Electrical Plug/Outlet and Voltage Information for Japan

  • Primary wall outlet type: Type A (JIS C 8303)
     
  • Voltage: 100 volts AC @ 50 -or- 60 Hz
     
  • Laptops, tablets / iPads, smartphones / iPhones, e-readers, digital cameras and other small electronics that run on batteries generally have chargers that are already compatible with 100-240 volts, and therefore usually only require a simple plug adapter. The adapter for this Type A outlet is our item #EA6.
     
  • Generally speaking, most hair dryers, curling irons, hair straighteners / flat irons and other bathroom appliances from the US and Canada will operate on 100 volt Japanese electricity, albeit less effectively (for example, the heating element won't get as hot) but it'll work, and you won't start a fire or anything. You'll need an EA6 adapter to allow the appliance to plug into the Japanese Type A wall outlet.
     
  • Other conventional appliances which are not multi-voltage compatible would require a Japan/US "booster"  transformer (to change the voltage from 100 volts at the outlet to 120 volts at the plug) with a wattage capacity that is sufficient to support the wattage requirement of the appliance.

Wall outlets in Japan (Nippon-koku) are Type A (JIS C 8303) and supply electricity at 100 volts AC / 50 -or- 60 Hz frequency. Chances are you're reading this because you're traveling there from the United States or Canada and are bringing things that will need to be plugged in there. The good news is that it's not nearly as complicated as you may think. In fact, in most cases, it's actually pretty simple. Once you've determined the electrical input requirements of the specific device(s) or appliance(s) you need to plug in abroad, you're already about 90% there. And that's also pretty simple, actually.

 

Voltage and Frequency in Japan

Japanese Voltage and Frequency: A Unique Situation

Japan is the only country on the planet where the electrical systems supply 100 volts of electricity, as opposed to 120 volts in North America and 230 volts in most of the rest of the world. Most North American appliances have a voltage tolerance of roughly +/-10%, though some equipment is more sensitive, and may have a tolerance more along the lines of 5% or even 3%. In any case, 100 volts is slightly outside the range of tolerance of most appliances. How big a deal is it? Well, it depends on the appliance, and how it's being used.

Make no mistake, even a slight undervoltage condition is not at all ideal, and not good for the health of an appliance. But undervoltage is generally considered less serious than overvoltage. You're not going to "fry" your appliance, and it's not going to catch fire or anything. In fact, it'll probably work, though less-effectively, and electronics may "act weird." And over time, undervoltage absolutely will damage and eventually destroy an appliance. That's why US/Japan "booster" transformers exist. Manufacturers wouldn't produce them if there wasn't a need for them.

If you're bringing North American appliances to Japan for an extended stay, or a permanent move, you'll want to use a booster transformer to change the voltage from 100 volts at the outlet to 120 volts at the appliance's plug, the voltage the appliance was built for. And if the appliance is particularly sensitive, or if the appliance "acting weird" is unacceptable (think medical equipment) then you need to make sure it's getting the voltage it requires. On the other hand, if you're just going for let's say a week, and you don't mind if your hair dryer doesn't get quite as hot while you're there, then you probably don't need to worry about it too much.

The electric frequency is different on either side of the Fujigawa River in Shizuoka Prefecture and Itoigawa City in Niigata Prefecture, with 50Hz in the east (Tokyo, Yokohama, Tohoku, Hokkaido) and 60Hz in the west (Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Shikoku, Kyushu.) Does it matter? Again, it depends on the appliance. Some appliances can handle either frequency, and for others it's not really a significant factor. Motors built for 60Hz will rotate more slowly on 50Hz, and will heat up more quickly (and over long periods of time will eventually burn out) and digital clocks and timers won't keep accurate time, they'll "run slow." Don't bother bringing an alarm clock that's not compatible with 50Hz, overnight it'll "lose" more than a full hour! But it's not going to affect your phone, tablet or laptop. And it's probably not going to be a big deal for a hair dryer for 10 minutes or so at a time.

