When you first arrive in Misawa, you may be startled and discouraged by many of the prices you see. Produce was the first thing that disheartened me, because I am a watermelon girl for life, and definitely wasn’t used to seeing them for $17. There are several ways to save money in Misawa though, it just takes a little while to figure out all the tricks. Between COLA and shopping smart, you can still easily survive, and even save money while stationed here, no matter what rank you are.
Buy AC units during the winter months
If you PCS in sometime other than June-late August, BUY AN AC IMMEDIATELY IF YOU SEE ONE. Check all the buy and sell pages- there are at least 5 of them. If your home is equipped with AC- you are awesome, and you kind of suck, but you can ignore this. But if you do not have AC in your home, I highly recommend buying one during the cold season.
During the winter you can find AC units for as cheap as $40-$50. If you try to purchase one in the melty months of summer, you might be paying $500-$600 per unit. Two units are allowed to be on at one time on base. Pro tip: We own three but ONLY ever run two at a time. The base is very strict on this- those things suck energy like mad. But this way we are able to have an AC unit in each kiddo’s room upstairs for sleeping at night, and one downstairs for during the day. We only ever run two at once, but this keeps us from having to move them up and down the stairs. It can be miserable with kids if you do not have an AC during the hottest months, so make sure you plan ahead.
Also… dehumidifiers are your best friend, and will also be WAY cheaper during the winter months. You won’t even realize how humid it is here until your hair starts moving towards the stars and black mold starts appearing in your bathroom like your kid splattered paint on the wall. I highly recommend keeping your bathroom fog fans running 24/7. We have left ours on since we moved in, and I have seen no mold yet.
Daiso has small dehumidifier bags that you can purchase, and DampRid works very well for closets. (I linked the ones I buy from Amazon below, they are my affiliate links.) I use these hanging ones for my closets, and put the buckets in my cabinets behind towels or food where my kids can’t reach them.
Take advantage of the thrift store-
IF YOU ARE E4 & BELOW, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THEIR PROGRAMS!
For E4 and below, when you first arrive in Misawa, you are eligible to receive $50 of free merchandise during the first 90 days after your arrival. Make sure to bring your ID and a copy of your orders if you’d like to sign up for this. You will also receive $25 for free to spend each month in the thrift store at these ranks. I buy ALL my kids’ clothes and toys here, then donate them back when I’m done with them! This was a total lifesaver too while we were waiting on our home goods shipment to arrive.
Join and use the Misawa Free Stuff page
Seriously, people give so much stuff away here. This is also an awesome way to get rid of anything you need rid of quickly! When people PCS out, they often leave boxes of cleaning supplies, toiletries, spices, and canned food outside of their houses and will post about it on this page. If you are just coming in, and are still in TLF, this is an awesome way to get some basic items like shampoo, spices, cleaning supplies, or soups for the waiting period until you get assigned to your house and purchase a vehicle.
If you are getting rid of something decent or still functional, post it on the page! Even if you just drop it on your curb- somebody may want it, and I hate seeing how often things go straight to the dump. Almost everything I have placed on my curb and posted about on this page was rehomed to another family vs going to the landfill. Win-win.
Research the Japan Explorer Pass
I will leave this very up in the air with that term “research,” because there is a lot of controversy on whether or not service members are allowed to use this. Basically, this is a discount flight booking website for traveling to lots of places in Japan, including Tokyo. Offered through Japan airlines, it is used to encourage the exploration of Japan, and to encourage the spending of money along the way, of course. To my understanding, JAL has initiated it in order to encourage tourism and commerce within the country.
Flights can be as little as $99 for round-trip, which is often less than half of the price of same flight if purchased from a regular commercial site. Lots of my friends have successfully used it, and state that their orders serve as their “return ticket.” I won’t tell you to do it or not, but I will say to read up on it! Either way, family that visit from the states are DEFINITELY 100% allowed to use this, and it saves a TON on the flight from Tokyo to Misawa, and the flight back.
Take advantage of the rotator
(Also called: the hop / the Patriot Express)
I have yet to do this, so I really don’t have a ton of information on the exact process here at Misawa, but realize that you are often able to travel Space A on the rotator when it returns to Seattle. The regular price for that international flight can be crazy expensive, especially if you have several in your family, making it hard to afford a return trip to the states. If you are willing to gamble on whether or not you will get a seat for all your family members, or if you have super flexible dates on travel, you can save thousands by “hopping” on this flight. Do be aware that there are different categories of who gets preference on seats, and that there are no “lap children” when it comes to this flight. If you have 6 infants traveling with you, you’ll need 6 seats. (I hope you don’t have 6 infants traveling with you. If you do, God bless.)
