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Marine Corps Installations Pacific

 

Marine Corps Installations Pacific

Okinawa, Japan, South Korea and Hawaii

Okinawa, Japan
Driving In Okinawa

Okinawa offers a distinct driving experience. Unlike the United States, people drive on the left side of the road. The slow lane is on the left, and the fast lane is on the right, although there usually isn't a significant difference between either. All speed limits are marked in kilometers per hour and, except for the Okinawa Expressway, there is no authorized speed zone beyond 60 kilometers per hour, or about 37 mph. In addition, all traffic signs here conform to international standards. Many roads are much narrower than standard American roads, traffic congestion is more the rule than the exception, and coral dust-laden roads are slick when it rains. Defensive driving is an absolute necessity. Drinking and driving and illegal drugs are dealt with very severely by both Japanese and Military authorities.

Okinawa Drivers Handbook

Testing Rules and Procedures

Licenses

In order for a U.S. Marine, civilian or dependent to drive on Okinawa or mainland Japan, you must obtain a valid USFJ-4 EJ, US Forces Japan Operator's Permit.

  1. You must have a valid Stateside or U.S. territory driver's license or approved country's driver's license as per USFJI 31-205.  At the time of applying for a license, a background check will be performed.
  2. You must be on Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders to qualify to apply for a USFJ Operator's Permit.
  3. If you are Active Duty under the age of 26, you must complete or show proof of attending a Driver's Improvement Course.
  4. Unaccompanied E-4 and E-5 personnel must wait 30 days and E-3 and below must wait 60 days before they can apply for a USFJ Operators' Permit.  Battalion or Squadron level approval is required in writing for all E-5 and below personnel to apply for a USFJ Operators' Permit.  Time requirements may be extended or waived at the commander's discretion.

NOTE: If you are under the age of 18 and hold a valid driver's license, you will receive On-Base Only permission to drive until you reach the age of 18.  If you have never been licensed before, you must get permission from your sponsor and attend a formal accredited drivers education course.

To receive a motorcycle license on Okinawa you must complete an approved motorcycle training course. Courses are available on Okinawa.

Vehicle Ownership

The requirements of vehicle ownership and operation on Okinawa are substantially different from what you may be accustomed to. Shipping any U.S. made vehicle to Japan is discouraged. The current Japanese embargo law prohibits any U.S. made vehicle, 1976 or newer, from entering the country.

A warning to car owners - the salty air climate on Okinawa is extremely corrosive to metal. Therefore, rust can be a problem. Proper care and maintenance can prevent some rust problems.

There are quite a few expenses involved with owning a vehicle on Okinawa. First, there is the purchase of the vehicle. The prices of used cars on the island are much lower than you would expect to pay in the U.S., with a good car averaging between $2,600 and $4,000, depending on the make and year of the car. You don't see many military members driving new cars, because the used cars are dependable and inexpensive. New cars on the island are as expensive, if not more expensive, than in the U.S.

The real financial crunch comes when the inspections are due. Military members must have their vehicles undergo a Japanese inspection every two years. The Japanese inspection and any necessary repairs to your vehicle may cost an average of $300 to $500. Additional costs include two types of insurance (American and Japanese) which average about $250-300 per year and an annual road tax. The road tax ranges from $30 for small cars to $100 for larger ones.

Currently, unleaded fuel is offered at the service stations on base at a comparable cost to state-side gas prices for self service. Gasoline purchased off base is sold by the liter, prices are in yen and costs about three times as much.

Getting Around

While many opt for private vehicles, they are not the only form of transportation to use during your tour here. There are public transportation options, such as shuttle services, on-base and off-base taxis and island wide buses.

The Green Line Mass Transit System: TGL provides "no fee" safe, dependable, reliable transportation to the Marine Corps community on Okinawa. Buses run a camp to camp service and an inter-camp service to all command, consolidated administration, medical, dental, support, MCCS services buildings and commissaries and post exchanges. Camp to camp routes are less than 1 hour to and from TGL central hub at Camp Foster. At the hub, passengers connect for continuous travel to other camps or to TGL inter-camp shuttles which takes travelers within walking distance of most facilities. TGL operates 7 days a week including holidays and provides transportation as far north as Camp Schwab, or as far south as Camp Kinser

TGL services the WestPac Inn and WestPac Lodge.

TGL serves the Military community in Okinawa. All valid Military I.D. card holders or civilian employees with a valid base I.D. or pass may ride.

TGL provides transportation only from camp to camp and does not pick-up or discard passengers off base.

PUBLIC BUSES: Sometimes shuttle transportation just isn't flexible enough to meet your personal transportation needs. If that's the case, Okinawa's vast public bus network is an excellent option worth considering. It won't cost you any insurance or other fees, except for the very reasonable fare.

TAXIS: Taxis are another source of public transportation. Although significantly more expensive than a bus ride, one advantage taxis have over buses, is that most will accept Japanese and American currency. They usually carry a currency exchange rate chart with them, so it's not necessary to know Japanese, and you can always look at the chart yourself if you want to confirm the fare charge.