But, again, anything that's going over there for an extended period of time, or permanently, really needs to have the voltage and frequency it was built for. And if it's a particularly sensitive piece of equipment, or something incredibly important like a piece of medical equipment that absolutely must work precisely as it's intended to, it needs to have the correct voltage. Don't chance it, give it 120 volts by way of a US/Japan booster transformer.

 

Japanese Wall Outlet Variance

Now, about those wall outlets

Image 1 (top-left) is a typical US / Canadian wall outlet just like the ones in your home. It's both grounded and polarized.

Grounded refers to the presence of the third, round pin in addition to the two vertical blades. Polarization refers to the left vertical blade being taller than the one on the right.

All US and Canadian wall outlets are required to be both grounded and polarized, but plugs aren't. Some plugs have the round pin while others don't, and some plugs' vertical blades are the same height while others aren't. You're probably used to that. But since the outlets are all grounded and polarized, it doesn't matter what the plug is like. They'll be able to plug into the outlet regardless.

But in Japan, virtually all outlets are non-grounded. Image 2 shows a Japanese outlet which is polarized (the left blade is taller than the right) but not grounded (there's no receptacle for the round grounding pin.) So then, what if your plug has that third, round pin? You can't plug into the non-grounded outlet. Image 3 shows a Japanese outlet that's neither grounded nor polarized. In that case, even if your plug doesn't have the third, round pin, it still can't plug in if the plug's blades aren't the same height. Most Japanese outlets are like image 2, non-grounded but polarized. But non-polarized outlets like image 3 are pretty common, especially in older buildings.

Your phone charger's plug almost certainly has just the two vertical blades, and those two blades are probably exactly the same. In that case, you're good to go, no worries. But your laptop's plug is probably polarized, with the left blade being taller. In that case, you're good to go if the outlet is like image 2, but out of luck if the outlet is like image 3. And your hair dryer's plug probably has the third, round grounding pin. In which case, you're out of luck entirely.

Fortunately, we have plug adapters for that. Our item #EA6 is neither grounded nor polarized, therefore allowing you to plug into any kind of wall outlet you might encounter in any given building in Japan, regardless of what your plug is like.

 

Smartphone Charger

Laptops, tablets / iPads, smartphones / iPhones, digital cameras and other digital-age "techie" electronic devices that run on batteries

These devices generally have chargers that are already compatible with any standard household voltage from 100 volts in Japan, to 240 volts in the UK. Simply check the charger's label and look for something to the effect of "Input: 100-240V"

If your charger says that, then stop right there! Because, guess what, you're done! Yes, it's just that easy.

Since your charger is already compatible with the 100 volt electricity coming from the Japanese wall outlet, the only issue is changing the shape of the plug so that it can actually interface with the outlet. And that can be accomplished with a simple plug adapter. The adapter for a Type A outlet is our item #EA6.

 

Hair Dryer

Hair dryers, curling irons, hair straighteners / flat irons and other bathroom appliances

Technically, US and Canadian hair dryers, curling irons and such aren't really built for 100 volt Japanese electricity, they're built for North American 120 volt electricity, and 100 volts is what's known as an "undervoltage condition."

But it's close enough that the appliance will still work, albeit less-effectively. And, unlike an overvoltage condition (like for example plugging a US or Canadian hair dryer into a 220 volt outlet in Europe) you're not going to "fry" it or start a fire or anything.

It's just not going to work as well as it does at home, because it's being supplied about 17% less power than it's built for. So, for example, the heating element in your hair dryer/curling iron/etc. isn't going to get as hot as you're used to. This is just something you're going to have to deal with, if you decide to bring the appliance with you to Japan. But if you're okay with that, then by all means feel free to bring those appliances with you. You will probably need a plug adapter though, our item #EA6, to ensure that the appliance can plug into the Japanese outlet.

 

CPAP Machine

CPAP and BiPAP Machines

Most newer model CPAP and BiPAP machines are multi-voltage compatible, from 100 volts in Japan to 240 volts in the UK, and therefore only need a simple plug adapter (in this case, for a Type A Japanese outlet, that would be our item #EA6) to change the shape of the plug so that it can interface with the Japanese outlet.

