AF News

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Authorized Apple Service Center Okinawa Japan


Well it have been awhile since I posted anything of interest, so here it goes…Well the wife’s Iphone 5 took a hard dump these last couple of days and basically became unusable. I am sure it is due to her dropping it numerous times, but who knows. Here is the issues she had and how we got it fixed.

1. Bad Gyro – I guess this phone had a bad gyro from the get go, but since it was the wife’s phone, I never noticed. She never used Google maps or anything, so the issue never really came up, until she couldn’t tilt the phone to change it display orientation anymore. I also noticed that the compass app would be all over the place too, so I knew something was really screwy with the phone. I tried to fix that when she let me know about it, but nothing I could find online would fix it. She lived with for months, until the phone stop receiving any signal…

2. No Signal – A couple of days ago the phone just stop receiving a cell signal and there was nothing I could to get it back. Luckily, the wifi worked still and she was able to communicate via the data side of things, but obviously the phone’s primary function of making phone calls was no good. That was the final straw for me and her, so I went to the AU phone shop at the Kadena BX to see where I can get it fixed. Luckily, there is an authorized Apple repair shop down Hwy 58 and it is about 15 mins from base with no traffic.

So I made my way down there recently and it wasn’t hard to find. It is literally right off Hwy 58, just look for the building with big “Sharp” billboard on it and you have found it. However, they have an EXTREMELY small parking area in front of the building, but I was super lucky and there was a small spot open. Luckily, I drive a Honda Fit and made it in there no problem, but any bigger car than that wouldn’t of fit. If when you go there and the parking area is filled up front, there is a small alley way on the left that takes you to a barely bigger parking area around the back. Just remember that, so you don’t think you have to back out onto the Hwy 58 traffic again just to get out of there. Well once you park, make your way up the stairs and follow the signs they put up to direct you to the apple service center. Be warned though, if you are expecting some pristine white Apple service center, think again, it is definitely a small mom & pop operation that is sandwiched between other electronic repair services with boxes piled up the ceiling.

When you walk in, make sure to take a number from the machine up front and sit down and wait. There were plenty of Americans and locals in there when I went, but I say I waited about 20 mins before I was seen. The guy I talked to had limited English, but that is what Google Translate is for. Anyways, I let him know the problems we had and he got it scheduled in for work, which they start right then and there. He even popped the phone open right in front of me to look around in it, which was super easy to do. You just take the two small screws out at the bottom of the phone and it opens up in half, so if you didn’t know, now you know! Well, he told me to be back in about 40 mins to pick it up and he then gave a small card with a number on it to claim my phone. There is a “Staples/Office Max” like store right next store to the service center, so I killed the time in there. There are 3 stories in there, so don’t get stuck on the small first floor, unless of course you love pens of all shapes and colors. Well, after about 40 mins, I went back and waited for them to call my number. You don’t have to take a number again, I just made it obvious I was picking up my phone by sitting right next to the service desks with the number card in plain view. They gave me back my phone and I noticed that the signal was back, but luckily I checked if the phone could change its display orientation, which it still couldn’t. He then took the phone to the back and chatted with the technicians for a bit and came back out with some dire news…I guess I am getting a new Iphone 5! Yup, they replaced it free of charge, since it is still under the 1 year warranty. But he told me to come back in an hour, because they needed to activate the new phone with my AU service. Well fast forward 1 hour and my wife got a new phone that works great now, but we will see how long that last with it in her hands now…

I do want to note that many of the clerks in there have limited English, but they have a couple that speak good English, so don’t worry about communicating with them. Of course the service clerks were friendly and it is nice that they start work on your phone right there and then. Lastly, my phone was still under warranty, so bring YEN only if your Iphone/Ipad isn’t under warranty to pay for services rendered. I attached the instructions and contact info for the service center to this post.

