Base Survival Guide Series: MCAS Iwakuni

Base Survival Guide Series: MCAS Iwakuni



This Base Survival Guide on MCAS Iwakuni is brought to you by April Elliott and my friend Cheryl McHenry. April has been a Marine Corps spouse for 12 years. Her husband has been active duty for their whole marriage and they have two kids, a daughter Peyton and a son, Easton. They've been stationed in Japan for five years now. They love to explore and adventure while they're overseas! Cheryl is also a Marine Corps spouse and has a little boy. Cheryl and her family were stationed at Iwakuni for 3 years.



What's the weather like at this base?

This base is mainland Japan so we have all four seasons. It mirrors North Carolina and South Carolina weather. The summers are HOT, and in the winters we see an inch or two of snow. But, the fall and springtime here are magical.



What's your favorite time of year there?

Spring and fall! The cherry blossoms in the spring and the Japanese maples in the fall are gorgeous.


What's your favorite thing about living at this duty station? 

This base is very small and welcoming. The friendships you will make will carry you the rest of your life. There's something to say about friends becoming family when family isn't around. I also love the travel! Travel is so cheap from Fukuoka and Osaka. We have visited 5 countries since being stationed out here and that's even while going through covid on this base.



What's your least favorite thing about living at this duty station?

The fact that the healthcare is so limited.


Is there anything you wish you knew about this duty station before your PCS there?

I wish I would have known to bring dehumidifiers for the house. The summers get so hot you have to watch for mold. Also, we only have a small clinic on base so make sure to understand that before coming. The clinic can't handle big medical issues. We are shipped outside base or out to other bases for more serious issues.


Here are some PCS resources to check out:

PCS to Iwakuni Information (Checklists, DMO and Housing links):

The best place to go for official base updates: The official MCAS Iwakuni Facebook page

AMC: Follow AMC page for flight updates:

Email: for questions.

Visit the AMC Travel page: and AMC Pet Travel page

Flights back to the states can be expensive. There’s hardly any shopping. Keep in mind that Japanese clothes run small.


What amenities are on base? And what are they like? For example: Is the commissary large or small? Well stocked? Pool on base? Parks? How many? Etc.

Our MCX is huge and is getting better about being stocked. It's still lacking but it's not bad compared to some places. The commissary is normal size, but shipping and keeping things in stock is a major issue. I get most of my produce off base and we have a Costco about 45 mins away. There's an indoor and outdoor pool and lots of parks. (Off base has the best parks in the world... just look up Japanese playgrounds) The base is great about having events on base from MCCS to the USO. With having a small base I do think events with a set number sale out quickly. The base has DODEA schools, and they love it.


What tips or hacks would you give a  military spouse who just PCSed to that base?

Plug in! Find your tribe and go travel. I know driving off base seems scary, but the quicker you do it the faster you can get around and the more you can do! Off base is so safe, amazing, and the people are so kind. Download Google Maps and Google translate, I use it everyday!


Do you live on or off base? What is/was your experience like?

We live on base but in Atago Hills. There's base housing on base, but also Atago Hills which is about a ten minute drive from base. It's still considered base housing though. We love the neighborhood up here. The kids play outside all day and there are lots of green spaces for the kids to play on the hills. Main base doesn't have this option as much.


What are your favorite hang out spots on base? Why?

We love: the movie theater, outdoor pool, USO, and parks.


Did you do a DITY move or military move?

Military move, it's the only option with living overseas.


Are there any base specific traditions that take place? What is the culture like?

There are a lot of Japanese events that they celebrate on base.



Are there any base FB pages, bloggers, or accounts/websites people should follow for the base or area?



For travel inspiration: Iwakuni Travels My Blog on traveling Japan with kids courtesy of April Danielle Elliott.

Food, travel and events for Iwakuni area: Iwakuni Foodie Visit ITT (Information, Tours & Travel, Bldg 410) on base for trip ideas and assistance with booking here


City of Iwakuni Website. Find the monthly newsletter (English version) for various events happening in the city!

Base radio station: AFN Iwakuni

For MCCS Events and Happenings around base: MCCS Iwakuni and MCCS Iwakuni – Marine & Family

To Buy/sell cars, furniture, toys, etc: MCAS Iwakuni Classifieds and information

For all things pets: Iwakuni Veterinary Treatment Facility and Iwakuni Pets

For medical updates, specialist information (ex: podiatry, derm, ENT), labor & delivery updates and more: Naval Family Branch Clinic Iwakuni

Spouse Pages: @Iwakuni Spouses and Spouses Of Iwakuni Community Page

To see examples of on-base housing and decorating ideas: Iwakuni Home Design and Decorating

Cultural events, language, and cooking classes: Japanese American Society Iwakuni 日米協会岩国

You don't need kids or a stroller to be part of this running club: Stroller Warriors® Iwakuni

If you're on the babysitter hunt: Iwakuni Babysitters Info.

