One of the first things you’ll need to do after moving into a new apartment is to make sure that the utilities are ready to go.
If you’ve been living in Japan for a while, of course, you’ve already gone through the initial inconveniences of setting up utilities.
But what if there was a way to easily set up utilities or to switch providers all in English and all online? On top of that, what if you could lower your power bill by switching?
For folks just getting started in Japan, let’s first go over the old-school way of getting electricity and gas service.
Starting electricity and gas service are different, but each will usually require a phone call to customer service. If your Japanese is rudimentary, it can be a little inconvenient.
Electricity service, the old-fashioned way
When you move into an apartment, the electricity will be turned off.
Turning on electricity service differs depending on whether your apartment has an analog or digital (smart) meter.
In digital meters, the breaker is built-in and cannot be manually turned on. To start service you need to call your local power company.
If your apartment has an analog meter, turn on the breaker switches in this order: ampere breaker, leakage circuit breaker and finally, circuit breaker for wiring. If you’ve followed these steps and the power still doesn’t come on, you will need to contact your power company to turn on service.
Gas service, the old-fashioned way
To minimize the risk of a leak, gas will always be turned off when you move into an apartment in Japan.
To start service, call your gas company to make an appointment for a technician to come to your home. You will need to be present for the appointment. They will check and activate the gas line. If you can’t speak Japanese, you may want to ask a friend to call for you and to be there on the day.
The conventional way: Inconvenient and requires Japanese
In short, turning on electricity and gas the conventional way is a hassle. You have to make two separate calls and deal with customer service in Japanese over the phone. You also need to be able to speak Japanese to the technician who comes to your home. All of this takes a lot of time and can be really stressful.
If you are brand new to Japan or even if you’re not, why deal with the hassle and language barrier if you don’t have to?
How to switch electricity and gas providers
Did you know that you can also cut your utility bills by not contracting with the traditional electricity and gas providers?
In 2016, the Japanese government deregulated the electricity and gas industries, allowing companies, other than the actual power providers, to sell power to consumers at reduced rates.
There are many electricity and gas service providers you can choose from to get lower rates, but only one that provides full English support – Hinatao Energy.
Hinatao Energy is an electricity and gas service provider that has become the go-to choice for the foreign community in the Kanto region.
No matter your monthly electricity usage, you can cut your electricity bill by switching to Hinatao.
Here’s a comparison of how much you can save, based on data provided by the company.
Up to 120kWh
From 120kWh to 300kWh
|TEPCO Standard S/L||¥19.88 / kWh||¥26.46 / kWh||¥30.57 / kWh|
|Hinatao||¥19.78 / kWh||¥25.29 / kWh||¥27.36 / kWh|
|Source: Hinatao Energy|
If you bundle electricity and gas through Hinatao, single-person households can save about ¥1,000 a year. Multi-person households can save about ¥6,200 per year in energy costs. See a detailed explanation of this calculation here.
It’s really easy to sign up
Hinatao’s website is all in English, as well as all of their customer support.
This means it’s a fantastic choice for anyone who isn’t comfortable calling customer service in Japanese.
To apply, you just have to fill out an online application with a few details: your name and contact info, whether you want to start electricity and/or gas service for the first time or are switching to Hinatao and credit card information.
Next, you’ll get a confirmation email from Hinatao to let you know that they’ve received your application.
It usually takes one to two weeks for applications to be processed.
If your application is approved you’ll receive an email letting you know the service start date.
There’s nothing else you have to do!
No contracts, no sign up fee, no cancellation fees
You don’t have to sign a contract, and there are no sign-up or cancellation fees.
Switching usually requires no additional equipment or construction
In most cases, switching to Hinatao Energy won’t require any additional equipment or construction.
However, if your electricity meter is an analog meter, it will have to be replaced with a digital meter in order for you to switch to Hinatao. As a rule, TEPCO will replace analog meters free of charge; but in some cases, a separate installation fee may be required.
No change in quality of service, no higher risk of power outages
When you switch to Hinatao you will not experience any degradation in the quality of electricity or gas service. There is also no increased risk of power outages.
This is because your electricity will continue to be supplied through TEPCO’s distribution network, and if you choose to bundle gas, it will continue to be delivered through Tokyo Gas’s lines.
Bundle electricity and gas service
With Hinatao you can choose to apply for electricity service only or to bundle electricity and gas service.
If you choose to bundle, you’ll receive just one bill, another way to simplify your life!
The bottom line
The bottom line is that Hinatao is probably the best option out there for foreigners who want a hassle-free, all-English way to start or switch electricity and gas service in Japan.
Here are a few things to keep in mind, though:
Currently, Hinatao only services the Kanto region.
To use Hinatao’s service, the only available payment method is by credit card.To learn more about their service, please visit Hinatao’s official website.
Lead image: iStock/TG23