Skip to content

[wpaudio url=”https://www.btbpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Electricity-Bills.mp3″ text=”Click to listen”]

As we all know, electricity charges have always been high in Japan, and since the Fukushima disaster, they have gone up even more.

The reason that charges are so high is that utility companies like TEPCO have a monopoly over both production and supply. The government is supposed to monitor them, but because of amakudari, this system does not function properly. This means that the utility companies can do whatever they like and charge however much they want.

Last month, my electricity bill was around 15,000 yen. That is quite expensive, but I work full-time and I have no family, so there is no one in my house most of the day. I only really use electricity in the morning and in the evening.

Of course, many people, especially old people and those with young children, need to use electricity all the time, and I was wondering how much those people have to pay every month.

This week, I would like to know (if you don’t mind telling me!) how much average families pay for electricity in the winter months and what strategies people have for keeping electricity bills down. I would also like to know whether you think electricity is too expensive in Japan.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

このブログは英語学習者のためのものです。レベルの高い人もいれば、初心者もいますので、自分のレベルや学習経験を気にする必要はありません。「いつもコメントを書いている人は仲間みたいだから参加しにくい」と思う方もいるかもしれませんが、勇気を出してコメントを書いてみてください。必ず温かく迎えてもらえます。多くのコメントは英語で書かれていますが、もちろん日本語もOKですし、英語と日本語を混ぜて書いても大丈夫です。言いたいことが言えないときは、How do you say 「〜」in English? と聞けば、きっとだれかが教えてくれると思います。私のエントリー、または他のメンバーのコメントの中に分からないところがあったら、「”…”はどういう意味ですか?」と遠慮なく聞いてください。このブログで使われているフレーズや表現をたくさん吸収すると、より自然な英語に近づけることができますよ!

コメントを投稿するときは、名前とメールアドレス、メールアドレス欄下に表示される4文字の英数字(CAPCHA code)を入れてください。 最初のコメントは承認後の公開になりますが、2回目からはそのまま投稿できます。

※メールアドレスは公開されません。

※CAPCHA codeは時間切れになることがあります。コード右上の矢印で更新してから入力してください。

※ブログの更新のお知らせはFacebookまたはTwitterで!Facebookでは「いいね!(Like)」ボタンを、Twitterでは「フォローする(Follow)」ボタンを押して下さい。

20 Comments

  1. YU on Tuesday January 14th, 2014 at 05:17 PM

    Hi everyone,

    I’ll comment on this week’s topic later, but anyway, last month, our family’s electricity bill was around 15,000yen, too. I’m not doing anything for keeping electricity bills down, but a friend of mine told me that she had a special contract with TEPCO. Apparently, it is something like she can save electricity during the nighttime and use it in the daytime the next day. She can save money because power is cheaper in the night. I also hear many people changed their contracts with TEPCO after Fukushima disaster. I mean, for example, my family can use power up to 40A at once because that is our contract with them, but if you don’t use so much power, you can lower it to 30A, 20A, then your basic rate will be reduced, I heard.

    Hi Kattie,

    > UK landlord’s can ask for an employer’s reference but most long term tenants (outside the major cities) tend to be unemployed – because, as I said before, most British people will try and buy a house as soon as they possibly can.

    I’m not absolutely sure what you mean here. Do you mean most British people will try and buy a house as soon as they’re employed? If so, in Japan things are not that easy. If you want to buy a house in Japan and you’re unemployed, I don’t think there’s other way than you pay the total in cash. Even if you’re employed, I don’t think you can get a housing loan before you work in the same firm for certain years or unless you prove you have a regular income over the last several years.

    > How are unemployed people in Japan housed?

    I don’t think it’s very easy for unemployed people to rent a house/room in Japan. Of course, if you already rent a room and have some savings or get an unemployment allowance, you can keep living there, but anyway, I don’t think landlords easily contract to lend you a house/room when you’re unemployed. It is said that they tend to choose tenants who work for big companies or who have steady jobs like public servants or bankers when there are more than one applicants for occupancy.

