Utilities + Telecom

Setting up utilities in Japan

Looking to set up your utilities in Japan? Learn about finding a supplier, paying your bills, and reporting outages.

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Updated 15-5-2024

If you’ve just moved to Japan (日本, Nihon/Nippon), sorting out your electricity (電気, denki), gas (ガス, gasu), and water (水道, suido) bills is probably just one task on a huge to-do list. The good news is that setting up Japanese utilities is relatively simple, and you might save some money by shopping around for the best deal.

Read on to find out more about utilities (公共設備, kokyo setsubi) in Japan, including advice on the following topics:

Utilities in Japan

The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI – 経済産業省, Keizai Sangyo Sho) oversees Japan’s energy supply, ensuring that electricity, gas, and water are readily available throughout Japan. When you move into a property, these utilities will likely be connected and ready to transfer into your name.

A couple preparing a meal in their kitchen, all utilities are set up in Japan
Photo: Susumu Yoshioka/Getty Images

Private companies provide electricity and gas, while water is supplied by water bureaus in cities and municipalities.

The Japanese electricity and gas markets have significantly changed in the last decade. Historically, these utilities had been provided by a single supplier in each region, meaning the provider effectively had a monopoly on service and pricing. However, the markets were ‘liberalized’ by the government in 2016 (electricity) and 2017 (gas). This means hundreds of smaller energy companies and retailers now offer household utility services at competitive prices.

Electricity in Japan

Electricity (電気, denki) in Japan is provided at 100V, considerably lower than in Europe and the US. There are two operating frequencies: 50 Hz in the east of Japan and 60 Hz in the west. Many household appliances can work at either frequency, but some exceptions exist. Also, Japanese sockets (コンセント, konsento) usually take two-pin plugs.

Apartments in Japan usually have very small kitchens, so while refrigerators and stoves are commonplace, small apartments won’t usually have a dishwasher or oven.

In small bathroom, one man dries his hair and the other sets the washing machine
Photo: Tayutau/Getty Images

A government report (in Japanese) found air conditioning, lighting, and fridges accounted for around 60% of energy consumption in the summer months. Therefore, the authorities are considering measures to remotely turn down household air conditioning units (エアコン, eakon) to lower energy usage.

Utility suppliers in Japan

Japan has 10 regional electricity suppliers, all belonging to the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC) (電気事業連合会, Denki Jigyo Rengo-kai). These are as follows:

As mentioned, you no longer have to obtain your service from one of the above regional suppliers. Instead, you can shop around to find the best deal from providers in your area.

Can you access green energy?

While Japan’s green energy plans primarily focus on businesses and energy suppliers, a loyalty point scheme is available for consumers who make green choices, such as buying energy-saving appliances or using ride shares. These incentives allow consumers to build up credits that they can redeem when shopping online.

Japan plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions 46% by 2030, making renewables account for around a third of its electricity mix. Also, by 2035, it aims to generate 90% of its power from clean electricity sources such as battery (蓄電池, chiku denchi), solar (太陽光, taiyo ko), and wind (風力, furyoku).

Can you install solar panels in Japan?

From April 2025, all new homes and buildings in Tokyo (東京) must have rooftop solar panels installed. These new rules could affect 23,000 properties built in the city every year.

Therefore, Japan is a leading force in solar panels (太陽光パネル, taiyo-ko paneru). Solar energy will make up at least 14% of the country’s energy supply by 2030.

A man walks up the stairs, behind him the Aikawa Solar Power Plant - green utilities in Japan
Aikawa Solar Power Plant (相川太陽光発電所, Aikawa Taiyo-ko Hatsuden-jo) in Kanagawa (神奈川) (Photo: Hitoshi Yamada/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

The country’s feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme (固定価格買取制度, kotei kakaku kaitori seido) accounts for most household solar panel installations. This initiative makes it mandatory for power companies to buy electricity generated by solar panels. However, installation costs have been rising, and criticism has been leveled at the government for not setting FITs high enough to encourage more people to pay for panels.