Authorized Apple Service Center
UPDATED on 30 Jan 16

Ok I have an update on the Apple service centers near Kadena. To be honest I don’t even know if the Service Center originally posted is still legit now. Either way, I have two places for you to try to get your Apple devices fixed or have some warranty replacement work done. So the place I went to is in the new AEON Rycom mall on the second floor and the entrance is pictured below.

Newcom Apple Service Center
 Long story short, my iPhone 6 took a shit on me last week and it crashed hardcore. Luckily I was able to update it or something with iTunes, and got it running without losing my stuff! But the wifi and Bluetooth functions stopped working. That is no way to live, so I went to the AU shop on Kadena for information. There is place near Foster and the handout to that place is below, but I didn’t go there, so I can’t really speak on the service there. However, the place in the mall was legit and long story short, they ended up replacing my iPhone 6 for free, since it was still under Apple’s one-year warranty. Score! So, I would try the place in the mall if it is closer to you and you want to shop around as they fiddle with your phone. They have English speaking reps there, so you should be fine on that end.  But I am not sure if they take credit cards or not for non-warranty replacements, since my service was free, but I imagine they do. Last thing, they do NOT do repairs there for iPhones. They just restore the software and if that doesn’t work, they will replace your phone for a fee or free, depending on your situation.

Camera Kitamura Apple Service Center

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

American Village’s Restaurants Guide

We tried a restaurant in American village recently and on the way there I grabbed the tourist guide that has most of the restaurants there. While the guide is not completely inclusive, you will get an idea of what kind of food they have there. However, a short walk around the area will show you that there are plenty of hidden places to eat at, with larger mainstream establishments that you can eat at as well. I have the guide right below for your viewing pleasure…

American Village’s Restaurants Guide - Page 1 of 4

American Village’s Restaurants Guide - Page 2 of 4

American Village’s Restaurants Guide - Page 3 of 4

American Village’s Restaurants Guide - Page 4 of 4

Monday, October 14, 2013

Casio GB-6900AA Review

Casio GB-6900AA
Casio GB-6900AA

One of the things I left with from our ASHIBINAA Outlet Mall shopping trip was the Casio GB-6900AA that cost me around $126 at the current exchange rate. I was looking for a new watch to wear in uniform, since the Casio I have now is over 5 years old, so it is time for some change. I got the watch at the G-Shock store (obviously!) and there was plenty choices in there, definitely a benefit of being in Japan. The staff was very helpful, however their English was sparse, but they had English product sheets I could read for the watches I was interested in though. Well, this watch caught my eye since it can link up to your iPhone 5/Galaxy 4 and vibrate/beep when you get a call or email; you can even use the watch to find your phone! If you noticed that I left out SMS notifications, you would sadly be correct in your observation. I didn’t catch that when I bought the watch, and that feature would make this watch perfect for my use, instead of almost perfect. I do want to clarify that that the SMS notification feature doesn’t work with the iPhone 5 only, it will work with the Samsung Galaxy 4 though. And those are the only two phones this watch works with at the moment, and I think it has to do with the low power Bluetooth radios these phones have. I am sure more phones will be compatible as that feature gets integrated into more phones in the future.

Well besides not have the SMS notification option, this phone has proven still useful for me. The main reason I got this watch is that I don’t notice sometimes when I get a phone call when I am out and about. Most of my work days include being meetings and I have my iPhone on vibrate basically all day. I also keep my phone in my ABU pant’s thigh inner pocket, which makes it hard to feel if the phone is vibrating. So I thought having this watch would help me not miss calls, and it does that pretty good so far. I think this watch would also be good for people that keep their phone packed away in a merurse or backpack and still want to know if they get a phone call, without having to have the ringer volume on full blast on the phone. Overall I am happy with this watch, and if your application is similar to mine, be sure to give this watch a chance! Now, on to some details on the watch…

1. You have to use a separate G-Shock app for your phone for the feature to work on your watch. It is free and I have had no problem on the iPhone 5 using it. It is primarily used to link the phone to the watch, and to set up your alerts.

