Our Okinawa House Tour and What it’s Like Living in Japan
Welcome to our Okinawa military off-base home tour full of renter-friendly decorating tips and DIYs perfect for on-base housing and rentals.
Welcome to our Okinawan rental! You probably just got the news that you are moving to Okinawa or looking for renter-friendly decorating ideas if you found this unique home tour. We are a military family stationed in Japan and had the awesome opportunity to live off base since on-base housing was completely full when we arrived.
Okinawa House Tour
If you are new here, welcome. You will find many rental-friendly decorating tips for on or off-base housing, small spaces, and apartments and I hope they inspire you to love your space! (Also tour a traditional Japanese rental home in Iwakuni and a few more off-base housing options in Okinawa.)
A few things about us is that we brought our dog and have two kids with us for this duty station so we needed at least 3 bedrooms and a rental that was pet-friendly. We also decided to stay close to our designed base in Uruma even though my husband would be working further north at Camp Hanson. The house we found is located near Gushikawa beach and has ocean views from the second floor. A downside is that it put us in a Tsunami danger zone but we were informed on being prepared for evacuation. It was totally worth it!
You can see the house empty in this story and when we had temporary government-issued furniture. This home tour shows the rental with our limited household shipment, a few loaner pieces of furniture that we used the entire time, and new local finds! It took about six months from start to finish.
Okinawa House Downstairs
The Foyer, Living and Dining Area, Kitchen, Downstairs Bath and Laundry
We have a fantastic foyer that has built-in bookcases and shoe cabinets as every other house we saw in Japan did! The front door is to the left in this picture. The curtains I had put in our shipment were useless as was the vacuum cleaner. We ended up buying inexpensive Japanese sheers for most of the windows.
The foyer was a great spot to showcase a lot of different colors and where most of the colorful decorating accessories I had ended up. All of our books were arranged by color. You can read more about how I styled the bookcases HERE.
The floral paper lantern was a summer DIY but I’ve kept it out most of the year because of how cheery it is! I attached it to a pot light with command strips so it is actually a ceiling light! The Japanese dollar stores, 100 Yen stores, have been an amazing discovery here and are where you can find lots of crafting items, dishes, and home decor. The paper lantern and flowers came from there. The rest of the decor was ours.
We found the foyer rug at a home store and bought a second one similar to it for the kitchen. They both are thin with felt backs and can be put in a washing machine.
One of the easiest and cheapest wall treatments I’ve ever done is this fan wall which is another 100 yen store project! We brought the grey storage bench with us and it worked perfectly here.
The mint door leads to storage under the stairs that even has a small window. We were able to keep our luggage, outdoor sporting equipment, and broom and mop in there. Every single room in this house including the bathrooms and walk-in closet has at least one window! It is full of natural light. ANother reason why we chose it.
Just around the corner from the foyer is a sliver of wall between the foyer and kitchen. The other side is the living/dining areas. It has electrical boxes and had a fire extinguisher right in the middle. But I found a creative way to turn it into my office niche.
Little knick-knacks from the 100 yen stores and DIYs mixed with our decor did the trick. The art and decor is hung with command strips or washi tape because the walls are concrete. The little black and white tray and basket were from Daiso (the 100 yen store) and the beautiful purple orchids were under $5 at the grocery store just up the hill from our house. Our neighborhood also has a Japanese elementary school, a corner bakery, and a handful of vending machines. We walk everywhere.
That brings us to the main living areas. After I was done putting my personal stamp on it, our house was featured in Apartment Therapy!! Check that off the blogging bucket list.
Okay, let’s get to the details. The kitchen originally had a movable cabinet in the middle and the dining area was intended to be near the stairs but I had my baby grand piano. So the landlord took the cabinet out so we could have a table and chairs in the kitchen and the dining room could once again be my piano studio. You can see how the house was traditionally set up in this earlier home update.
You may be wondering how on earth did we get a piano here… Well, it was considered my professional gear on our orders. The movers thought it was crazy that I had two degrees in piano and music but it was signed off on! This is what 500 lbs of pro gear for a spouse looks like my friend. Unfortunately, I think they have removed that perk since then.
The piano tuners in Japan and movers for that matter are amazing FYI. They are very efficient and pleasant.
