Paying Bills in Japan

I’m just a bill
Yes, I’m only a bill
And, I’m sitting here on    

Wrong kind of bill there.

Nobody likes paying bills you’d be lying if you said you do, but paying your bills in a foreign country can be bloody frightening. Paying for anything in Japan may be a little confusing in itself. Most restaurants or shops don’t accept credit cards, nor do most landlords for rent payments.
I get lucky with my flat since  I can wire rent over internationally in bulk if I wanted to, though others have to pay for their flats via automatic bank transfer each month or in cash either to the landlord or bank/post office.

So with such horrid thoughts of how to pay for things, one may become overwhelmed and can’t imagine what kind of horrors accompany paying their electric, gas, internet, and water bills every month.

When I first lived in Tokyo back in high school, I didn’t really have to worry about paying them since I lived with my cousin and he took care of it all, beyond every now and then paying the random bill that was close to the deadline. But once I returned to Japan for university and lived on my own in Kyoto, I had to take care of it all on my own. It was intimidating at first, with all the random slips coming in the Post.

But it turns out that my fears were unfounded. Paying utility bills, and many other bills (like online shopping, such as Amazon or Rakuten, or customs fees from packages) is remarkably easy in Japan.

1. Wait for the 検針票 (kenshinhyou) to arrive in the mail for each utility.

Example of a typical 検針票.
This is not the bill, though, so watch out.
This is what kept on throwing me off for the first 2 months or so. I kept on trying to find out why it was so different from the Tokyo Gas bills, since Tokyo & Kyoto (Osaka) are in completely different regions, and where the bar-code was. 😛 Kanto and Kansai couldn’t be that different, ne?
You cannot pay this. Instead, the Kenshinhyou is a “notice of payment” or a receipt that shows you exactly how much you used of that particular utility, whether it be gas, water, or electricity.
In most cases, they arrive at different times, though sometimes they do arrive together, somewhere around the middle of the month. In Kyoto, it is usually a week or 2 between the Kenshinhyou and the actual bill arrival date.

2. Wait for the actual bill to arrive in the mail.

Now that you know how much you have to pay, wait about a week (sometimes a little more) for the actual bills to arrive by post.

They are usually sent out around the 20th of each month or so, so they should arrive shortly after that.

3. Once you finally get those lovely slips of evil, you can go to the bank/post office, a mobile phone shop (sometimes), such as Docomo or Softbank, or, more commonly & easier, to a conbini. Conbini are convenience/Liqueur stores, as called in most western nations.

My local conbini, and my favourite chain, is LAWSON so I always just go up to them to pay. Others may include: 7-11, Family Mart, Sunkirst, Circle K, and a couple others.

4. Take your bills to the register and pay. They will stamp your bill, rip off part of it to keep, and give you the other half as proof of purchase. With the times changing, nowadays you will probably have to hit a button on one of the touchscreen displays they have saying you agree to paying if you are doing it at a conbini. IMG_4239 If you want to buy anything else while you are at the conbini you can do so and pay for everything together.

See? Wasn’t that relatively painless?


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