2. Incoming calls do not have caller ID when sent to your watch, it just flashes you have a call on the watch.

3. Like I mentioned before it doesn't send notifications to the watch when your get SMS on the iPhone 5, and this is probably due to the closed nature of the iOS system.

4. The email notification works great, but you have to save your email login details on the G Shock app first for it to work. Once that is set up though, you will get the notifications of new emails on the watch, and it even scrolls the senders email across on the watch display!

5. The next feature this watch has is the find phone feature. Once the phone and watch are linked, you can hold down a button on the watch and it will make your phone emit a very loud melody/music (of your choosing) to help you find it if you misplaced it. This feature works well and I am sure I will use this in the future. Of course this will only work if the phone and watch are still connected to each other. If you have no signal you are out of luck, but I noticed they will stay linked to each other, even if they are in different rooms. Which by the way, the phone will notify you when the connection is lost. I think that feature is great for people who forget their things all the time, like my wife! For example, the wife is at a café with friends and she puts down her phone on the table. They then finish up yapping awhile later and walk away to pay the bill. By the time they get outside, the connection between her watch and her phone has been lost, and the watch will beep/vibrate at her. This will hopefully remind her that she left her phone on the table!

Well that is about it on this watch. I have the link to the feature comparisons of this watch and the other similar models from Casio right below for your shopping needs…

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Well the wife was bored and was complaining that we haven’t really go out exploring yet since we been here on Okinawa (2 months). What she was really saying was that she hasn’t done any hardcore shopping yet and it was high time she did! I heard there were some big shopping malls/outlets on the island, so I did a quick search on the web and came across ASHIBINAA Outlet Mall. It is about an hour drive south, depending on traffic, from Kadena AB. If you use Google Maps, it will find this place and route you all the way there no problem. Well, I didn’t tell the wife exactly where we were going when we left, I just said we were going to Naha to shop. Well, when we pulled up the area where ASHIBINAA was, the wife’s eyes almost popped out of her head! This place is pretty big and has just about every band name you can think of. But remember that even though this is an Outlet mall, the prices are still going to be higher than you would expect, since everything in Japan is just more expensive. But I am not saying you not find deals there, but you just got to go there at the right time to find the deals. I noticed that most of the stores display the typical xx% percent off in their windows, but the major discounts of 50% or higher were only taking place during a limited time window that I noticed. For example, the Adidas store was doing a 50% off just about everything in their store for few hours and there were plenty of people grabbing stuff in there while they could. I sure the season change here has something to do with all the sales I noticed while we were there, but who knows. Now the practicalities…There wasn’t much spoken English going around that I noticed, so getting information in the shops may be a challenge for some. I think my wife would have been better off trying to speaking Korean than English in regards to communicating with people there. I say that because this place is near the Naha airport and there seemed be many Asian tourist there. So naturally, I would assume the shops would have more Korean and/or Chinese speaking staff, than English in this case. Next, the parking is FREE! There is a massive parking structure right next the mall, so it shouldn’t be too bad finding parking when you go. Additionally, I noticed that just about every store accepts major credit cards, so you should be good to go with making all your purchases. Just don’t forget to tell your bank you are in Japan, and save yourself from the experience of getting your card denied when you go pay. Finally, there are plenty of other nearby shopping areas around the Mall, which includes plenty of places to eat as well. Oh yea, I almost forgot to mention to bring a umbrella when you go there. Most of the mall is open air, so keep that in mind, since it can rain anytime here in Okinawa. So, we ended up doing some light shopping and we made a good day trip out of it. I would recommend to anyone to head out there for all your brand name shopping needs when you are in Okinawa. I also posted the shopping guide, with the map of the place as well. I am sure this will help the hardcore shoppers plan out their attack!

Here is the link to the Outlet mall…

ASHIBINAA Outlet Mall 
ASHIBINAA Outlet Mall 
ASHIBINAA Outlet Mall Map

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fixed Honda Fit CVT Shudder!