Volunteer opportunities and need-based financial assistance for eligible Marines, Sailors, and their family members: Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Iwakuni

Volunteer opportunities, events, special guests and more: USO Iwakuni

Volunteer opportunities, CPR classes, babysitting courses, etc: MCAS Iwakuni American Red Cross

A fantastic translation service for anything you might need help with (reservations, yochiens, planning trips, etc): Explore Translation ーエクスプロア・トランスレーション

Living in Japan: Cultural Awareness and Tips here.

You can find out how to enroll with Tricare Prime Overseas here.

You can join this Facebook page for USMC PCS Pacific Region support.

Military One Source has a great PCS resource here.


Information, Referral, and Relocation (Building 411, 1st floor): Visit this website to learn more about Welcome Aboard, PCS workshops, sponsorship training, lending locker kitchenware kit, and more! You can also email them here:

New Parent Support (Building 411, 2nd floor) has play groups, toys you can borrow while waiting for your HHG, and many other valuable resources for parents! You can find more information here

Cultural Adaptation (Building 411, 1st floor) for cultural trips and classes you can find more information here.

Library (Building 411, 3rd floor): here you can find books, activity kits for kids, language resources, free book swap...A great resource anytime, but especially after a PCS!

Outdoor Recreation (attached to the Main gym by the seawall) has many items you can check out (paddle boards, kayaks, camping gear, single/double BOB stroller, etc)

 are a FREE club, open to ALL spouses aboard MCAS Iwakuni! They are a nonprofit organization devoted to philanthropic efforts that directly give back to MCAS Iwakuni’s community, with a foundation of inclusivity for all spouses. In addition to fostering friendship and connection among members, the ISC provides scholarships and grants for continuing education for students, spouses, and entrepreneurs, as well as supporting community projects aboard MCAS Iwakuni.



What is your favorite coffee shop there? Why? What is your favorite order?

18th Store, Imm Coffee, Yu cafe, and Marifu.


What are your favorite spots for date night?

Rush and anything downtown Iwakuni.



What are your favorite restaurants? What is your go to order?

We love Devis, Kembys, 18th Store, any ramen place, the BLT place right outside the main gate, Green spice has the best taco rice, can’t go wrong with any of the Indian restaurants, and of course the infamous Cocos Curry.


Are there any fun things to do in the area or close to base like amusements parks etc?

We love the bridge area, Miyajima, Hiroshima, and all the fun new adventures. You can check out my blog here, I have over 400 places we have visited so far!



What are some of the things you would put on a bucket list for other military spouses coming to that base?

Go explore! I will attach a 101 bucket list to post! Kintai bridge, Hiroshima bombing Site and Museum, Miyajima, Tokyo, and the beaches near base. Okinawa is a short flight away too and their beaches are beautiful!


Are there any cities you recommend for weekend getaways? Why? What did you do there?

Go see all the different cities in Japan. Jump on the bullet train and have a great time! Ages 6 and under are free on trains and bullet trains. It's half price for kids ages 11 and under.


Best places or activities for kids? Why?

The bridge has so much: the bridge, river, 100 ice cream flavors, fountain to play in, castle, ropeway, and playgrounds.


Any local festivals/traditions held for the holidays in that area?

There are so many holidays they celebrate that I can't list them all! Here are the big ones: New Years, Sakura (cherry season), Children's Day, Summer Obon, and Fall Festivals.

Local Recommendations:


We have OB care on base.



On base.


Primary Care Doctor

On base.



On Base (its free) and Iwakuni Dental.



 On base. Unless you get shipped off to another base or Tokyo.



On base.


Dog Parks

We have two on base.



Two on main base one in Atago.


Kids Tutor/Babysitter

If you're on the babysitter hunt: Iwakuni Babysitters Info. on Facebook is a great place to start looking.



Off base there is lots of Yochien options and they even have buses that come and get the kids.



There are four DoDEA schools that are located at MCAS Iwakuni: Matthew C. Perry Primary School Pre (K-2nd), Iwakuni Intermediate Intermediate School (3rd-5th), Iwakuni Middle School (6th - 8th) and Matthew C. Perry High School (9th-12th).



April Elliott



They have so many good bakeries! Japanese cakes are honestly the best cakes I’ve ever had!


Grocery Stores

Maxvalu, commissary.


Ball Dress Shop

Online will be your best bet


Shops + Boutiques

H&M in Hiroshima and Daiso


Overall I would rate this base at a... (1-10, 1 being the worst and 10 being the best)

April: 10/10

Cheryl: 7/10



If you'd like to learn more, have any questions or just want to follow their journey's you can find April over at her blog here and her Facebook here and Cheryl on Instagram here!


Photo Slideshow Iwakuni


You can also get a PDF version of this guide here!

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