Hai Sai! Welcome to my Blog.

Hello, my name is Tom Corrao and I am the blogger behind the Okinawaology Blog. I created this blog to share and discuss all things Okinawan. I’m also the Public Relations Officer and Minkan Taishi to the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai. My experience with Okinawa is derived from the time I spent there during the 1980's and 90's (10 years) when serving in the United States Air Force. I've also been married to an Okinawan woman for 30 years now and have been immersed in many things Okinawan through both friends and family. I do not claim to be all knowing about everything Okinawan but I try hard and study the history and culture. I welcome everyone that is interested in Okinawa and hope that I can provide useful information to those uchinanchu that may be curious about their culture and heritage. I also welcome those who are not of Okinawan heritage but have experienced, or are experiencing, the islands culture while stationed there with the United States Military. Comments are welcomed and will be published as long as they are in good taste and on track with the purpose of this blog. My hope with this blog is to bring Uchinanchu people around the world a little closer to their cultural roots by expressing information that has started to fade in light of a more modern world. We should never forget our culture or the people who came before us and through the Blog my intentions are to meld the old with the new and implant knowledge that will help maintain the traditions and culture of an island people.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Renting a Car in Okinawa For the 5th World Uchinanchu Festival?

Hello everyone! Today is the annual Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai picnic so I will have to make this as quick as possible, there's plenty to do do do! Ya know!

Probably the easiest was to get around while visiting Okinawa for the 5th world uchinanchu festival is by rental car. It's definitely not going to be your cheapest mode of transportation but it will provide you with a tremendous mount of flexibility. My wife and I rented a car during the last Taikai and it was a wonderful experience. We were able to go wherever we pleased and were able to assist others we knew also when changing venues or events. One thing to remember is that gas is extremely expensive in Japan and has to be factored in to the cost as well as the price of the actual rental. If your retired military however gas on base is usually much more reasonable than off base.

This is an example prices may vary!

Okay then here's how to rent a car in Okinawa

Most of the car rental companies in Okinawa are located at the Naha Airport or in very close proximity to it. They send shuttles buses to pick up customers and bring them to their shop locations near the airport. Just follow the rental car signs in the airport there in both English and Japanese if my memory serves me correctly. There's also a number of car rental companies near Omoromachi Station in the Shinto shin shopping area by the Duty Free Shop.

The procedure for renting the car is quite simple. First just go up to the counter and choose the class of car you wish to rent and let them know for how many days. The cars are different than the ones you know in the states so ask questions about the models to find the one best suited for your needs. The rental company will ask you to show your international license or Japanese license and another form of ID such as a passport or alien registration card. International drivers licenses are easy to obtain through AAA and you don't have to be a AAA card holder to get one. I will provide a link to the application that you can fill out to take with you to your local AAA agent. Once they are satisfied you are who you say you are you will be asked to sign a rental contract and the staff will take you to your car for a brief inspection.

Some car rental companies in Okinawa include The Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) in the price and others add it as an additional fee. Generally it costs around 1,600 JPY per rental and must be paid up front. The LDW is mandatory by car rental companies, please remember it is not insurance. Its purpose is to free renters of financial responsibility if the car is damaged or stolen while under rental contract. Using the vehicle in violation of any of the user restrictions listed on the rental agreement could void LDW and leave the renter fully responsible for any damage to the vehicle. You should check with your car insurance company in the United States to see if you will be covered in Okinawa under your current insurance. If not then you would want to purchase the offered insurance through the rental company.

Driving in Okinawa is not like driving in the USA, The side streets as well as some of the main roads on the island are incredibly narrow and can be tricky to navigate at times. Also they drive on the left and you must be constantly vigilant . It is not uncommon for a new driver on Okinawa to have a flash back and turn into oncoming traffic. But if you remain alert and think about it you should be able to handle driving on the left.

Japanese law requires small children traveling in a vehicle to be safely fastened into a child seat. Most car rental agencies on Okinawa can provide child safety seats for any children traveling with you so it is not necessary to bring them with you. Be aware though the they will charge a small additional fee for the use of the car seat..

Most rental cars in Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan come with GPS / Navigation systems, however in Okinawa most are only equipped to operate in Japanese. If you own one in the states you may be able to download the maps for Okinawa and Japan for your trip. I used the Japanese one even though my Japanese is not that fluent. My wife entered the information and I followed the directions on the screen which weren't that difficult to understand visually.

In Japan you must be 18 years old or older to rent a car according to Japanese law. You will also need your credit card just like you do when renting a car in the USA. Be aware that your credit card will probably charge you a foreign exchange fee for purchases overseas and the charge will be made at the rate for the conversion rate for the day the charge is actually processed. This date as well as the exchange rate may be different than it was on the day you actually rented the car. Just something to keep in mind.

My recommendation would be to rent the smallest car that can possibly serve your needs. My wife and I rented a subcompact and it could easily hold 5 people. Of course we didn't have the trunk storage space of a bigger car but we had relatives that came to the airport to meet us that helped get our bags to where we stayed.

Before you start driving in Okinawa, on the left hand side of the road, take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the vehicle's equipment and operation, including heat and A/C, radio, lights, windshield wipers, spare tire, seat belts and door locks, and gas tank access. You may be surprised to find out they are on the opposite side many times from what you are use to. Oh yeah and the drivers side is on the right in a Japanese car. This may feel a little weird at first but you will quickly get use to it. I think it helps me remember to stay on the left because I think in my head "Hey the driver is towards the center of the road." if I find myself riding towards the outside of the road then I'm on the wrong side.

Getting distracted trying to figure out the controls while driving can be dangerous. Don't wait until the fuel warning light goes on to think about buying gas, especially if you don't know how far it is between gas stations. If, in the unlikely event that your car malfunctions on a major thoroughfare, turn on the hazard lights and, if you have a cell phone, call the police (110) and the rental company.

If you're involved in an accident contact the police to complete an accident report, then immediately contact the location from which the car was rented. You can find location phone information on your reservation confirmation paperwork.

The last thing I have to say is that parking in a pay lot in Okinawa is extremely expensive so try to park at public venues if possible. You may want to check with your hotel to find out about available parking and if they charge a fee to park at their facility.

Well that's about what I know about renting a car in Okinawa. Be careful and we'll see you in Okinawa.


  1. The best part about rental cars is that if you are not pleased with the car, you can ask for a replacement and get another car which you find satisfactory. There are a wide variety of cars that you get in car rental agencies.

  2. Just follow the rental car signs in the airport there in both English and Japanese if my memory serves me correctly.

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