August 1st will mark one year since we stepped off a plane at Yokota Air Base and started our new life in Japan. We had a lot of decisions to make, and we've learned more about how to have a successful PCS move and transition. A couple of you have asked how things are going - specifically, how we feel about our choice to live in the Ikego Housing Detachment - so I'd like to update you. It's hard to believe our first year (of three) is already over!
So... how to begin? Let's go over what Ikego offers and how the main base - Yokosuka - compares. I'll also add my $0.02 about how things in Ikego have worked out for us.
Commissary/NEX: Ikego does NOT have a commissary, but we do have a small mini-mart (NEX) that sells some fresh produce (very little, and overpriced), books, magazines, kids' toys, office supplies, liquor, non-perishable and staple foods (bread, milk, cheese, eggs), toiletries, DVDs, a few home goods, and auto/home maintenance supplies. You'll find the large commissary and NEX stores in Yokosuka.
While sometimes it's inconvenient to drive to Yokosuka for groceries, I usually meal plan and only go once a week. If I was needing to go every day, that might be more annoying. I also try to get some produce and meat from the Yorkmart down the road. It's just a few blocks from our front gate, has a parking garage, and has a nice selection of foods (along with a clothing store and 100 yen shop - I think I have a blog post about it too). Lots of people do their grocery shopping in the local economy, but the commissary is my main source for groceries. The simple fact is that it's easier to go there with two small children, than out in town with carts that don't hold kids, Japanese written on products, and cramped aisles. I can get in and out more quickly on the base.
Salon: We have a small salon (two chairs) located right beside the mini-mart, and Yokosuka has a much larger salon. However, I REALLY like ours. The ladies in there are really nice and, unlike Yokosuka's salon, will allow me to bring my two children as long as they are occupied (an iPad usually does the trick).
Pool: Ikego does have a pool, though Yokosuka has two. Ours is much smaller, but does have a couple of slides and a kiddie pool. Some people love the pool here and I think it depends a lot on whether or not you have kids, and how old they are. I don't think the pool is that great. The kiddie pool is maybe 1-2 feet deep, but other than that, there is no other shallow area for kids besides a ramp going into the big pool. The big pool's "shallow" end is 5 feet deep - I can barely stand up there! (I'm 5'3") The big Yokosuka pool has a much bigger kiddie pool and though I haven't gone there, I know a lot of people who prefer it.
Library: Ikego does not have a public library. You'll HAVE to go to the main base for that. However, if you have kids - school-age or not - you can ask the Ikego Elementary School librarian to let you check out books. The school library is probably 4 times bigger than the children's section at the main library. You just need to give the librarian your contact information and she'll let you check out 5 books. We just end up driving to the main base anyway because 5 books is not nearly enough for my kids. But recently, the librarians from the main library started coming out to Ikego on Monday mornings to do story-time for the kids. They also bring books (children and adult) and DVDs that you can check-out and turn-in right there. That's been a great addition to Ikego.
Gas Station: Thankfully, we have a gas station here so I have yet to go to a gas station out in town.
Child Development Center: We have one, but I have heard that it's hard to acquire a spot for your kids. I have never sent my kids there, so I can't tell you what I think about it. One of the complaints I often hear from parents in Ikego is that there is no other option if you can't get your kids into the CDC. Unlike main base, I think there is only one Child Development Home (someone who does childcare in their apartment/townhome) in Ikego. If someone wanted to open another one, I'm sure they'd make a lot of money!
Post Office: We have a post office and if you are even considering living in Ikego, DO NOT get a post office box on main base. Wait until you figure out where you're moving. I know people who got boxes in Yokosuka and then moved to Ikego, and it's such a hassle to get their mail.
Gym: We have a small gym and "the bubble gym." The bubble gym is an indoor (I use that term very loosely) basketball court that is used for LOTS of different things - movie nights, roller derby, youth sports and more. The other gym on base is open 24 hours (I think...) and I NEVER use it. I am not allowed to take my kids into the area with machines, which means I have to stay in the women's locker room with a "kids play area" and a couple of cardio machines. The play area is a padded box on the floor with a tv mounted up on the wall. Not my cup of tea. I have heard rumors that they are going to be building a new gym, but most people who are serious about working out end up using Yokosuka's Purdy gym. You can find information about it online. Oh, and there are some group exercise classes offered here. Check out the MWR website listed below.
MWR/Youth Sports: Despite it being smaller, Ikego actually offers a decent variety of classes for both adults and kids. Visit www.mwryokosuka.wordpress.com and check under "Community Center" for a complete list of classes.
Schools: Ikego Elementary School is the only school in Ikego, and they are in the process of constructing a new elementary school building that should be done for the 2014-2015 school year. Currently, IES only serves K-3, but when the new school is finished, I believe it will serve K-5. I have NEVER heard anything bad about IES. Our school only has about 200 students, compared to Yokosuka's elementary school's (Sullivan's) 2,000 kids. Once your kid is over 3rd grade, they will be bussed to/from Yokosuka for school.
Train Access: Unlike Yokosuka, if you live in Ikego, you have your own train station. That's right, we have a station connected to our gate. Train access couldn't get any easier. This is a huge reason we love Ikego. I have two kids who are too big for strollers, but still get tired on long walks. I drive down to the mini-mart, park my van, and walk across the street to get on the train. If we were living in Yokosuka, we'd have to walk across base (it can be a LONG walk, depending on where your home is located) and then walk about 5 blocks to get to the train.
So, what is my overall opinion on living in Ikego?
I love it here! If you have kids - especially young kids - Ikego is a great place for families. Most people who live here have families just like yours. You won't find a bunch of single sailors here. It is much more wooded and not so industrial-looking as Yokosuka. I have found it much easier to meet other moms and there is a community feeling here that I'm not sure is as apparent in Yokosuka. It's quiet and feels like my very own little gated neighborhood.
I'm not going to lie, there was a short time after we moved here that kinda wished we had waited for a home in Yokosuka (you will probably be offered Ikego as your first housing offer because they are trying to fill it up). A lot of that had to do with the fact that my husband wasn't fond of his commute. It's maybe 20 minutes, but can be a lot longer if traffic is bad. We daydreamed about my husband being able to walk to/from work and pop in for lunch with us. But truthfully, it's probably worked out better that we are here. When he leaves work, he really LEAVES. I think if we were living in Yokosuka, he'd probably go into his office even more than he does now.
In reality, there are pros and cons to both Ikego and Yokosuka. The thing is, no matter where you end up, you might as well try to like it because you don't have much of a choice otherwise. :)
If you have any questions about Ikego or Yokosuka, please feel free to ask!