I am following up on my Honda Fit shudder issue I mentioned in my “Car Services on Kadena AB” post. Well I got the OIL EXTREME last week in the mail and I went straight home to try it out. I ordered the 16 oz. package, with comes with two 6 oz. bottles and a 4 oz. bottle. I believe this package is enough to treat your transmission and engine oil of your typical car, but I didn’t use more than 6 oz. for my Fit’s CVT. On the OIL EXTREME website that talks about curing Honda Fits’ shuddering issues, it says to use 2 oz. per liter of transmission oil. But on the bottle, it says to use 1.5 oz. of oil per liter, so I went with that number. Also, I don’t actually know how much total fluid the CVT has in it, so I went with 4 liters, since that is how much drained out when I put in the new Honda CVT oil in it a couple of weeks ago. I have a long funnel and I put the oil additive in through the CVT oil dip stick that is located near the front right bottom of the engine. I let the fluid drain out of the bottle for a couple of minutes, and then buttoned everything up, and I fired her up…

Well I reversed out of my parking space and put it in drive…and there wasn’t even a hint of shudder at all when I pulled away! It worked its magic in the span of time from going from reverse to drive, which is just seconds. This stuff is definitely no snake oil, and it got rid of that shudder just like that! I drove around base to make sure, and the Fit accelerated with power and never falter like before, and continues to run fine to this day. However, I think by draining out the old CVT fluid and replacing that fluid with the improved Honda CVT fluid really help this additive do its thing my case. If I never drained the old fluid out, would this additive still work? My gut tells me yes, but that wouldn’t have been an optimal situation for the CVT in this car, and I would have been just setting myself up for issues down the road. Either way, I would definitely recommend this product to other car owners with CVT issues, and after talking to the Auto Hobby Shop here on base, there are PLENTY on this island. I let the Auto Hobby Shop manager know of my experience and he was plenty impressed and said he would look into if his distributor carries this additive. So we might see OIL EXTREME up on the shelves at the auto hobby shop in the future. If you can’t wait that long, the maker of OIL EXTREME ships APO no problem, and the web address is right below…

I do want to note that their ordering website doesn’t accept APO address properly, you have to add your APO address in the remarks section when you finish up the order. You just have to use a stateside address to complete the order, so use your permanent address or something, and make sure to put your APO address in the remarks. That came straight from the owner and my stuff got here just fine. You will get an email confirmation on where to send it and to validate your CC info, especially if your CC billing address is the APO address as well. Good luck!

Honda Fit & Odyssey In-Cabin Air Filters

OK, I ordered new in-cabin air filters for our Honda Fit and Odyssey and I am glad I did! I was starting to get a musky smell in the Odyssey which prompted me to look into it. Well, I managed to find out where in the car the filter was off the internet and then I took a look at it. Let me tell you, it was black as night and I think there was a petrified lizard on it too! It basically looked like it was NEVER changed for the whole life of this car. I then checked the Fit’s in-cabin filter and while it was black as well, there were no petrified lizards on it at least. I order new filters through the Auto Hobby shop and swapped them as soon as I got them. The Honda Fit’s in-cabin filter was easy to swap out, but the Odyssey was a little more involved (you need tools). Either way, both cars smell “fresher” than they did and I also have the peace of mind that 10 year mold isn't floating around in the cars when I drive the family around. The filters came with installation instructions that are in Japanese, but I am sure they will still be helpful to help locate where the in-cabin filters are located in the Honda Fit and Odyssey… 

Honda Fit in-cabin filer install instructions

Honda Odyssey in-cabin filer install instructions

Friday, September 20, 2013

Car Services on Kadena AB

Well, we are pretty settled on the island so far and this was helped with having wheels to get us around town. We ended up getting two cars and I will go into the practicalities of making that happen, since well, I am car guy by nature. However, I have traded HP and Torque, for MPGs and Cargo Space…What has my life turned into now!? Haha it is ok, I wouldn’t have it any other way now, but seeing these GTR’s and Fairlady Z’s cruising around sometimes gives me that “itch” again…Anyways, let’s get into what I got now and what we have done so far with them…