Connecting and disconnecting electricity

When you move to a Japanese home, the electricity supply might not be connected. Theoretically, the supply can be activated immediately on the day you move in. However, shopping around and signing up with a supplier in advance can be helpful. Aim to set up a contract with your chosen supplier at least a week before you move in to lower the chances of interruptions in service.

TEPCO says that to turn your electricity on, you should follow these steps:

  • Find your panel board
  • Push the ampere breaker (アンペアブレーカー, ampea bureka), leakage circuit breaker (漏電ブレーカー, roden bureka) and no-fuse circuit breakers (安全ブレーカー, anzen bureka) to the ‘on’ position
  • See if the supply starts
  • If it doesn’t, you should contact the electricity provider to arrange for an engineer to visit the property

To close an electricity account, you’ll need to contact your provider with your customer number and the date you want the supply to end. You should take a meter reading when you move out for your own records, but the supplier will also send someone to record the final consumption numbers.

Can you change utility suppliers in Japan?

Switching suppliers in Japan is relatively easy, but check your contract first to ensure you won’t need to pay early termination fees (違約金, iyaku kin). Electricity contracts usually last for one year, though other options are available.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Incorporated (TEPCO) logo is displayed outside the company's headquarters
Headquarters of TEPCO, Tokyo (Photo: Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)

To switch, contact an alternative supplier directly, providing your contract and identification numbers from your current bill. Your new provider will then take care of transferring your contract. Switching can take a couple of weeks if you need a new smart meter. If not, it could be concluded within a week.

The main benefit of changing suppliers is to save on your monthly bills. With so many retailers in Japan now offering electricity contracts, you can find one that suits your specific circumstances. The quality of your electricity supply won’t be affected by changing providers.

Utility costs and tariffs in Japan

Electricity bills (電気代, denki dai) comprise two main components: a basic charge (基本料金, kihon ryokin), which is payable regardless of how much energy you use, and a pay-as-you-go charge (従量料金, juryo ryokin), which is based on your actual usage.

The basic charge will vary depending on the ampere capacity you choose for your home. Options range from 10A to 60A. Pay-as-you-go tariffs can be flat or staggered (e.g., one rate for the first 120 KwH per month, followed by a different rate for the next 180 KwH).

You can usually set up an automatic payment (i.e., direct debit) to pay your bills monthly. Alternatively, you can pay by card, bank transfer, or at a convenience store.

It is difficult to provide a typical example of a Japanese energy bill as costs have become volatile, with suppliers increasing their prices in response to the global energy crisis. For instance, in May 2023, the Japanese government allowed seven major electricity companies to raise tariffs between 14% and 42%.

How do you report electrical faults?

If you have a power outage (停電, teiden), you should first check whether it is limited to your home or is a local issue, following the guidelines set by your supplier. Next, contact either your power company or the supplier in charge of the local grid. You should be able to report an outage 24 hours a day.

The contact numbers for some of the biggest suppliers are as follows.

Making a complaint about an electricity company

If you wish to complain about your electricity provider, you should contact the provider directly to resolve the issue. If this is unsuccessful, the Organization for Cross-regional Coordination of Transmission Operators (OCCTO) (電力広域的運営推進機関, Denryoku Koiki-teki Un-ei Suishin Kikan) provides a dispute resolution service.

Gas in Japan

In Japan, people mainly use utility of gas (ガス, gasu) to heat water in kitchens and bathrooms in Japan. Some kitchen stoves also operate using gas. Most properties have a gas supply, except for a few homes exclusively powered by electricity.

Closeup of a chef's hands cutting food, pot in foreground on a gas stove
Photo: bee32/Getty Images

The Japan Gas Association (日本ガス協会, Nihon Gasu Kyokai) oversees the supply of city gas

Two types are used in Japan, city gas (都市ガス, toshi gasu) and propane gas (LPG) (プロパンガス, puropan gasu). City gas is provided via underground pipes that connect directly to homes. LPG is transported via tanks and is used in more remote areas that don’t have a city gas network. City gas is usually cheaper for households as it is provided to properties at a much higher density.

Who are the utility suppliers in Japan?

As with electricity, the gas market is open to large and small energy companies. Some companies offer joint electricity and gas contracts, which may work out cheaper.

