Getting around Okinawa
Okinawa is not a large island, but getting around is not always easy. Most inhabitants and OIST employees opt to use a car. Public transport is available to go to almost any location, however, the service can be quite sparse in some locations.
For TSVP visitors who live on campus the closest opportunity for grocery shopping is a 20-30 minute walk away (aside from the small convenience store on campus). By car or OIST shuttle bus it is possible to go to the nearest town (Ishikawa) in about 15 min.
If you plan to drive a car in Okinawa/Japan, please check whether your driver's license is valid in Japan. You usually either need
- an international driver's permit (most countries) OR
- a Japanese translation of your license (e.g. Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Taiwan). These translations can be applied for online (from within Japan), paid by credit card (4000 JPY), and printed at a convenience store in Japan, for details see the JAF website.
More details can be found at OIST's resource center page "What do I need to drive in Japan?" or at japan-guide.com (external link).
You can find more information about renting a car at OIST's Resource Center website. The below page also includes information about the driver's license requirements.
It is possible to make a rental car request before arriving in Okinawa and have the car delivered to OIST campus.
OIST also has an internal rental car service which visiting researcher can use. It requires prior registration and can only be used for 22h consecutive hours, but it is rather affordable.
https://groups.oist.jp/bfm/rental-car-service (link accessible on campus only)
If your stay is more than three months it is probably cheaper to buy a car. You can find information here and/or check the Marketplace on TIDA (OIST-internal link).
Going to Naha Airport
If you go to Naha Airport for non-OIST related business or private reasons please arrange a taxi for yourself (on your arrival and departure days we will arrange it for you).
There is also public transport by regular bus or highway bus several times a day.
Finally, if you have a car you might want to park at the airport. Here you can find information on reasonably priced places to do that: https://groups.oist.jp/resource-center/parking-near-naha-airport-0 .
The OIST shuttle bus is a convenient and free way to get around once you have arrived on campus. The schedule and map of two of the lines can be found here:
https://www.oist.jp/oist-shuttle-bus (only Overview/reduced information)
Detailed information on all three lines as well as the Weekend Shuttle can be found at the below link and in the Welcome Package.
https://groups.oist.jp/bfm/shuttle-bus (full information, link accessible on campus only)
The bus stop closest to the Tabata shopping center (groceries, electric appliances, home center) is Akasaki/Tabata, for fresh food and vegetables go to Onna Farmers Market (Onna no eki).
How to apply for a Shuttle Bus Pass as a family member:
IT Service Portal> BFM Service Catalog>Parking and Transportation>Shuttle Bus Pass
There are not many bus lines in Okinawa, but you can use them to go to Naha (airport), Nago (aquarium), etc. You will need some coins or 1000 JPY notes to pay the fare (credit cards and mainland IC cards are not accepted). You can find bus information here, or use Google Maps or similar apps. Buses are often delayed for 10-20min so expect a little bit of waiting time at the bus stops. An alternative are buses that run directly from the big hotels in Onna village to Naha airport (or to Nago), these go on the highways and are thus less likely to be delayed due to traffic, information here: https://okinawabus.com/en/ls/ls_timetable_fares/.
Within Naha city the Monorail is a convenient way to get around.
Occasionally you might want to call a taxi, which can be a challenge in Japanese. Often restaurant staff can help you, in other cases you can ask the OIST Resource Center or check this website for information about taxis in Okinawa: https://visitokinawajapan.com/plan-your-trip/getting-around-okinawa/taxis-in-okinawa/. They recommend the DiDi or JapanTaxi apps as a convenient way to reserve taxis in advance.
Okito Taxi also has an English reservation website where you can request a taxi pickup until noon the day before: https://en.okito.or.jp/reservation/ (pick the empty, last entry for "Selected sightseeing course").
In Japan and Okinawa there is also a service called "Daiko", where a driver comes and drives your car home. This substitute driving service is convenient if you drink alcohol, since the limit in Japan is 0 and the punishment for drinking and driving is strict.
The way it works is that two drivers with a car will come to pick you up. One of them drives you home in your car, and the other driver follows behind to pick up the first driver when you get to your destination.
You will see a Daiko Service list at restaurants that offer alcoholic drinks and at pubs. Please ask the establishment's staff to call Daiko Service for you or ask a Japanese-speaking friend to do so. More information on Daiko (and other public transportation) at the bottom of this page:
OIST Bike Share
Bicycles are another way to move around the island, although getting up the hill on which OIST is located is quite the challenge, especially in summer. The OIST Bike Share is an inexpensive way to rent a bicycle (including electric ones) and is available to visitors.
There are several bicycles reserved for visitors of the TSVP and DVSP so please ask if you would like a bicycle.