1. 2003 Honda Odyssey Absolute – This was the first car we got when we got here, since we figured we will need the cargo room and the 7 seats when the families visit in the future. It had about 55K miles on the odometer and looked in good shape (more on that later). But the car guy in me noticed that the trim seemed unique on the outside/inside, it had xenon headlights, factory navigation, and nice factory 17 inch rims with Potenza tires on them. Hmmm, I Googled this “Absolute” model and low and behold, it is a special version that is Mugen tuned! But really all that means that it has Mugen tuned suspension and the fancy trim. That was enough for me and the wife happen to like it too, so we got that car. Now I am sure we all know once the dealership wax wears off, all the little things start popping out to you, and this car is no exception. Here is what I had to deal with so far…

a. The exterior and interior have plenty of scuffs and what not, but nothing some turtle wax couldn't handle. I do realize that this car is over 10 years old, and there is definitely way worst looking Odyssey’s driving around on this base, I promise you that!

b. A broken front motor mount that I didn't notice when I got it. Luckily that particular motor mount was cheap, as the other ones run hundreds of dollars! I was also able to change it out myself in my parkway, since I brought all my tools with me here.

c. Missing a wheel bolt! Man, I really couldn't believe I missed that when I was looking over the car, but who expects that to be missing on a car at a dealership! Luckily this car has a 5 bolt pattern, so running on 4 bolts wasn't an issue, and I got that fixed once I noticed it. The parts were under $10.

d. A nasty air filter that looked like it had NEVER been changed. Of course I got that taken care too.

e. Busted air vents for the rear seats/3rd row. Really, you just couldn’t adjust the direction of air flow. I knew this going in of course and I fixed that at later date. In hindsight, I should have told them to fix it, but we were in a hurry to get the car and we didn’t want to have to wait longer to get that simple thing fixed.

f. Now here is the big one, the auto transmission had issues and was fixed. During my googling of this car, I came across a lot of posts about the transmission in this year and model of car. Basically, it craps out right around the mileage this car had. Luckily, the dealership I was getting it through fixed it, or so they say. I actually have no real reason to suspect they didn’t, since it has been running just fine, but it wasn’t like I got proof of that. On top of that, the JCI folks were the ones that told them that, so I guess they HAD to fix it anyways to get the JCI done on the car. Either way, they gave me a 6 month warranty on the transmission, just in case things get funky on it. So far so good (knocking on wood now).

2. 2004 Honda Fit – This car is for the wife, since she wanted something small and easy to drive. Well, this car has worked out so well, it is almost become my daily driver to work and it is the car we use to venture off-base on the regular. It is great on gas and way easy to get around with off-base, even with all the narrow roads and tight parking spots. We got it with 35K miles odometer (yup, you’re reading that right) and it good condition. It has xenon headlights, auto climate control, and power everything. But it came with a basic radio, which I immediately changed out with a Sony unit that has iPod capability, Bluetooth media streaming, and phone hands free functionally. It works great with our Iphone5’s and I am really happy with it. I do want to note that I used a common Honda stereo wiring harness (they sell them at the auto hobby shop) and that made it super easy to install. Now on to the issues…

a. The plastic trim looked tired when I got it, but a good scrubbing with armor-all made it look good again. I guess the prior owner never bothered. The windshield wipers arms were rusting, but I ordered new ones and replaced them. Of course, the car got a good wash and wax and is looking sharp now. I can’t stand dirty cars on the outside or inside, but there are plenty of people on this base that apparently can haha. Oh well, I don’t really blame the ones that are only here for a couple a years, they are in and out, so who cares if they run their car into the ground. But we are going to be here for 4 years at least, so I want to take care of what we got now.