To confirm this for your particular CPAP or BiPAP machine, check the label on its power supply. Most of them use a "brick" type power supply (if you're of a certain age, you may refer to this as an AC adapter) that's a lot like the kind you'd find with a laptop. Check its label and look for something to the effect of "Input: 100-240V"

If your machine's power supply says that, then just attach an adapter to its plug and you're all set!

Older models may be only compatible with a single voltage (for example, "Input: 120V") and if that's the case, then the next question is, is the "brick" power supply detachable? It probably is. If so, then you could just replace that part with one that's multi-voltage compatible. Power supplies like this are converting the AC power coming from the wall outlet to low-voltage direct current (DC) power for use by the appliance. The appliance itself runs on DC. So, for about $20, you could replace just that part with a multi-voltage equivalent. Just make sure it outputs the same DC voltage (usually 5, 12 or 24 volts DC) and amperage / wattage, and that its connector matches the connector on your CPAP or BiPAP machine. Then just attach an EA6 adapter to the new multi-voltage power supply, and you're good to go!

Or, as a last resort, you could use a US/Japan booster transformer. A booster transformer will convert the voltage from 100 volts at the outlet, to 110-120 volts at the plug, so that you can safely use your CPAP or BiPAP machine in Japan. The downside is that voltage transformers can be fairly bulky and heavy. They're not exactly the most convenient things to carry around with you. But hey, if you've got no other choice, a voltage transformer will do the job.

 

Audio/Video Equipment

Consumer Grade Audio/Video Equipment, including Televisions, A/V Receivers, CD/DVD/Blu-Ray Players, Game Consoles, Etc.

The short answer? Don't even bother. It's probably not worth the trouble.

The somewhat longer answer: When it comes to audio/video equipment, the electrical input is probably the least of your worries. Even if you're able to properly supply electricity to the equipment, there are numerous other compatibility issues which need to be addressed. And even if you address them all, you'll probably end up in a situation where the cure is worse than the disease -- hundreds of dollars worth of gadgets and cables scattered all over the place, and conversion after conversion, each of which (assuming they even work) degrading the eventual output to the point of frustration.

The bottom line is that A/V equipment just isn't built to be taken abroad. Even if your television is 100-240V multi-voltage compatible, there are differences in scan rates (30/60/120 frames per second in North America vs. 25/50/110 frames per second in Europe, for example) and broadcast standards (PAL vs. NTSC vs. SECAM) and tuning frequencies and DVD/Blu-Ray region coding, and on and on like that. It's a mess.

You'd need to talk to an A/V expert if you're really REALLY intent on taking your A/V equipment abroad. But even then, the answer will probably be the same: it's just not worth all the trouble. Manufacturers deliberately build these various incompatibilities in specifically so that A/V equipment can't be used outside of the country / region for which it's intended to be bought, sold and used. You could try to fight The Man on this, but The Man is almost certainly going to win.

Now, you might be saying "Okay, but I'm going to be running a completely closed system when I get there. All my equipment is American, and I won't be bringing any signals in from the outside. Just my own DVDs, maybe some internet streaming like Netflix, and stuff from my PC. Shouldn't that be okay?" Maybe, but again, probably not. You could give it a shot with a US/Japan booster transformer, but even then, there will probably be issues. Voltage transformers output "modified sine wave" or "stepped wave" electricity, and A/V equipment can be particularly sensitive to that. The degree to which it degrades the picture/sound output varies depending on the equipment, but it can be a significant problem. And signals from internet streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, PS Vue, Amazon, etc. will be fed to your devices according to the local standards, which will be incompatible with the standards your equipment was built for. Again, it's a mess.

We get it, you want to conquer this thing. The best way to do that? Concede, regroup at Red Lobster, and live to fight another day.

 

Small Kitchen Appliances

Small Kitchen Appliances, including Mixers, Toasters, Coffee Makers, Slow Cookers, Blenders, Food Processors, Microwave Ovens, etc.

