It Takes a Village

Though landscaping will continue for another month, the inside of the Village Center is ready to go, and students and researchers have already moved in. Only a year ago, the ground where it stands was a gravel parking lot overlooking the East China Sea, but now it’s home to OIST’s newest members.

The Village Center is a two-building facility offering a total of 72 apartments: 39 one-bedroom apartments of 45 square meters each and 33 two-bedroom apartments of 70 square meters each. The interior design is simple and modern, with calm colors, and all the rooms have stunning views of either hills or sea.

All OIST students will live on campus for their first year, and the Village Office will provide general support and assistance, a valuable service considering that most of them are new to Okinawa, if not Japan. The Health Center will give residents medical advice and basic health care, the Fitness Gym will offer a full range of exercise machines, and the Community Kitchen will feature a full range of ovens and appliances so that residents can build community through cooking and eating together. There is also a Residents’ Lounge and a large Meeting Room, and each apartment comes with trunk rooms in the basement for big, cumbersome items like bicycles, suitcases, and sports gear.

Big news on campus is that Jimmy’s will be the OIST Village Center shop.  Founded in Okinawa in 1956, Jimmy’s is an American-style bakery that also offers a deli, imported food, and housekeeping goods. For the residents of Onna Village and surrounding areas, the shop will be another reason to climb the OIST hill, and for students, having access to English-labeled products like laundry detergent will be very helpful.

The growth of the OIST campus has been truly amazing, but according to Vice President for Buildings and Facility Management John Dickison, the most surprising aspect of the Village’s development is how it was accomplished. The Okinawa Scientists Village Co. Ltd. is the official name of the consortium of 5 Okinawan and mainland Japanese companies entrusted with building the Campus Village and operating it for the next 30 years. According to Mr. Dickison, such public-private partnerships are rare in Japan.

And there is still more to come. Twenty-two faculty houses will be complete by December, and by April of next year, another housing facility called the West Court will stand in the currently empty space between the Village Center and the car park. With a first-class view of Tancha Bay and the sea, it will comprise 36 units of two- and three-bedroom family apartments built around a central garden area perfect for children. Then the East Court and South Hill buildings will be built to provide more family apartments and one-bedroom apartments for students, bringing the total to 200 living units by about 2015.

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