b. A nasty air filter that looked like it had NEVER been changed. Again. It was changed.

c. The CVT…this may be of super interest to many people with Honda cars (Fit, Jazz, City) that have CVT’s in them like my Fit. After driving the car around a bit, it would shudder pretty hard when accelerating from a stop. So hard in fact, I thought the car would be close to stalling out sometimes, and it would lack power going to merge with traffic. That is no bueno for the wife’s car, so I looked into this right away. Apparently this is a COMMON issue with Honda’s early CVT’s. There is NO fix from Honda (besides getting a new CVT), but I found some solutions on the internet. And here they are…

cc. First, change out the CVT oil with the new and improved oil from Honda. You can order it from the auto hobby shop and it comes in 4L cans. That is ok, since that is all you need when you drain out the fluid (1 Can). It isn’t cheap ($76ish), but nothing on Okinawa is. I had the mechanics do it for me (I am lazy) and they warned me that just draining the transmission fluid is not the proper way to do that, but I know that and we pressed. Well, after they did that, it was WAY better! It still shudders a bit, but it feels no way near like it did, and it doesn’t do it all the time now either. I am sure as I drive around it may even out. Here is the part number of the Honda Oil…0826099904HE.

ccc. There is still one more step I can take that other Honda Fit drivers on the internet swear by, and it is a product called OIL EXTREME. It is an oil additive and apparently it helps with this Honda CVT issue. I already ordered some (they ship APO) and when I get it, I will post the results after I add it to the CVT on my Fit. Even without this stuff, our Honda Fit is completely drivable now and the shudder barely registers to me now. Here is the link to buy this stuff…

Some final notes on the driving condition and car services here…

1. The roads are slick when wet! They tell you this when you get here, but people are still zooming around like the roads aren’t when it is raining. I have been here about 2 months and I already had 2 young airmen I work with wreck their cars on-base because they were going too fast for road conditions. Luckily no one was hurt, but they just needed to be driving slower in the first place! I think most cars that are sold to the GI’s here on the island are around 10 years ago, so we are just entering the years that the Japanese cars started to have traction control, anti-lock brakes, and other driving safety features being standard. So I think most people take that for granted because of the newer cars they may have been driving in the States or in Europe before they got here had all those features already.

2. The Japanese versions of cars here are super varied! For example, in the States a particular car model might have 3 to 4 variations to it, think EX, DL, SI, etc…But in Japan, you will have the MARK I, II, III, UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, TINY, BIG, ECO, MAX, etc. (literally etc.) This is more of an observation than anything and the car guy in me thinks it is pretty funny. BUT, this can cause problems when you are searching the internet to help figure out car issues you may be having. For example, the 2004 Honda Fit we have was never sold in the States during that model year. Luckily it was sold everywhere else, but the States (go figure) and there are plenty of English speaking web forums for that model year, but you may not be that lucky with your car make and model/year.

3. This next bit is for the young guys out there that may be reading this, don’t get that Skyline! It isn’t as fast as you think it is; only the GTR is fast! But you can’t drive fast legally anywhere on this island anyways, so don’t get your hopes up. But really, it is really easy to get sucked into “tuning and upgrading” whatever you got, and trust me I see those guys in the auto hobby shop every weekend installing whatever new gizmo they got. I guess I am too lazy to have to take out all those “enhancements” every time you need to JCI your car in the future, so sorry count me out. But the real killer is the cost. I can’t believe how expensive it is for those car gizmos, and trust me there are plenty for my Absolute too! You can easy get in over your head with dumping money into “go fast” parts and stereos for a car you CAN’T take back to the States with you! You will not be “Fast and Furious” in the States man, sorry it is just the sad reality of that. BUT I think you can take them to Europe from here, but don’t quote me on that. I say that because I had a J-Spec Fairlady Z while I was at Ramstein AB that I got off the lemon lot. Let’s just say twin turbos are fun to have on Nuremburg ring! It kind of brings a tear to my eye when I putt around in the minivan here….Anyways, you would think all this Japanese branded stereos and tuning stuff would be cheap, but it isn’t, sorry.

