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.

Driver's License

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 before your trip, 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 (external link).

Rental Car

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. (link accessible on campus only)

Shuttle Bus

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: (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. (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


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: They recommend the DiDi or JapanTaxi apps as a convenient way to reserve taxis in advance.

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.