Jun 29, 2017
In the research for this post about monthly spending on utilities in Japan we tried to find an appropriate translation for the term "utilities". We couldn't find one. It seems that Japan likes to adopt a policy of 'divide and pay' in this regard although there is some grouping going on (this is Japan, after all) - 光熱 / kōnetsu refers to light and heat, 水道 / suidō, water supply. These can be broken down further into electricity (電気代 / denki dai / electricity charges) gas (ガス代 / gas dai / gas charges) and water (上下水道料 / jōgesuidō ryō / water and sewage charges).
Getting straight to the point, a good source of all things 'stats' in Japan is "e-Stat, a portal site for Japanese Government Statistics". Here we can find statistics concerning household expenditure in Japan compiled from surveys conducted by / under the instruction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. Looking at the results of the survey, "Average of Monthly Receipts and Disbursements per Household (Workers' Households of Two-or-more-person Households" (Phew!!) we can see what people in Japan have been getting charged for electricity, gas and water. We look at 2016 and, for comparison, 2006. (All utility costs in this piece are listed in Japanese Yen.)
|Utility||2016 (yen /month)||2006 (yen / month)|
|Water / sewage||5,328||5,123|
|Other light / fuel||823||1,823|
*NB - these surveys have a sample size of 9,000 households nationwide
The above statistics then are for households the inhabitants of which are working. Presumably this means they are out of the house / apartment for most daylight hours. As a basic calculation we could perhaps just divide the monthly utilities listed above to come out with a crude estimation of what a solo expat in Japan might expect to be spending.
Crude estimation of monthly spending on utilities in Japan for one person
|Utility||Monthly charge (yen)|
|Water / sewage||2,664|
|Other light / fuel||412|
To be honest, this is looking a little expensive to us, particularly when we consider that most expats in Japan are probably living in relatively small spaces. More on this later.
Who supplies electricity in Japan?
Good question. Until early 2016 electricity was supplied across Japan at regional levels by 10 suppliers. As an example, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) was the sole supplier for the Tokyo area. Deregulation of the market in April 2016 opened up the competition dramatically with some 266 firms having registered to be suppliers prior to the market opening. Such availability of choice sparked a bit of a price war with incentives offered by suppliers to households that were willing to switch.
Obviously an expat in Japan (or a prospective one) probably hasn't come all this way to get bogged down in who it is that's supplying the most competitive rates. And nor do we intend to here.
TEPCO still remain a big hitter in the field despite well documented troubles since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in March 2011. They also make for a potentially useful resource in trying to get a gauge on how much our monthly electricity bills will cost in Japan. They have a page here (in English) which explains the rates. We'd attempt to offer a summary but you'd have to have a degree in electrical engineering to make sense of it. Anyway, feel free to have a look for yourselves.
Who supplies gas in Japan?
The gas industry in Japan was similarly opened up to the market in April 2017. Until this time gas supply to Japan's cities had been controlled by but three suppliers - Tokyo Gas, Osaka Gas and Toho Gas. From April firms outside of this triumvirate have been allowed to set foot in the market, renting gas pipelines to funnel their own supply into the nation's homes. Price cuts in the ensuing scramble for pieces of the market have gone up to 10 % in some cases.
You can find a breakdown (in English) of gas rates supplied by Tokyo Gas on their homepage. It looks something like this:
|Rate A||Rate B||Rate C||Rate D||Rate E||Rate F|
|0 - 20||21 - 80||81 - 200||201 - 500||501 - 800||801 +|
|0 - 224||235 - 895||906 - 2237||2249 - 5593||5605 - 8949||8961 +|
*NB - We converted the '㎥' into 'kWh' for those who are more familiar with this form of gas unit
On the same page Tokyo Gas also detail the average charges for gas for households (presumably in the Tokyo area) over March and April of 2017:
According to Tokyo Gas the average volume of household gas consumption is 32 cubic meters per month (based on the average monthly consumption over a five year period).