4. There are plenty of car services and what not on Kadena AB and on all the other bases as well. If you need to order parts for your car, the Kadena AB Auto Hobby shop will hook you up with just about anything you will need. You will have to order it though, and special orders come from main land, which means it will take a couple of days to get here. They have been nothing but helpful for the stuff I needed and their mechanics are knowledgeable. Just don’t spend $1000 on parts for your car that you only spent $1500 to buy, that doesn’t make sense!

5. Oh yea, if you have an OBDII scanner, bring it. These early 2000’s cars and beyond will have those ports. Remember, the OBDII standard was designed to be universal worldwide, and so far my scanner has worked on everything I have plugged it into.

6. Finally, a little on gas mileage around here. If you happen to live on base, I think you would imagine you would have to fill up your car maybe once month, especially if work/home is all you drive to and from during the week. Well that is NOT the case for me, at least with the Odyssey. I literally live less than 3 miles from work, but I have to fill up the odyssey every 2 weeks, and with a 17 gal tank, that isn’t that cheap or as cheap as I like. It has a 4 banger, but the MPG’s still suck. I think it is a combination of the 4-speed auto it has and the constant “turn engine on, drive 5 mins, turn engine off”, rinse and repeat all day, every day routine. Plus, the traffic off-base is always stop-and-go, which in turn kills your MPGs anyways. However, the Fit seems to be made for these kinds of situations, and it has killer MPGs compared to the Odyssey. So much so, I think I am driving a hybrid out here, which is why I think they are hard to come by (and have a cost premium) right now. So that is something to think about when you get out here. Think hard about the cars you will need out here, and try to stick to the smaller ones if you can. Your wallet will thank you.

Dependent travel out/in of Okinawa

***UPDATED*** 3-Feb-16

So…if your dependents want to fly out on a commercial flight out of Japan, their better have their SOFA entry/re-entry stamps in their passports before they try to go! We learned this the hard way when they tried get checked in for their flight. But some background first…when we landed on Kadena AB via the Patriot Express, my Korean wife and our little girl got SOFA entry stamps put in their passports right there in the terminal. Cool, press on. Well fast forward a month later, and the wife is off to Korea via JinAir (way cheap by the way!) to show off our little girl to her family, since they haven’t seen her in person yet. In preparation of this trip, I knew they needed their passports and I figured they got their “stamp” when we got here, so they should be good to go. Wrong! They need more stamps in there, in particular the SOFA re-entry stamp. This allows them to come and go from Japan without having to get a visa every time and what not. BUT I didn’t even think to ask someone about any of that, because well…I thought I had it all figured out for their travel! I even read the fine print on her plane ticket purchase, which stated that the credit card used to purchase the ticket online, MUST be presented at check-in(she doesn’t normally carry that card on her). I got you JinAir! But nice try though, because this flight is going to go super smooth because I “prepare” more than most people do, so HA! So as we make our way to the Naha airport, we hit a ton of traffic, and that extra buffer of time I gave us basically was wasted on Hwy 58. Luckily, my “preparedness” basically kept them from missing their flight completely, and was not used to enjoy a relaxed send off like I planned. So we get to the check-in counter of JinAir and I give them their passports and even that credit card before they even asked, and they were impressed (not really)! But then I noticed the clerk fumbling through their passports, like she was looking for something and not finding it. Well I figure she is having an issue finding the “stamp” that is clearly in there, and I point it out to her. Then she tells me that is not the right stamp and I clearly stated that it is indeed the stamp she is looking for, because there are no others in there that we got when we got here. This of course is around the time we were approaching 30 mins from the flight actually leaving, the baby was starting to get fussy because we haven’t moved around for some time, and the wife was starting to give me the look that said, “I am getting on that plane no matter what!” Well, one of the supervisor comes by and presents us a book with a image of what the stamp is supposed to look like, and low and behold, it doesn’t look like anything they got in their passports. And now we are all just staring at each other as the clock is just ticking along, but the other numerous travelers on that flight are checking in easy breezy all around us; well they must have their stamps then! Well, it is super rare for me to be caught in these types of situations, so I started asking what are we going to do. We can’t just stand here staring at each other! So they asked me if I had copies of my PCS orders on me, and if I did, we could get through immigration here and on the flight. Well of course I do, I have stacks of copies, but back in my house on Kadena AB! Now we are back to staring at each other. And then it hit me, I remembered I had emailed them to my sponsor before I got on island and they should be in my email sent folder. So I searched my email folders through my Iphone (god this phone is a life saver!) and, bingo! I found them! I told the clerk that and she told me I needed them on paper, not on a digital screen. Ok, we are in an Airport, there must be some computers I could use to print something up. Wrong! There is NOTHING like that in Naha airport, never mind that Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world to boot! So back to staring at each other…and then hope! The JinAir supervisor was kind enough to let me email the orders to him and he would print them up in his office and give them to me. Success! We did that, got checked in, and off they ran through security to immigration. Hardly the send off I was planning, but they managed to get on that plane and off to Korea by the skin of their teeth!

