Japanese electricity

Volts

Japan use a different voltage than the US and Europe. Japan uses 100V while the US uses 110V-120V. Most of Europe uses 220V. To see if you need a converter, look at the label on your electrical appliance. If your appliance is 110V-120V, for instance, it isn't rated to run on Japanese power.

Often, appliances will run fine even when underpowered, so many people run 110V appliances on Japan's 100V. But as some ALTs have discovered, this can destroy your appliances. So, if you have expensive appliances, maybe you should buy a converter.

Choosing a converter

volts * amps = watts

You need a "step-down converter". When selecting a converter, look at the wattage rating. The wattage rating is the maximum amount of power the converter can output. To see your appliance's wattage, read the label.

Buy a continuous use converter. Limited use converters, which are smaller and cheaper, will break if you use them for too long. Continuous use converters will have it written on the box, while limited use converters won't say anything about it.

Buy a converter before you leave because they are difficult to find in Japan. See [1]. Or, order one later.

Some voltage converters use electricity whenever they are on. This is expensive, so be careful.

Hertz

The US uses 60 hertz, and much of Europe uses 50 hertz, but Japan uses 50 and 60 hertz. Tokyo is the splitting ground. The western and southern parts of Japan use 60 hertz, while the northern and eastern parts use 50 hertz. Tokyo has both. Hertz matters for some uncommon electronics with small internal motors, like old analog clocks. Most of us don't care about hertz.

Plug size

Japan's standard wall socket uses a two-prong plug. So, Americans will only need a socket adapter if you want to use a plug that has the third prong. You can buy these adapters at hardware stores in Japan.

Surge protectors

A standard US surge protector might not work properly in Japan. Read the label. If it isn't rated for Japanese power, plug it into the voltage converter.

Electrical costs

Electrical costs in Japan are fairly complex, but understanding them might help you save some money. The company servicing Tohoku (and therefore Akita) is Tohoku Electric Power Co., Inc., so this will focus on how they do things.

One important thing to understand is that your bill is subdivided into several components, and the cost of each component will depend largely on your service plan. There are many plans listed on the Tohoku Electric Power website. Unfortunately, the Tohoku Electric Power English homepage does not have much information, so if you can't read Japanese you may have to ask someone who can in order to understand the various plans, though basic information will be included here. Plans vary in various ways, such as differences in max amperes, or including benefits such as reduced costs for electricity used at night, or reduced costs for electricity used during snowfall months (though in this case, the reduced cost is typically to offset the increased electricity usage of snow melting devices, such as heating to clear roofs and/or driveways of snow. Snowfall months will be something like from the beginning of December until the end of March). There are also some plans that make electricity more expensive during peak electric use hours during summer and/or winter, but cheaper during other periods, to encourage people to use less electricity during those peak hours. There may be other types of plans as well, but these are some main examples.

The first component of a plan is 基本料金, or the basic monthly fee, which is set according to plan and will not change month to month unless the plan changes (though if you use no electricity for an entire billing period the basic monthly fee will be halved). This is the only component that is consistent every month. The rest will be billed according to your usage (or according to the amount of your bill in yen in the case of consumption tax).

The second component is 電力量料金, which is your electrical cost per kWh, or kilowatt-hour. This is most often charged in a tiered system. Tiers and their costs vary by plan, but a common tier example consisting of three tiers is: 1段料金, or tier 1, is up to 120 kWh in one billing period and will cost a certain amount, 2段料金, or tier 2, is 121-300 kWh and will cost more, and then 3段料金, or tier 3, is any kWh after 300 during one billing period and will cost the most. For such a plan, the cost of any kWh used after 300 will add up to an expensive bill very quickly. For plans that charge differently during the night (夜間) or during snowfall months (降雪期間), these periods are charged independently of the tier system. Night costs are typically roughly half of the tier 1 cost, and snowfall month costs seem to be less than a yen more than tier 1, but do not increase in price no matter how many kWh are used during those months.

Electrical cost per kWh is adjusted based on 燃料費調整単価, or fuel cost adjustment fee. Basically, your bill will be adjusted by this adjustment fee per kWh based on the fluctuation of fuel prices, averaged over a period of three months. So for example, if oil/coal etc. are cheap, then producing electricity is cheaper as a result, and the fuel cost adjustment fee will be negative, thereby making your bill cheaper. If these fuels used to produce electricity are expensive, then the adjustment fee will be positive and make your bill more expensive.

The next component is 再生可能エネルギー発電促進賦課金, or renewable energy promotion fee. Electrical suppliers in Japan must buy a certain amount of renewable energy during a certain time frame, and the renewable energy promotion fee is used to facilitate this. Again, this is an amount charged per kWh.

Finally, 消費税等相当額, or consumption tax, is charged based on the total amount in yen calculated according to all previous components.

External links

See also