Using a US powerstrip in Japan?
August 10, 2007 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Can I use a plug adapter and an American power strip to power multiple electronics in Japan?

I'm moving from the US to Japan soon, and I have 3 or 4 electronic devices that are rated for Japanese and American voltage (laptop, external hard drive, camcorder all take 100-240v) but have grounded and/or polarized plugs. Since I don't need a transformer, can I just use a single adapter to fit an American power strip (Maximum Load: 15A 125VAC 60Hz 1875W) into the Japanese outlet, instead of getting 4 separate adapters?
posted by Espy Gillespie to Travel & Transportation around Japan (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
While I'm sure that there are some power strips that you could do this with, I can tell you that I once tried to do exactly what you suggest above (except in NZ, not Japan).

There was a loud noise, a big flash, and a mixture of smoke and ozone came out of the strip. I wouldn't recommend it.

I do, however recommend this 5 outlet strip that's rated for 220, and accepts plugs from just about any country.
posted by toxic at 1:34 PM on August 10, 2007

My roommate tried this when we were in the Czech Republic and there was also explosion + smoke. However, if you get a big transformer you can plug surge protectors in that, doesn't really make your load easier though.
posted by bertrandom at 1:54 PM on August 10, 2007

Note that NZ and the Czech Republic run on 220v, higher than the US's 120v. Japan's voltage is lower, at 100v. I don't see why a US-spec power strip wouldn't work, as long as it was a super dumb power strip, and not a fancy pants surge protector that expects to be grounded.
posted by marionnette en chaussette at 2:03 PM on August 10, 2007

Japan's line voltage is only 100v, as opposed to the US's 110/120, and NZ/Europe/most-of-Asia's 220v. (See map). [On preview: like marionette says.]

The explosions people have mentioned are all in 220v countries. The power strip probably has some sort of surge protection, like MOVs, which will cut in at some voltage above 110. It will try to "absorb" the full 220v supply and fail violently. I'm guessing this would work if you used a power strip that had no surge protection, fuse, indicator light, etc. — oddly, no-frills strips seem to be more expensive than others...

Back to the actual question, though, the differences in Japan (besides the plug shape) are the very slightly slightly lower voltage, and the different line frequency (half of Japan uses 50 Hz, half uses 60 Hz like the US). Neither of those is likely to upset a power strip at all even if it has surge protectors and whatnot in it. So, I think this should work fine, assuming the individual electronics you plug in can handle the slight change in voltage and frequency.
posted by hattifattener at 2:09 PM on August 10, 2007

I did exactly the thing you are asking about (with a laptop, iPod, lamp, and cell phone charger plugged into a power strip, the strip plugged into an adapter, and the adapter into the wall). It worked fine.

Note that as hattifattener says, the frequency may be different which can cause some clocks and other sensitive items to run fast or slow. Most modern electronic devices, however, can handle those minor variations.
posted by armage at 2:31 PM on August 10, 2007

Also, if you are concerned about grounding, affix the wire dangling from the Japanese adapter (if there is one) to a ground. For some reason using a third prong for ground never took off in Japan.
posted by armage at 2:32 PM on August 10, 2007

armage, what kind of power strip did you use? I've got a pretty simple Belkin SurgeMaster, which I've just tested with my Japanese adapter and it powers on and powers things fine.

I'm going to be on the west coast, so I think I'll have 60Hz, but thanks for the alerts, armage and hattifattener.

Question for bertrandom and toxic: When your explosions happened, was the damage confined to just the surge protector?
posted by Espy Gillespie at 3:00 PM on August 10, 2007

Yes, NZ is 220v. I didn't realize that Japan was 100 -- that makes a big difference.

In the case of my explosion, the power strip was destroyed, and the upstream circuit breaker tripped. Nothing was plugged into the strip at the time.
posted by toxic at 4:37 PM on August 10, 2007

From my experiences in Japan and Canada (which is the same as America as far as electric outlets are concerned) anything made to work in Canada will work in Japan and vice versa.

When I was there, all my electronic things were (initially) from Canada and they worked fine. Now that I'm back, all of my electronic things are Japanese, and again they all work fine (including a power bar).
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:57 PM on August 10, 2007

I've done the same thing (US electronics plugged in to US power strip with plug converter to get rid of the earth prong, plugged into outlet in Tokyo). Worked fine. My dad told me about the "clocks running slow" thing, but I've never experienced it with any of my electronics.
posted by Bugbread at 5:20 PM on August 10, 2007

I'm doing the same thing right now with some of my old stuff that I brought over here from the States 5 years ago. Never had a problem with it. The biggest problem I had was trying to fit a polarized plug (with one prong larger than the other) into a non-polarized outlet. For that I used my American powerstrip. But since the power strip had a third prong for grounding, I had to plug it into another, Japanese power strip that was thin enough for the grounding prong to stick around the side.

Note: I do not recommend this setup. Nothing exploded or anything, but it's seriously kludgy. I think that the setup you have in mind will work better, but I would see if you can get replacement power cords for your legacy electronics. Usually the cord is removable, and replacements can be bought for slightly more than you would expect at most home centers and electronic shops.

As for clocks and stuff, anywhere north of about Yokohama will be running 50 Hz, apparently because they were influenced by Russia when setting up electricity standards. But unless you are bringing clocks over, it shouldn't be any problem at all.
posted by donkeymon at 8:47 PM on August 10, 2007

Espy Gillespie, I used a generic Staples brand power strip. It probably cost me $10 or so.

Since I'll be moving to Tokyo myself in a few weeks, I'm considering doing the same thing, or simply breaking down and buying Japanese-style plugs/cords for everything. I'm cheap, though, so I'll probably just bring a US power strip again.
posted by armage at 5:34 AM on August 11, 2007

Only analog clocks are affected by frequency shifts. Oh, and fans and AC motors ( mixers, blenders, etc.) will run a little slower. DC stuff should be fine.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:36 AM on August 11, 2007

Thanks for the answers, everyone. Sounds like what I'm trying to do should work. I'll try and post an update when I arrive and try it out in about a week. Thanks again!
posted by Espy Gillespie at 6:47 AM on August 11, 2007

I play electronic music and do this frequently when I tour in Japan (a month ago, most recently).

You should have no problem. The only problem I ever have is that Japanese outlets rarely have a spot for the third prong, but a simple adapter will take care of that.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:00 AM on August 11, 2007

Yes, we do this. So long as all your devices are dual-voltage. We've been doing this for 2+ years and never had trouble.
posted by Brittanie at 3:20 AM on August 13, 2007

I'm in Japan now, and everything works fine. For the record, I'm using a Brookstone adapter to plug a Belkin Surgemaster into a Japanese outlet and power a Macbook, external hard drive, and camcorder with no noticable problems.

Thanks for the help everyone!
posted by Espy Gillespie at 2:47 AM on August 20, 2007

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