For the sake of simplicity, let's just say small kitchen appliances are "never" dual-voltage or multi-voltage. Surely there are a handful of exceptions out there somewhere, but in the US and Canada, there's basically a 100% chance that your kitchen appliances are only compatible with 110-120 volt North American electricity.

But most small kitchen appliances can be safely (albeit less-effectively) used in Japan with a US/Japan booster transformer. A booster transformer takes the 100 volt electricity supplied by the outlet, and changes it to 110-120 volts for use by the appliance. (For a Type A Japanese outlet, you would also need to attach a plug adapter, our item #EA6, to the voltage transformer's plug, so that the transformer can plug into the Japanese outlet.)

You'll need to determine the wattage requirement for your specific appliance. Some things, like hand mixers, require relatively little wattage, while things with heating elements, like coffee makers and toasters, require a much higher amount of wattage. Check the label on the bottom or back of your appliance, where the brand name and model number appear, and locate its electrical specifications. It should look something like "Input: 120V  60Hz  240W" where W indicates the wattage. You'll need a voltage transformer that's capable of supporting that amount of wattage or greater.

Sometimes the label will list amps (A) instead of watts (W) and if that's the case, simply multiply the volts by the amps to get a reasonable approximation of the watts. For example: "Input: 120V  60Hz  2.0A" 120 volts x 2.0 amps = 240 watts.

Want to use a power strip to gain additional outlets and plug multiple appliances into a single transformer? You can do that. But the transformer's wattage rating needs to be greater than the total combined wattage of all the appliances plugged into it at the same time. So for a 500 watt mixer, and a 500 watt blender, the transformer's capacity needs to be greater than 1000 watts. Also, make sure to use a simple power strip, and not a surge protector. Voltage transformers and surge protectors don't play nice together, and in certain rare but possible circumstances, it could create a fire or electrocution hazard.

Voltage transformers can be bulky and heavy, particularly at higher wattages. A 3000 watt transformer can weigh upwards of 35 pounds! So, while you may love that 2000 watt toaster, you'll want to think about whether it's really worth the trouble of plugging it into something that weighs over 30 pounds and is larger than the appliance itself.

Appliances with motors and clocks/timers will be affected by the difference in frequency (60Hz vs. 50Hz) and unfortunately there's just no way around that. Fortunately, in most cases, it's not a very significant issue. A motor will rotate one-sixth more slowly on 50Hz as opposed to 60Hz. So your mixer will run about 17% more slowly, as will your blender or food processor. But that's usually not a big deal, it might just take a little getting used to. A slightly more significant issue might be the timer on your microwave. If you set it for 5 minutes, it's going to actually run for 6 minutes, because the difference in frequency is making the timer count one-sixth more slowly. Again, this can usually be overcome by just getting used to making some mental adjustments when using the appliance. The problem gets more significant the longer the appliance is used at a time. For example, over an 8 hour slow cooker cycle, the timer will be off by more than a full hour!

 

Major Appliances

Major Household Appliances, including Refrigerators, Air Conditioners, Washing Machines, Dishwashers, etc.

Most major appliances with fractional horsepower motors (like a washing machine or dishwasher) or compressors (like a refrigerator or air conditioner) can be safely used abroad with a voltage transformer. However, these kinds of appliances require a special type of voltage transformer known as a "3-tap" or "triple-tap" transformer.

Why? Fractional horsepower motors (FHP motors) and compressors are particularly heat-sensitive to the difference in the frequency (60Hz vs. 50Hz) of the alternating current. For smaller motors like those in small kitchen appliances, it's not a very significant issue. But larger motors, particularly ones that either run non-stop (refrigerators) or that continuously stop-and-start (washing machines) will overheat and burn out in short order if the difference in frequency isn't compensated for. A triple-tap transformer is an effective workaround for that issue.