Lessons learned…

1. Get your dependents passports stamped with the SOFA entry/re-entry stamps BEFORE they leave commercial out of Japan. For us, when they get back I will take their passports to the passenger terminal here on Kadena AB and they will get their stamps. They just need a copy of your orders and military ID and that’s it. The stamp is good for the length of your tour, so once they get it, they can come and go all they want.

2. Military travelers don’t have this problem. We fly on our orders or leave forms and military IDs when we travel in/out of Japan, so that is way easy. I even saw this while we were going though our issue at the check-in counter, with plenty of young military guys on leave flying over to Korea to have some fun.

Finally, I have to give props to JinAir for making it happen. I know my wife would have been PISSED (at me of course) if she missed that flight, since her family made plans for her to be there that day. I also do want to state that my writing tone of these events may come off as way snarky, but I was completely cool, calm, and courteous the whole time, and I am sure that made them more willing to help us out. Plus I think having an adorable baby making all the ladies there swoon had something to do with it as well.

Here is link to more info on the SOFA entry/re-entry process and where you can get it at different bases on the island. I also have the link to JinAir, since they are way cheap for flying to Korea and other Asian destinations.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Here at last!

Well we made it! We have been here about a month now and are finally getting settled in. I have some free time now to get you all caught up what we have been doing so far and what we have learned. I have free time because the wife took off with our daughter to South Korea so her family can meet her for the first time! So, with that said I am going to mash up a Part 4, in which I will document our major events so far. So on to Part 4!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

We Are Okinawa Bound!

Hello all! This is going to be a multi-part series on mine and my family’s journey to Okinawa, Japan. But first, a little background on this situation and why I am even bothering with all this…

I am currently active-duty military in the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and I am an enlisted Senior Non-commissioned Officer (SNCO). I am aiming this series to the readers that understood what I just said and I apologize ahead of time to anyone outside that demographic that may get lost in the USAF lingo I will be using. I will also be taking a instructional tone throughout my writings, with the hopes it will help guide some of my USAF members reading this on their own moves to Okinawa.

So now comes the ‘why’…Well, firstly I am bored, since the family and I are taking a couple of weeks of Leave at my parent’s house before we head over to Okinawa. Secondly, coupled with being bored, I have a couple of hours to myself before I go to sleep at night, so I thought, “Why not blog some helpful information that might make others’ journeys to Okinawa a little easier and little less stressful”. So I will start from the beginning, the day I found out I was going to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. It will make sense in a minute, so please continue to Part 1 (see menu on top right)