    Hi Biwa,

    > We’re already paying high taxes, I think!

    I know exactly what you mean, but I’ve never heard that other countries pay school lunch fees. Or is it normal school lunch fees are gratis in other countries?
    Anyway, I wonder why parents who say No2.(=They’ve never asked schools to provide their children school lunches, so they don’t need/want to pay the fees.) don’t let their children bring their lunches with them because they should know their children have classes in the afternoon too.



  2. Kattie on Tuesday January 14th, 2014 at 10:27 PM

    Hi David and everyone,

    I think 15000 yen is about £87 per month. I don’t know how big your house is so I’m not sure how comparable it is to the UK. Gas and electric prices have gone up A LOT here in recent years. Almost everyone in the UK has gas central heating, we tend to use gas and electricity for cooking and electricity for lighting etc.

    In the winter, Tom and I spend up to £150 per month on fuel, the costs go down a lot in the summer but we still have some heating costs – I think our average is about £100 per month. We live in a 4 bedroom, 2 storey house, Tom often works from home and we have a lot of visitors, so we’re probably a bit more than average but it’s very expensive!

    HI Yu,

    > I’m not absolutely sure what you mean here. Do you mean most British people will try and buy a house as soon as they’re employed?
    I’m sorry, what I said sounds confusing! What I meant was that most employed people will try and buy a house as soon as they are able to, it’s seen as important to get on the property ladder as soon as possible because house prices keep rising. This means that most long term tenants are likely to be unemployed (especially in the more affordable areas) and their rent is paid by the government. In the past, these people would often have lived in houses which were owned and controlled by local councils but legislation in the 1980s meant that a lot these houses were sold off privately, so the unemployed are now often housed by private landlords. I don’t think this is a good system so I wondered how/where long-term unemployed people live in Japan.



  3. YU on Wednesday January 15th, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    Hi Kattie,

    > it’s seen as important to get on the property ladder as soon as possible because house prices keep rising. This means that most long term tenants are likely to be unemployed (especially in the more affordable areas) and their rent is paid by the government.

    I see.
    You explained us before that the older houses get the more valuable and expensive they become in the UK. It’s totally opposite in our housing market, but I guess you mean that in the UK, if you get your first house as soon as you possibly can, it will almost certainly gain in value later, that means, if you kept doing this process over and over in your life, your house always gets better and valuable(=you become richer and richer) every time you sell your old house and get a new one. That’s why most British people will try and buy a house as soon as they are able to. Consequently, most long term tenants are likely to be unemployed(=They’re often likely to be those who can’t afford to buy a house in their lives).
    I hope I got you right this time!

    > I don’t think this is a good system so I wondered how/where long-term unemployed people
    live in Japan.

    Japan has a social security net for unemployed and the socially weak such as single parent families or the handicapped, so you can live on it and you might be able to rent a house even from private landlords if it is considered to be a kind of regular income by them, but I’m not sure about it. Like it was the case in the UK in the past, I think they are often offered public(low-income)housing at a very low rent or free, I’ve never heard those housing are run by private landlords in Japan, though… In reality, however, there’re many homeless people in Japan, too. I think every homeless had a different reason, but unfortunately, it is said that in Japan, once you have lost a house(address), it gets difficult to be employed again.
    Anyway, I don’t think the system should lead them lazy, but I think we feel safe when it is with us.



  4. YU on Wednesday January 15th, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    Hi David and everyone,

    > This means that the utility companies can do whatever they like and charge however much they want.

    Exactly.
    I learned how TEPCO decide their electricity charges(the selling prices to us) last year.
    Apparently, it is by a very tricky system called 総括原価方式 which was fixed by vested interest groups long time ago.

    To put it briefly,

    1. Companies in competitive market’s case ;

    selling price – cost = profit

    2. TEPCO’s case(=Companies in monopoly market);

    selling price = cost + profit

    That means, TEPCO’s profit is always guaranteed by the burden on us unless this system is abolished. As you might guess, many interest groups put up strong opposition to the change.