To avoid overheating these FHP motors and/or compressors, a 60Hz motor should be run at roughly 10% lower voltage when operated on 50Hz frequency. So, for example, a 115V 60Hz motor should be run at roughly 100-105V 50Hz. Normal step-down voltage transformers only output 110-120V, and will therefore allow the frequency difference to overheat and burn out the motor. On the other hand, a triple-tap transformer outputs 100-105V, compensating for the difference in frequency and protecting the motor from overheating and eventual burnout.

Exceptions to this are clothes dryers, stoves/ovens/cooktops, and US and Canadian air conditioners intended to be run on a North American 220-240 volt circuit. You're probably already aware of the fact that clothes dryers and cooking appliances (stoves/ovens) typically plug into different types of outlets to begin with, as opposed to normal household outlets. This is because those appliances run on two-phase circuits. A normal household circuit has one 120 volt phase wire and one neutral wire, whereas a circuit for a clothes dryer or stove/oven has two 120 volt phase wires. This is also different from Europe, the UK and other countries where normal household outlets are 220-240 volts, because in those countries, those circuits consist of a single 220-240 volt phase wire and a neutral wire, as opposed to two 120 volt phase wires. Bottom line? They're incompatible, even with a voltage transformer. A local electrician may be able to solve the problem, but it's going to require some re-wiring. A gadget like a voltage transformer isn't going to help.

 

Lamps and Lighting Fixtures

Lamps, Lights, Wall Sconces, Chandeliers, and Other Lighting Fixtures

Okay, let's get the easy part out of the way first: Chandeliers, wall sconces, fluorescent lighting fixtures, etc. are permanently-installed and hard-wired directly to the building's electrical system. Consult with a local electrician. There's probably a solution, but it will require some re-wiring. A gadget like a voltage converter or transformer doesn't apply to this kind of situation. (Well, it might, but it would be something an electrician needs to supply and install into a wall, or in the ceiling, etc.)

Freestanding lamps may be able to be used with a US/Japan booster transformer, albeit with some associated issues which may prove to be deal-breakers.

For one thing, are you even able to easily obtain replacement bulbs? In North America, light bulbs generally have screw-type connectors, whereas abroad they usually have bayonet-type connectors. Powering a lamp via a voltage transformer is likely to shorten the lifespan of the bulbs significantly, so expect to have to change bulbs out frequently.

Fluorescent bulbs are sensitive to the difference in frequency (60Hz vs. 50Hz) which will result in an annoying flicker if the frequency isn't what the bulb was designed for. Unfortunately, there's no practical solution for the frequency issue.

And then there's the matter of voltage transformers not exactly being the prettiest things in the world. Let's say your lamp has five 100-watt bulbs. You'd need at least a 500-watt voltage transformer, which isn't exactly tiny and unobtrusive. Perhaps you could conceal it behind a couch, or a plant, or something like that. But otherwise, your beautiful lamp would have a bulky, ugly piece of machinery sitting right next to it. You'll want to ask yourself whether it's really worth it.

The other solution would be to have an electrician completely re-wire the lamp, including the bulb sockets, if it's even possible to do so given any physical limitations/barriers based on the way the lamp was originally built. The question remains: Is it really worth all the trouble?

Lately, LED string lights seem to be gaining in popularity, and these things are often shipped directly from China or Japan via marketplace web sites like eBay. If you're buying LED string lights, pay very close attention to their electrical input requirements before you buy. If the information isn't published, ask the seller, and be sure they're telling you the truth.

LED string lights are often powered by way of a "brick" type power supply or an AC adapter, similar to the kind of power supply a laptop uses. And those are often multi-voltage compatible. Check its label and look for something like "Input: 100-240V" and if it says that, then you're in luck, because you just need a simple plug adapter that matches the type of outlet you need to plug into.

Otherwise, you may end up with LED string lights which were designed for Chinese 220 volt electricity, or Japanese 100 volt electricity. And at that point, your only solution is a voltage transformer. You'll need to determine how many watts your light string requires, and select a voltage transformer that can handle the wattage required by the lights.

