Chris and I have joked about getting orders to Japan for YEARS. We lived in North Carolina much, much longer than is typical for military families. We always laughed that one day, out of the blue, someone with authority would open his file and decide to move us as far away as possible. Well, this past January, that’s pretty much what happened!
I was DEVASTATED, at first. I was heartbroken to say goodbye to our perfect little house, our neighborhood, and all of our people. I knew, of course, that there would be great things to see and do in Okinawa, but it took me a really long time to make Jacksonville feel like home, and it was so hard to leave. I wrote lots of sappy Facebook posts, and accidentally made lots of people cry, but we finally boarded the plane in early August.
After spending the night in the Raleigh airport, and a long 24 hours of traveling, the four of us finally arrived in Okinawa. (Pssst – stressed about traveling with kids? Check out my travel tips over here!). The kids were really SO good, on all three flights. PHEW.
Although the first month of our adventure here has involved a lot of tedious (and sometimes frustrating) housekeeping tasks, we’ve also had a chance to explore parts of the island. One of our first jobs once we landed was to celebrate E’s birthday! He turned 8 the day after we arrived!! I had sneakily stashed birthday presents, light-up balloons, and a balloon pump in my luggage. A sweet friend that arrived to the island ahead of us brought us to the grocery store the morning of his birthday, so we picked up cake and ice-cream, too. I didn’t have a lighter, but I did have a yellow bread bag 🤷🏻♀️ so, I ripped a tiny piece of yellow cellophane off the bread bag, and tied it around the candle, and E ripped the “flame” off when he made his wish. Whatever works!
The first couple days of adjusting to the time change were rough. I got up for the day at 11:30 pm, Bee was up at 3:30 am, E at 4:00 am, and somehow C managed to sleep 8+ hours. Rude. The kids and I walked around our hotel for a little bit after breakfast, before we were stuck inside waiting to see what was going to happen with an incoming typhoon.
We didn’t have cars or licenses right away, so we walked most places. The kids and I tried to find a cute shop that I wanted to go to, but got lost, and then rained on, so we went to the bowling alley on Kadena instead. By the time the kids finished bowling, it had stopped raining, so we walked to the shop since my Waze app had finally started working again. The shop was closed 🤣 WOOPS. About 1/3 of the way back to the hotel, it started POURING. Three different people stopped to offer us a ride, but we were close enough to the hotel that it wasn’t a big deal at all to keep walking. We looked like a bunch of drowned rats by the time we got back to the hotel, but dang, our new raincoats were looking cute.
We got more rain over the rest of the weekend. We went to Round 1 Stadium in Ginowan with a couple families from C’s new unit. Bee loved the ball pit. Both kids attempted to roller skate. C roller bladed for a few, and I wish I had gotten it on video. We went right by the sea wall at Gordie’s. Very authentic Japanese food (hopefully you can read the sign about burgers, haha!) 😂😂 We spent more time with the same families the next day. I wish I had taken a picture of the table at Yakiniku after all 12 of us sat down, and all the dishes started coming. We had to take our shoes off before going in to eat. E made about 100 trips to get drink refills/use the bathroom because he liked putting on the restaurant’s slippers.
Luckily, the pool and splash pad were both within walking distance of our hotel. Something else for the kids to do!
Several days after arriving on the island, we had our newcomer’s brief, which included a driving test to get our Japanese licenses. After the brief, we picked the kids up from childcare, and our sponsor drove us to pick out cars. E desperately wanted me to get something other than black, but I bought the black one on the right 😂 C *almost* got the bright blue one, but settled on the grayish Cube instead.
59 days after leaving our NC house, we finally laid eyeballs on the house we were going to sign for 🎉 I had been mentally preparing myself to live in a tiny 3rd floor apartment, but this little end unit multiplex on base was so perfect. So much bigger than I imagined, 3 bedrooms, tons of closet space (you KNOW I need my closet space!), 2.5 bathrooms, a small deck and patio, outdoor storage, a little yard space, a playground within walking distance, two little palm trees to greet me every day, AND, PET FRIENDLY. 😭 I could have just cried. Some of you know I’ve especially been sweatin’ that pet-friendly part. PHEW.
There’s a small gift shop called the Kadena Gift Corner, across from the exchange, that I’d been dying to visit since we arrived. We finally got Okinawa 123, a super cute counting book that a friend told us about, for Natalie. I bought myself a few birthday presents “from the kids”, and they insisted on little wooden elephants for themselves 😂😂I’ll need to make many more trips in the future, because there were so many fun things. The first time I went was the Thailand shipment opening. So fun!
After we got our address, we were able to register E for 3rd grade at his new elementary school, and then stay for new student orientation. The principal was so kind. We chatted for a bit and he gave each of the kids a little eraser. Both of them (the kids, not the principal) had meltdowns on the way home, in our sponsor’s car 😱 We were on day 60 of our gypsy living, so I could understand how they felt, but also, GET IT TOGETHER 😂
The same night, we got a phone call saying that our cars were ready, and we could get them that day, as long as we could make it to the dealership by 6:00 pm. We made it there with a little time to spare, picked up both cars, and have both managed to drive in the correct lane so far 😂 The worst part is, the windshield wipers and blinkers are opposite. Guess how many times C washed his windshield the first day….I shouldn’t make fun of him, because I STILL cannot stop trying to get in the wrong side of my car.