  5. Biwa on Wednesday January 15th, 2014 at 02:11 PM

    Hi David and everyone,

    My electricity bill last month was around 13,000yen. Last summer, we got a new air conditioner and a refrigerator for the first time in 19 years. Do you remember we discussed “Still going strong?” The discussion made me think seriously about getting modern, energy efficient ones, and I finally did. As you said, I’m quite surprised to see how much the bills went down. I compared the December bill for 2012 and 2013, and found out that I have saved almost 10,000yen! Isn’t that amazing?!! Even in the summer, I saved about 3,000yen per month. We had an especially hot summer last year, and I used the air conditioner much more than I usually would, so I never thought I would ever “save” money.

    Anyway, I work at home, and the air conditioner is always on during the winter, but my apartment is quite small, so I’m not really sure if I use a lot of electricity or not.
    I really hate that I have to buy electricity from TEPCO. Why are they still gaining profit after all that mess? It is said that we’re having more choices in 2016 or so. I hope we can buy less expensive electricity from other companies.

    Hi YU,

    >but I’ve never heard that other countries pay school lunch fees. Or is it normal school lunch fees are gratis in other countries?

    Yes, you’re right. I don’t know about other countries, but in the US (or should I say in San Francisco because I don’t really know about other states or cities), we could either bring our own lunch or eat in the school cafeteria. I ususally brought my own but if you wanted to eat in the cafeteria, you would just pay some money at the entrance. I vaguely remember it was fifty cents (=two quarters) or something, and some of my friends paid only one quarter. I wondered why there was a difference and asked my father, and learned that the lunch fee differed depending on the parents’ income. He said that some people had completely free meals. That made me understand why some children were having two meals (breakfast and lunch) in the cafeteria.



  6. YU on Wednesday January 15th, 2014 at 08:47 PM

    Hi Biwa,

    That’s interesting, but I wonder if they don’t worry about what other students(like you) think of them when they pay less. I don’t mean to meddle in matters of school lunches in other countries, but I personally find it a bit open and vicious. I don’t really think the system will be accepted in Japan.

    > It is said that we’re having more choices in 2016 or so.

    I heard so too, and I heard the reforms will surely produce side effects too. Actually, I still only half believe the announcement, though! If you’re interested, here is the article talking about the possible merits and demerits.

    http://www.nhk.or.jp/kaisetsu-blog/100/151277.html



  7. Kattie on Wednesday January 15th, 2014 at 11:16 PM

    Hi Biwa and Yu,

    >Or is it normal school lunch fees are gratis in other countries.

    In state schools (ie not private schools), children who come from low income or unemployed families are entitled to free school meals. How you pay/claim the meals differs from school to school but I think the best method is where parents pre-pay online for meals, that way no-one need know whether your parents have paid or not. Research shows that the take up rates for free meals is higher where schools use this method. Schools are increasingly keen for all eligible children to apply for free meals because the government now give a pupil premium to the school for each child who receives this benefit, so I’m sure they will try to do everything they can to encourage these parents to apply.



  8. Fumie on Wednesday January 15th, 2014 at 11:59 PM

    Hi David and everyone,

    In our house, only electricity has been installed not gas.オール電化 Our monthly bill for electricity is around 15000 yen too. Our house is 2 storied and there are 4 rooms and 1 living, dining and kitchen. And there are 5 people in our family. During summer, we use air-conditioners and electric fans and in Winter we use kerosene stove and electric heaters. In our case, mid summer bills get higher because we can’t live without air-conditioners. I try to save energies and remind my children not to waste enegies. For example, when we are not using something, turn it off or set something on minimum temperature.

    Hi Biwa,

    >I compared the December bill for 2012 and 2013, and found out that I have saved almost 10,000yen! Isn’t that amazing?!!
    Yes, that’s amazing! We bought a new washing machine because the older one was broke down and bills of water got down a lot.