 

Power Tools and Shop/Factory Equipment

Power Tools and Other Shop / Factory Machines

Charging stations for many newer model cordless power tools are multi-voltage compatible. Check the label on the bottom of the charging station and look for something to the effect of "Input: 100-240V"

If that's the case for your particular tool's charging station, then the difference in voltage is irrelevant, and the only issue is changing the shape of the charging station's plug so that it can physically interface with the foreign outlet. That requires only a simple plug adapter (for a Type A Japanese outlet, that would be our item #EA6.) The tool itself is running on direct current (DC) power from the battery, so things like frequency (Hz) are also irrelevant. Frequency only applies to alternating current (AC) power.

Corded power tools are a different and more complicated situation, because they're running directly on the alternating current (AC) power coming from the wall outlet, and therefore things like frequency (Hz) come into play. Corded power tools built to be powered by 110-120 volt North American electricity can be safely powered in Japan by way of a US/Japan booster transformer, which will change the 100 volt electricity coming from the Japanese wall outlet to 110-120 volt power for use by the tool.

Check the nameplate on the tool, where the brand name and model number appear, and determine the tool's wattage (W) requirement. Sometimes the nameplate will list amps (A) instead of watts (W) and if that's the case, simply multiply the volts by the amps to get a reasonable approximation of the watts. For example: "Input: 120V  60Hz  10.0A" 120 volts x 10.0 amps = 1200 watts. You'll need a voltage transformer with a wattage capacity sufficient to handle the tool's wattage load.

In normal household applications, a "regular" voltage transformer will do the job just fine. But "regular" transformers are vented, and that can be a problem if you're in a shop or factory or other "harsh environment" where, for example, there might be sawdust flying all over the place. Sawdust gets inside the transformer, stuff burns up, bad situation. Don't even get us started on the potential hazards of thrown metal shavings coming into contact with other metal which is carrying electric current. Yikes!

If you're in an industrial environment, you might want to consider one of our Todd Systems transformers instead. The outer chassis of Todd Systems transformers are sealed with a modified polyester heat-cured varnish, thus protecting the transformer's internal metal windings from moisture, airborne particulates and other contaminants. They're (quite a bit) more expensive, but not nearly as expensive as a fire. (They can also be bolted down to a workbench or sawhorse or other work surface, which can be a significant feature.)

Back to the frequency issue.... Again, with cordless power tools, frequency isn't an issue because the tool itself is actually running on direct current (DC) power from the battery, and frequency only relates to alternating current (AC) power. But when a corded tool is running directly on AC power, the difference in frequency (60Hz vs. 50Hz) will affect the performance and the lifespan of the tool's fractional horsepower (FHP) motor.

One effect may not be all that significant. The difference in frequency will cause a 60Hz motor to rotate one-sixth more slowly when powered on 50Hz. That's objectively a 17% performance degradation, but how big an issue that is depends on the work being done. It might not even be noticeable with, for example, a drill. Or it might be a slight issue, but really just something you'll need to get used to. Or the tool being used may be entirely dependent on the motor running at a precise speed, and a 17% difference might be a deal-breaker. You'll need to draw your own conclusions on that.

The second effect is potentially a lot more serious. A 60Hz FHP motor will heat up a lot more quickly when run on 50Hz. Again, the degree to which this is significant depends on the work being done. If it's a circular saw, which will make a cut for a couple minutes, then sit for a couple minutes until the next cut, chances are it's never going to get to the point where the difference in frequency causes the motor to overheat and/or potentially burn out. But if it's a band saw, which will be running continuously for hours, the difference in frequency is likely to burn out the motor pretty quickly. Again, that's an assessment you'll need to make.

As a workaround for the overheating issue, you might consider a "3-tap" or "triple-tap" transformer. To avoid overheating a long-running FHP motor, a 60Hz motor should be run at roughly 10% lower voltage when operated on 50Hz frequency. So, for example, a 115V 60Hz motor should be run at roughly 100-105V 50Hz. Normal step-down voltage transformers only output 110-120V, and will therefore allow the frequency difference to overheat and burn out the motor. On the other hand, a triple-tap transformer outputs 100-105V, compensating for the difference in frequency and protecting the motor from overheating and eventual burnout.