards and lots of green, open spaces. Honestly, when we first moved to Japan, Chris and I both wanted to live in Negishi Housing.
Check it out: it’s an honest-to-goodness house!
And that house comes with a NEIGHBORHOOD! Imagine!
Does it sound too good to be true? Because I think it is…
Rumor has it (and it might just be a rumor), that the Negishi houses are plagued by bugs and mold in the summer.
All I know is, I felt like I could make a home out of one of these little houses, which wasn’t a feeling I had when I toured my future apartment. I liked the small, boxy kitchen (despite the fact that it also held the washing machine and the dryer) and I loved the large windows and the wooden floors in the downstairs rooms.
But when we went upstairs there was a foul odor coming from the commercial-grade carpet in the bedrooms. I don’t know if all the houses have the same carpet, but there was a lot of it in this one and as much as I loved the downstairs I just couldn’t live with that carpet.
But maybe you could?
Or maybe you’re dreaming of rice paper doors and tatami mat floors? In that case, there are plenty of great Japanese realtors who can help you find off-base housing.