  9. Anne on Thursday January 16th, 2014 at 08:34 AM

    Hi David and everyone,

    In our house, we use electricity and gas. Last month’s electricity bill was 12000. We live in a 2 storied house and an old tradition Japanese style one. There are two people in the house, my husband and I. Since he retired, both of us mostly stay home. The temperature in one room this morning was 6 degree! In the winter, we usually don’t use air-conditioners for heating, but use fan heaters (gas and kerosene) and Kotatsu( it’s electric.) I love Kotatsu!

    In the summer, we use air-conditioners, so the cost is up.

    I think fuel bill is a bit higher than the average when we put together gas and electricity.
    I assume one of the reasons for that is I sometimes use an electricity dryer since we installed it in the bathroom. Maybe I should not depend on it too much and be electricity wise to cut down the amount.

    I’m going on a trip to Hagi and Tsuwano, using a twilight express from today and be back on Saturday.



  10. YU on Thursday January 16th, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    Hi Fumie,

    > Our house is 2 storied and there are 4 rooms and 1 living, dining and kitchen

    My house has exactly the same house layout as yours, but you must do your best to keep your electricity bills down because your house is all-electrified, that means, you cook and heat a bath with electricity too. Besides, there’re only three people in my family. We use gas too and pay for it about 10,000 yen a month in winter!

    Well, my son and I stay home almost 24 hours. we use the air-conditioner and air cleaner with a humidifier all day long to prevent him from catching cold…even so, our electricity bills are too high!

    Hi Kattie and Biwa,

    I’m not familier with how parents pay school lunch fees today. I remember that students used to hand them over directly to schools(teachers) when I was a child.

    > children who come from low income or unemployed families are entitled to free school meals.

    I think it’s more or less the same here, but what I find weird is that some parents say that they don’t want to pay because education through junior high is compulsory in Japan. Remind you, they are not unemployed or low-income. I agree with them that education is compulsory, but I wonder if that also means meals are free. I personally find their theory absurd. I read an article saying that some schools and teachers pay school lunch fees instead of those parents feeling sorry for their children because children are not to be blamed at all.
    I think everyone can have different opinions and has right to protest against the government, but still, I can’t accept their way of not to pay the fees.

    Hi Anne,

    I hope you’ll have a great time there.
    I wish you a safe journey!



  11. Anne on Thursday January 16th, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    correction:
    “an old tradition Japanese style one” should be “an old traditional Japanese style one.”

    By the way, in the spring and autumn, the average bill for electricity is under 10,000.

    Hi Yu,
    Thanks.
    Actually, using night train is my husband’s choice. He is a kind of “鉄男” and is interested in going on a local train and started travelling Japan using 青春一八切符”(very reasonable price!) since he retired last spring.



  12. Biwa on Thursday January 16th, 2014 at 07:33 PM

    Hi Kattie and YU,

    >I think the best method is where parents pre-pay online for meals, that way no-one need know whether your parents have paid or not.

    I think so, too. Sorry, my story was based on a very vague memory and also, I was only a child, so I don’t really know what the system was like. Maybe my friend had lunch at the cafeteria once in a while so she paid on the spot. And even after I had learned why there was a difference, it never affected our relationship. Those things don’t really matter, especially to children.

    >I read an article saying that some schools and teachers pay school lunch fees instead of those parents feeling sorry for their children because children are not to be blamed at all.

    Really? I wonder if those shameless parents ever come to school and meet the teachers.
    Anyway, lunch fee is about 5,000 yen/month, and it’s automatically deducted from your account at the post office. I don’t know if we have free meals for children from low-income families.

    Hi YU,

    Back to the main topic, thank you for the link.
    Yes, it’s always said that if we don’t restart nuclear power generation, it will cost a lot, the economy will go down and Abenomics will fail. The current government is so good at making people believe that theory, but I wonder if it is really impossible for us to shift to safer and cleaner power generation. Of course, we have to be ready for even higher electricity bills, but I think we need to think about things in a longer term. They haven’t decided yet where to throw away the nuclear watse. It really scares me to think about starting something where there is no idea of the cleaning-up afterwards.

