After securing an apartment in Japan and settling in, you may be curious how things will be from here on out. When it comes to paying bills in Japan, it can be really difficult for you, or really hard. Here’s a guide to help you learn how to pay for your own utilities!
When I had finally gotten my apartment, I was so excited to finally be living in Tokyo! I was told to fill out some forms for utilities and then everything would be carefree. I was celebrating everyday going out to izakaya with my friends and taking advantage of the nomihodai all around. But soon, I was faced with an unwelcome visitor in the mail:
I was hoping this moment would never come, but I guess it had to happen one of these days. Needless to say, it took me a while to figure out how to pay utilities, but it was super easy once I learned. Hopefully this guide will help you, too.
1. You’ll get a notice from the utility company before your bill arrives
Before I even got my bill, I got a little notice like the one below:
The left is for water, the right is for electricity and gas. I got confused because there was no way to pay for these, but, if you read Japanese, you’ll see that it says they cannot collect payment from these. These are just notices for a future bill.Just a quick note. If your bill is very small, like my gas bill in this photo (the bottom right), they will tell you to rollover the payment to the next bill, normally if its below ¥1,000.
2. The Actual bills will come later
The timing for each bill is different, but they normally arrive roughly one week after the notice is sent. They look like the ones below:
Tokyo Water and Electricity Bill
These come with extra attached pages that you actually use for payment. In order to figure out what the deadline is for your bill, look for the Kanji: 期限 (pronounced “Kigen,” meaning “deadline”). Below are closeups
of the deadlines on the bills:
Deadline for Tokyo Water Bill
Deadline for Tokyo Electricity Bill
For the water bill, I had about 10 days to pay. For electricity, there was about a month. Be sure to pay your bill on time.
3. Pay your utility bill before the due date
You want to keep water and electricity coming to your house, right? Then you have to pay your utilities! Lucky for you, there are a number of easy and convenient way to pay your bills.
Where to Pay for Utilities in Tokyo
1. Pay by automatic bank transfer
When you sign up for utilities, you have an option to give your bank information for automatic bank transfer. Though the companies try to lure you into bank transfer with a ¥50 discount every month, but this option is the easiest, because it happens without you having to do anything. On top of that, since you get a week in advance notice of what you have to pay, you can ensure you have enough in your bank account. Keep in mind, though, that it takes over a month to set up automatic transfer, so you’ll probably have to pay the first month on your own. When your automatic bank transfer request is processed, you’ll get a postcard in the mail that looks like this:
You can see that this is completed, because it says 手続き完了(“tetsudzuki kanryou,” where “tetsudzuki” means “process,” and “kanryou” means “completion”). On this card on the left side, at the bottom of the second box, it tells you when the first withdrawal will be, in this case December 10th.
2. Pay your utilities bill at a convenience store
Japanese convenience stores are really convenient. You can make Amazon payments, copy and print, and of course pay bills. To pay at a convenience store, all you have to do is make sure you have enough cash, bring your bill to the front counter, and hand it to the staff member. Heck, while you’re at a convenience store, you may as well get a mountain dew and pay for it at the same time. The process of paying your bills is the exact same process as buying a drink. If you look at the example bills above, you can see the stamp that the convenience store used to show that my payment has been processed.
3. Pay your utilities at the local utilities branch
You can go to the actual building to pay for your utilities with cash, but honestly why would you do that? Bank transfer is instant, and there are more convenience stores than coffee shops in Seattle. If you want to do this, you have to find the address of the local branch and walk there. Where I was living, I had to walk past maybe four convenience stores to get to the closest utilities branch, so I just went to convenience stores instead.
Need to get to your local utilities branch, but can’t understand maps? Read our guide to understanding Japanese addresses