The 10 traditional regional gas companies are listed below, but you can find a complete list of registered suppliers by area on the Japan Gas Association’s website.

Connecting and disconnecting gas

If you’re moving home, you’ll usually need to set up a gas contract. First, arrange an appointment with your chosen supplier. This can generally be set up online or over the phone. You’ll need to provide your name, phone number, the address, and the date you’re moving in.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanks stand at a terminal in Takaishi City, Osaka, Japan
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) (液化天然ガス, ekika tennen gasu) tanks at a terminal in Takaishi City (高石市), Osaka (大阪), Japan (Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

During the appointment, an engineer will check the current gas system and meter and connect your supply. You’ll also be informed of any important gas safety information. If you don’t speak Japanese (日本語, Nihon go), you might wish to arrange for a native speaker to attend the appointment, as the engineer may not speak English.

You must inform your supplier if you plan to move out of a property. Most suppliers allow you to do this over the phone or online. You’ll need to provide your customer number and the date you want your contract to end.

Can you switch to another utility supplier in Japan?

As with electricity, you can switch by contacting your new supplier and providing it with your customer number, meter reading, name, and address. Switching may enable you to save money by getting a more tailored deal or bundling your electricity and gas contracts together, but it won’t affect the quality of your gas service.

Utility costs and tariffs in Japan

Your gas bill (ガス代, gasu dai) will include your customer number, which you’ll need to quote when contacting your provider. The statement comprises two main elements:

  • The basic charge (基本料金, kihon ryokin) set at a standard monthly amount
  • The metered or ‘consumption’ rate (従量料金, juryo ryokin) is calculated based on your actual usage

How do you report gas faults?

If you can smell gas, report it to your region’s emergency gas leak reporting line. Lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Below is a list of regional providers, where you can find more information on the steps you should take in instances of leaks and outages.

Making a complaint about a gas company in Japan

If you’re unsatisfied with the service provided by your gas company, the first step is to follow its complaints procedure. You should be able to raise a complaint over the phone or in writing using the contact details specified in your contract.

Water supply in Japan

Japan’s water supply (水道, suido) is provided at the city, municipal, or prefectural level via your local water bureau (水道局, Suido Kyoku).

Who are the utility suppliers in Japan?

There are many regional and local water suppliers in Japan, and the bureaus providing water for its biggest cities are as follows:

Connecting and disconnecting water

Your water supply should be connected already when you move in. If nothing happens when you turn on the tap, check your main switch is in the ‘on’ position.

Children in bath, baby has bubble bath on their head
Photo: Arrow/Getty Images

While there shouldn’t be an interruption in water supply between a change of homeowners, signing up for a contract with a supplier can still be helpful before moving in. To do this, contact the provider online or over the phone and open an account by providing your name, address, and billing details.

When moving out of a property, you should inform the water bureau at least one week in advance, providing your customer number and the date you want to cancel the contract.

Can you change utility suppliers in Japan?

As your local water bureau provides the water in Japan, switching to a different supplier is impossible.

Utility costs and tariffs in Japan

Your water supplier will usually check your meter every two months and provide a water and sewerage bill containing your customer and water service numbers. You can pay it automatically via direct debit, bank transfer, or at a convenience store.

Water bills are split into two types of charges:

  • Water: Consists of two elements – a basic charge determined by the diameter of your meter, and a pay-as-you-go charge based on your actual usage
  • Sewerage: A set amount depending on your water consumption

The cost of water in Japan can vary depending on the service available and population density, so if you move to a different prefecture, your rates could go up or down.

How do you report water leaks or faults?

If you have a water outage, you should contact your water bureau. However, if you suspect a leak (e.g., the figures on your water meter are changing without consumption), you may need to have it investigated by an approved plumber (配管工, haikan ko) at your own cost. The water bureau will only fix a leak if it’s on the roadside of your water meter. You can also read the Tokyo Bureau of Waterworks‘ (東京都水道局, Tokyo-To Suido Kyoku) tips on what to do.

Making a complaint about a water company in Japan

If you’re unhappy with your water company in Japan, the first step is to contact your bureau via its customer service department. This can usually be done over the phone or in writing. You can find contact details on your water contract.