Take advantage of the exchange rate
Especially on larger purchases, you can very easily save/make money using the exchange rate. Pay attention to the rate each day.
The exchange rate for USD to yen is the best at Sky Plaza, directly outside of base. There is a small little machine that you insert your money into, and it converts it for you. The exchange rate will always be better off base.
Become a club member
Especially if you are enlisted, and especially if you are a lower rank, club membership is CHEAP. The club puts on a free dinner once every month, always on a Wednesday. As a family of four, we probably save a total of $30-40 each month on that dinner alone. Eating out as a family is expensive, and if you have kids it’s totally worth it to be a club member. Membership also gets you various discounts on other meals. We only pay around $4 a month for our membership, and just make sure to go to the dinner every single month! The membership fee will be based on your rank, so it may differ slightly based on that. Download the Member Planet app, and you always have your membership card on you!
There are soooo many ways to save money or shop better while overseas. Not having a Target in your back yard is pretty heartbreaking, yes. But I will also desperately miss Daiso when I return to the states. Here are a few shopping tips that I’ve found helpful:
Sign up for Amazon Japan-
Having Prime for Amazon Japan is WAY cheaper than in the states, and it will deliver to your front door on base. We choose to pay for both our American Amazon Prime as well as our Amazon Japan Prime. Prime for Japan only costs around $3.50/month (400 yen) and you will get a discount on top of that if you choose to buy a year in full.
Make sure you use Google Chrome and choose to translate it automatically while shopping. If you do this AND set your settings to English, it’s pretty easy to shop. Some items tend to be outrageously priced, but most are just like you would find on the American Amazon. I have ordered shelf hardware, earpros for the kids, and even a computer charger from there. Overnight or next day shipping to my door, even on base. Totally worth it for me to not have to go pick it up at the Post Office!
ALSO, most Japanese sites that you shop from will allow you to pay cash on delivery if you choose to. I always try to have exact change if possible, but the post office delivery people do carry change. I have done this a couple times, as Amazon Japan can be kind of weird on accepting credit cards at times. Only ever use Visa, and if you are not using USAA or Navy Federal, you should probably place your order in USD and not in Yen to avoid foreign transaction fees.
Here’s how to enter your address on Amazon Japan: (it’s a little different than how to enter your address for any other Japanese site for shipping it straight to your door. Search Misawa Asks if you have any questions on other sites.)
Misawa Air Base
Click on the banner below to take you to the page for signing up for Amazon Prime in Japan. This is my affiliate link, but also the direct link to the Japanese Amazon site. You can shop easily through their site anytime by typing amazon.jp instead of amazon.com.
Also remember that if you are a student (high school or college) you can get a full 6 months of Prime for free. I searched FOREVER for the page to signup for that, and finally found it. It’s linked below as well!
Check out Daiso and Seria & the “Bunny Store” if you have kids-
Check out both of these stores during the first week you are here. Not only do they have super cute home decor (tons of Farmhouse style stuff, y’all) but they have TONS of household items that are only 100 yen, which equates to around 88-89 cents. I can’t even tell you how many things you can get here for 88 cents that somewhere on base would charge $8-$9 for. And they are almost always amazing quality- the only crummy quality I’ve found is mostly on the small toys, but my toddler is also brutal on his toys.
This is a great place to shop for cheap souvenirs for family or kiddos back home as well. Lots of traditional Japanese things without having to pay a pretty penny.
The biggest and closest Daiso is in the Shimoda Mall on the bottom floor, but there is another decently sized Daiso about 7 minutes from base.
Also, Japanese diapers are AWESOME quality, and usually cheaper than on base. You can find those at the “Bunny Store” along with some super cute baby/kid stuff! Just google a conversion chart to find the correct size for your kiddo. There is a Bunny Store close to base, and also one in the Shimoda Mall as well.
Just copy and paste the bold parts into your GPS search bar, coordinates/pins look weird sometimes but these should take you to the correct places.
Coordinates to Shimoda Mall:
40-1 Nakanotai, Oirase-chō, Kamikita-gun, Aomori-ken 039-2112, Japan
Coordinates to small Daiso by base:
1 Chome-50-2 Midorigaoka, Oirase-chō, Kamikita-gun, Aomori-ken 039-2187, Japan
Coordinates to Seria (Bunny Store is across the street):