    Hi Fumie,

    >Yes, that’s amazing!

    Well, I guess we were just stupid enough to keep wasting that much money! LOL!
    Did you get a ドラム式? We have that type, and it really saves water.

    Hi Anne,

    Have a nice trip! Look forward to hearing your stories♪♪♪



  13. YU on Thursday January 16th, 2014 at 08:07 PM

    Hi Biwa,

    May I ask you some questions?

    The husband of a very close friend of mine from my English club will be transferred to the branch office of his company in the USA(Kentucky) in February. She’ll go there with him taking their three children(1,3,6 y.o.), but she’s very worrying about her children’s education, especially she’s worrying about if they will be able to catch up with Japanese school’s levels after they return. They’re planning to send them to 日本人補習校, but as you know, it’s opened only on Saturdays, so of course, the number of the classes is much fewer.

    You told us that you went to school in the US, so I’m wondering if you could catch up with your Japanese classmates without any trouble after you returned.(I know you’re very smart, though!) Did you go to 日本人補習校? Did your parents do anything special for you like bringing some teaching materials from Japan?
    How do you think about bringing school textbooks and teacher’s guide from Japan?

    By the way, her English is beginner’s level, and she told me that her husband’s English isn’t very good either(He’s an engineer and he manages to speak English only in his field), so actually I’m very worrying about her because my brother told me that some mothers and children of his Japanese co-workers when he worked in the US couldn’t adjust to new surroundings and went back to Japan leaving her husband behind finally.



  14. Fumie on Thursday January 16th, 2014 at 11:15 PM

    Hi YU,

    >My house has exactly the same house layout as yours, but you must do your best to keep your electricity bills down because your house is all-electrified, that means, you cook and heat a bath with electricity too.
    – Thank you. I try to do my best. Our electricity bills are from around 15000yen to 22000yen depends on month.
    Coincidentally, a man from Kanden visited today and gave me advice(how to reduce electricity bill and CO2 emission.) As Biwa said, buying new, energy efficient appliances save a lot.

    Hi Biwa,

    >Did you get a ドラム式? Yes we did. I usually don’t buy new ones unless they break down but as for electrical appliances, we should get new ones when they get old.

    Hi Anne,

    Have a nice trip! Looking forward to hearing your story!



  15. amo on Friday January 17th, 2014 at 12:09 AM

    Hi David,

    After reading this week topic, I have been looking for the bill of the last month but I can’t find it. I usually don’t check utilities so I really don’t know how they cost us. I found some old bills and they are around 8000yen, but last summer was very hot so it was over 11000yen. Like you, we(my sisters and I) work weekdays so we usually don’t use it daytime.

    > I would also like to know whether you think electricity is too expensive in Japan.

    I have no idea, because I don’t know about the situations in other countries.

    Hi Anne,

    Have fun with your husband 😉

    Good night and sleep tight,

    amo



  16. Biwa on Friday January 17th, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    Hi YU,

    >Did you go to 日本人補習校? Did your parents do anything special for you like bringing some teaching materials from Japan?

    Yes, I did used to go to 補習校on Saturdays. However, I hated it because we had tons of homework! I don’t think my parents did anything special, but I remember we had some books of Japanese old stories.(日本昔話) Stories like “Once upon a time the was a…” I read them again and again, and I still remember the pictures. I think learning those basic things- things that a child living in Japan would naturally learn at that age- would help more than bringing textbooks!

    I wouldn’t worry too much about catching up after returning because they’re going to speak Japanese at home. In my case, I returned after three and a half years, and entered elementary school from the second semester in third grade.(3年の2学期から日本の学校に入学しました。) At first, my grades were terrible (all Cs!) because I hadn’t yet learned the multiplication table, Chinese characters or many other things. But as long as you understand Japanese, you can listen to the teacher, make friends, so I think it’s just a matter of time to catch up. You know, what we learn in elementary school is not that complicated, and around that age, children don’t learn things just at school.