A note on the gas supply in Japan
There are two forms of gas supply in Japan - "Toshi" gas (都市ガス) and LP gas (LPガス - liquid propane gas). "Toshi" takes its name from "city" because this is the from of supply used in urban areas, that which comes from gas pipes. LP gas is used primarily in urban areas where homes and apartment complexes might not have a hook up to gas pipelines. Such homes are easy to spot as they have gas canisters secured to the outside facing walls. If your place in Japan is supplied with LP gas you don't need to worry about hauling canisters into place yourself, this will be done by the supplier.
Some new apartment complexes in Japan have ditched gas as a form of energy supply altogether, having gone completely electric.
Who supplies the water in Japan?
Unlike gas and electricity the water supply in Japan is controlled at a prefectural level. As an example, in Tokyo the water is controlled (doesn't seem like the right word) by the Bureau of Waterworks Tokyo Metropolitan Government. We list the monthly water service charges in the tables below (if they mean anything to you, which they don't to this expat).
|Supply pipe diameter (mm)||Service charge (yen)|
Commodity charges ㎥ bracket (top) /yen per ㎥ (bottom) (13 mm - 25 mm pipes)
Commodity charges ㎥ bracket (top) /yen per ㎥ (bottom) (30 mm - 40 mm pipes)
|1 - 100||101 - 200||201 - 1000||1001+|
Commodity charges for 50 mm - 75 mm pipes are 213 yen / ㎥ for the bracket of 1 - 1000 ㎥ and 404 yen / ㎥ beyond that. For 100 mm - 300 mm + pipes it's a flat rate of 404 ㎥.
Sewage service charges per month
|Sewage volume (㎥ bracket)||Rates / ㎥|
|0 - 8||560 flat|
|9 - 20||110|
|21 - 30||140|
|31 - 50||170|
|51 - 100||200|
|101 - 200||230|
|201 - 500||270|
|501 - 1000||310|
How you are billed for water / sewage services in Japan might vary from prefecture to prefecture. Where we are it alternates each month between "water" and "sewage". How are these terms defined? "Water" is that which comes from above (quite literally in Japan - 上水道 / jousuidou - the '上' meaning above / up). So this means water from taps and shower heads e.t.c. "Sewage" then is that which pours from below - 下水道 / gesuidou - the '下' meaning below / down. For this expat, there is little difference in cost between these charges.
How much did this expat pay in utilities last month?
If we might be allowed to add a personal flavor to this, we (meaning this expat) will add our own utility costs. First of all to say that there are two of us in an apartment the size of which I don't actually know other than to say it is made up of three rooms, is fairly sizeable for just two people and is on the corner of the building and so has lots of windows.
Utilities in for the last month in Japan
|Water / sewage||1,404|
Japanese friends of ours are continually surprised at how little we pay in utilities (not that it's a regular topic of conversation you understand). Friends who are a couple living in a similar space pay around 5,000 yen a month in electricity which during winter can reach 10,000 yen. For us, the peak winter (January - February) electricity bill is around 5,000 yen. Gas goes up a little too as that's where the hot water for the shower comes from (gas boilers are the most common form of water heating in Japan). To be honest, we don't make a particularly conscious effort to save on energy, it's just the way we live. The partner puts a lot of it down to the fact that this expat can't stand the regular lighting used in Japanese homes. You know, the ones that make spaces feel like a dental clinic or operating theater. So it is that we use more warmly lit (meaning dimmer) lamps and bulbs. It should also be noted that neither of us is particularly keen on air conditioning. In winter we use small 4-bar electric heaters and during summer the air con only gets used when we're on the verge of drowning in the humidity. Also in summer, I like my showers cold.
At these kind of costs there seems to us little point in getting tied up with the paper work of changing utility suppliers here in Japan. There are "bundles" to be hand though. For example, mobile provider SoftBank last year announced a partnership with TEPCO in which those who signed up for its mobile phone or broadband services we be able to get discounts on their electricity. Something to be on the look out for then, if you're looking to cut your utility costs.
How much are you spending on your monthly utilities in Japan? How are you cutting your bills down, if at all? Let us know in the comments.
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my bills are way higher than these listed.
Er, we have LP gas here, and it's quite expensive. The base fare alone is 2,376 yen per month. The total monthly charge is over 6,000 yen in winter months when usage gets over 5 cubic meters.