Our first weekend with cars, we went to American Village and the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. We had such a fun day exploring American Village/Depot Island, despite the cloudy, gray skies, and loads of back sweat.
The kids died over the little turtle bread treats we found at Aeon in American Village. We walked around for a couple hours, and ended our day at the Bokunen Art Museum. E loved the view from the top!
It was supposed to rain most of the rest of the weekend, so we ventured to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. E had put this aquarium on his Okinawa bucket list right when we found out we were moving here. Both kids loved it! It was really busy the day we went, and also really hot, but we’ll be back again for sure since we bought the annual pass!
We had stayed in 17 different places since June, and after 65 days, we finally got to unpack our suitcases 🙌🏻 On Day 66, all of our stuff showed up at our house. The only thing that arrived broken was a Scentsy warmer that I broke myself, haha!
We had a low key weekend right before schools started, and I really wanted to get some more unpacking and laundry done. Well, I didn’t *want* to, but my sanity required it 😂Even though our stuff hadn’t shown up moldy, all of our clothing and linens that weren’t sealed in ziplocs smelled very much like they’d been in storage for two months. That meant A LOT of laundry. I think I did 45 loads, but I definitely lost count after day 2. For all of their meltdowns over the previous two months, the kids never once complained about the constant packing and unpacking, not having all their things, sharing a pull out couch for most of the summer, or anything else related to the move. Natalie was so happy to have her room and all of her dress-up stuff unpacked. E has made like 7000 LEGO creations. They both told me that weekend that they loved it here.
We did take a little bit of time to explore White Beach. The kids loved the water, but they were too chicken to go much further in since E had seen a warning sign about jellyfish!!
Natalie’s just been living her best life since we landed! She’s obsessed with these “doughnut rolls”, as she calls them. We bought several breads at the market, then she found a ton of treasures at two little dollar stores (even though we only went in for a dishdrainer and two stools). She found trainer chopsticks, a sloth for Ethan, and several other fun things. And she had to have that fuzzy rabbit head purse, obviously. She also is OBSESSED with all of the ice-cream vending machines around Okinawa.
During the first week of school, E and Chris both got home early, so we went to the Kadena Marina for a couple hours. We also got Bee registered for preK out in town, and an international Montessori-style school. She’ll have yoga, karate, hydroponics, swimming, Japanese, and more, built in to her school day. She told me she was “a little nervous” to visit the school today, but as soon as they told her she could bring cupcakes to celebrate her birthday with her new friends on her first day, she was all in !
Over the long Labor Day weekend, we had a full and sweaty day! We spent the morning at Pineapple Park in Nago. We filled up on pineapple treats, including pineapple wine, pineapple icecream, pineapple chunks, chocolate covered pineapple, and more.After Pineapple Park, we went next door to Fruitsland. I expected more fruit? But it was a whole fairy “epic quest”, as E called it. We left Fruitsland and headed to Pizza in the Sky for pizza. We finished the day with all the kids piled in the tiny trunk of my car eating icecream from Lawson Station. The tram ride at Pineapple Park was all in Japanese, so I’m not sure what we learned on that part, but we did see lots of pineapples growing in their natural habitat 🤣 the little pineapple golf carts were so cute, and that part was in English. After the golf cart ride, we continued the tour on foot. Bee tried an Okinawan sweet potato (beniimo) popsicle and gave it a thumbs up. E had a lemon popsicle. The giant pineapple dessert included pineapple jam, a cherry , whipped cream, cornflakes, chocolate sauce, cookies, pineapple chunks, pineapple icecream, and the giant pineapple on the side. Between the four of us, we ate all of it!
At Fruitsland, the big kids loved doing the actual fairy quest. The little kids liked looking around at everything and feeding the goats. It was a long wait for Pizza in the Sky, but the view from the top is beautiful. The restaurant has fans and hats to borrow during your sweaty wait. E really enjoyed the hats The restaurant has a bunch of plushies inside that kids can play with while they’re eating here. They loved taking their shoes off and going inside to pick out dinner friends. And, if you’re wondering, my trunk is exactly four kids wide, with no room to spare!
Next up was Bee’s birthday! We had plans for the evening, so the kids and I spent all morning and early afternoon celebrating her! We also celebrated with our new neighborhood friends the night before. By FAR Bee’s favorite part of Xystus Kidsland was the kid-sized potty. We must have made six trips in like an hour. Then, we had to kill some time before the doughnut shop, Otaru Unga, opened, so we went to Aeon for some more treasures. Had to have a doll party in the parking lot, naturally.
Chris had an extra day off after the kids went back to school, so we went out to lunch in Onna. We tried to go to Blue Island Cafe, but they were closed the day we went. Instead we went to Tembo Restaurant Churaumi inside of Okashi Goten, a beniimo tart factory and sweets/souvenir shop. The ocean views were so pretty I could barely stand it!
Once everyone went back to school and work, I took a few hours and drove out to Sea Glass Beach. I had the entire beach to myself!!
This past week, I stopped by Mister Donut to get these spooky doughnuts for the kids, to celebrate the end of Natalie’s first week of school. They were so excited about these crazy Halloween donuts I found, except they all tasted awful 😂😂 Such a let down!
We still miss all of our family and friends back home, but we’re soaking up all that Okinawa has to offer for the few years we get to live here. Can’t wait to share our next adventures with you all!