Back to what’s what. The area rug, sofa, and coffee table we brought but the tan chairs and tv stand were thrift store finds. Out here they call them recycle stores and aside from FB military sale pages it is the best place to find American-sized furniture.
More lightweight art hung with command strips.
We found a place up near Hanson in Kin town that sold Okinawan pine slabs. You select one and they cut and sand it for you. It is done by hand so the piece we bought did not lay completely flat but we made it work with help from my mother’s husband when they were visiting. I found hair pin legs from Amazon to turn it into a sofa table and he used shims to make it stand even.
The kids and I took walks daily on the beach and we enjoy display our treasures.
The kitchen got the biggest transformation. All of the floors in our house are white linoleum except the stairs are wood. The kitchen cabinets felt like a hard plastic in sort of a cream tint and I did not like the way they looked with bright white American appliances and the white tile backsplash so I decided to cover them.
First, I used contact paper from the 100 yen store and they looked like bamboo. It was super cute. But then, I participated in my first One Room Challenge and had the opportunity to partner with some amazing brands. The challenge is a six-week room makeover with dozens of featured and guest participants and the thing to do if you are a decorating/DIY blogger.
So I removed the contact paper and covered our kitchen cabinets with sponsored peel and stick floral wallpaper. I also gave our seasoning jars and IKEA canisters a makeover, added washi tape crosses to the tile, and made over a free kitchen table set I found on base.
Even the built-in china cabinet received some love with washi and construction paper and I turned darling little dishes from the 100 yen store into fridge magnets.
Now back into the foyer there’s a door that leads to the laundry room and downstairs full bathroom. Those built-in cabinets and shelves would be just to the left in the picture below.
The cabinet is typical of new Japanese furniture and was probably meant for a foyer. We thought it was a good fit for the laundry room to add additional storage. We have our pet supplies, games, cleaning supplies, arts and crafts, and household items in here.
The downstairs laundry and bathroom makeover was actually part of the first New Year New Room Refresh challenge that my good friend Stephanie from Casa Watkins Living hosts every year. (Later, after we moved back to the states, this challenge is largely responsible for how amazing our Fort Worth home looks now.)
A funny little story. I already mentioned we moved here with our pup, Misha.
Now long after we lived in Okinawa we were on an evening stroll back from the beach and heard a kitten crying. My husband went to investigate and let the little wild thing up to our street. We brought milk out to it and went in for the night.
Two days later, I went to get into my car and found it napping under the hood near the engine. I was worried I would run it over so I stuck it in our downstairs bathroom while I ran errands. He was an affectionate kitty and easily handled. I asked my sweet neighbors what I should do and one of them said, Kathy, I think you have a new cat. lol
We ended up adopting it and it grew into a beautiful cat but a total jerk. He affectionately called him Meow, Meow, the jerk. We ended up keeping him for the next move and the move back to the states where he ran away the second night. 🙁
Anywho, that is why I found a litter box disguised as a planter for the laundry room. I was also very proud of myself for finding a way to hide the washer and dryer hookups exposed on the wall.
Next to the laundry area is a typical Japanese sink. The materials used here are definitely different but probably more in line with Europe.
The bathtub and toilet are in a separate room complete with a watering hose. Yep! Apparently, you just spray the whole room down to clean it. Even though the bathroom faucet is well, in the bathtub, you sit on a stool next to the tub where a mirror and shelves for soap and shaving are located and washed. Then after you clean, you relax in the bathtub as a spiritual/renewal experience.
We used the bathrooms the American way so I took the opportunity to decorate the shelves with a faux living wall art that I made.
Okinawa House Upstairs
Three bedrooms and second bathroom
Let’s head upstairs, shall we?
We have three bedrooms. My daughter’s room was one of the first to be done. We had to use government-issued furniture but we don’t even mind it now.
You can read more about my daughter’s room HERE. Our son’s room is still a work in progress but it’s getting there….
The last room I want to share is our master bedroom. It has a walk out balcony overlooking the Pacific ocean and a large walk in closet. It’s heaven.
You can read about bedroom styling tips and DIYs HERE, HERE, and HERE.
The last area I want to share is our outdoor space. It’s little but we do spend some out there when we aren’t at the beach or exploring the island. I hope you enjoyed the tour!