    I don’t know anything about Kentucky, but hearing that they have a 補習校, there must be quite a few Japanese people living there. If there is a Japanese community, I think it will help the family a lot at first. Especially when you have small children, you need lots of information about good schools/kindergarten, doctors, dentists, etc.

    Anyway, I think the children will soon get used to their new lives. And I think your friend will, too, because she has children, and that makes it easier for her to join in the local community. My mother didn’t speak English at first, either, so I don’t think that would be a big problem. I would recommend her to get a driver’s lisense though! If she doesn’t drive, she would have to depend on her husband with everything, and that would be very inconvenient and keep her stay indoors.

    >so actually I’m very worrying about her because my brother told me that some mothers and children of his Japanese co-workers when he worked in the US couldn’t adjust to new surroundings and went back to Japan leaving her husband behind finally.

    There are bound to be happenings at first because they’re going to live in a different country, but I think there is nothing better than a family living together! I’m sure they will build(?) a stronger bond than ever!



  17. YU on Friday January 17th, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    Hi Fumie,

    > As Biwa said, buying new, energy efficient appliances save a lot.

    Large appliances we use now are all new(0-4 years old) except the fridge because we bought all of them when we built a house three years ago. Even the fridge is still 6 years old. We didn’t buy a new fridge because it was still quite new at the time.

    I think my family is simply careless with saving electricity! My husband is very sensitive to the cold, so he sleeps in the こたつ like a cat, turns on the electric carpet and stuff like that all the time… I need to talk with him first!

    Hi Biwa,

    > Anyway, lunch fee is about 5,000 yen/month, and it’s automatically deducted from your account at the post office.

    I see. I guess parents who refuse to pay simply don’t put money into their accounts before lunch fees are deducted.

    > I don’t know if we have free meals for children from low-income families.

    It seems that the system differes from city to city, but as a rule, low-income familes can receive financial aid to have their children go to school including exemption from lunch fees, which is called「就学援助」.
    By the way, the fact that parents like you don’t know if there’s such a helpful system for low-income families is nice, the system seems to work well because that means, those parents and their children don’t need to feel small.



  18. YU on Friday January 17th, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    Hi Biwa,

    Thank you for your advice!

    She told me that she would leave Japan soon at the beginning of December. It seemed to be a really sudden transfer. Actually her husband’s co-worker was supposed to go, but it was cancelled for unavoidable reasons.

    My friend is especially worrying about her 6 year old daughter. She is a bit nervous. She had troubles to get along with others, so she was asked to go to a special school to learn things like that before she entered kindergarten, but anyway, as you say, “Things we fear are often not so hard to deal with after all”, I just hope that everything will go well with her family!

    By the way, she drives. She told me that they need to buy two cars, one is for her husband’s commute and the other is for her everyday use, but the problem is cars are very expensive there. Is it really so? She said, “Even used cars usually cost over 150万円 in the US. We don’t want to spend so much money because we’ll come back to Japan in a few years.” I know they don’t have 軽自動車, but I wonder why cars are so expensive there!



  19. Biwa on Friday January 17th, 2014 at 03:55 PM

    >We don’t want to spend so much money because we’ll come back to Japan in a few years.

    Well, I think it’s worth spending! Otherwise, she’ll have to spend all day at home taking care of her little children (1 and 3 years old), and it might make her feel very isolated. She can even sell the car when she comes back to Japan, can’t she?

    Hi Kattie,

    Sorry, I’m a bit late to ask you this, but what is a “pupil premium?” You said that schools receive that according to the number of the pupils(parents) who apply for free meals.



  20. Biwa on Friday January 17th, 2014 at 03:56 PM

    Sorry, the first half of my comment above is to YU!