When you traveling with a power wheelchair, charging batteries properly can make or break a vacation. No one wants to travel halfway around the world just to sit in a hotel room!
Typically, the electronics people travel with – laptops, mobile phones, etc – are designed with travel in mind and can accept various voltages with a simple plug adapter. However, many battery chargers for power wheelchairs are designed with only local electricity in mind and may either not work properly, or even break, if used with a different voltage.
That is why it is always important to research the the voltage and current of electricity in advance and plan accordingly.
Electricity in Japan
While North America uses 120v and Europe uses 230v, Japan uses 100v. The plugs have two, non-polarized pins. Outlets look like North American electrical outlets but do not have a slot for a ground pin.
The frequency of electric current is 50 Hertz in Eastern Japan (from Tokyo up to Hokkaido) and 60 Hertz in Western Japan (roughly from Nagoya to Kyushu); however, most equipment is not affected by this frequency difference.
What if you need a voltage converter?
While taking extra electrical equipment in your luggage may be undesirable, it is likely the safest option.
Large international hotels may have voltage converters, but most smaller hotels do not since there is very little demand. We suggest you contact your hotel to ask if they have a voltage converter, and if so to send a picture of it to you. Hotel front desk staff can be very helpful but may not understand the difference between a step-down voltage converter and a simple plug adapter, so it is best to check with your own eyes.
The majority of electronics stores do not carry voltage converters. If they do happen to have one it is likely for use outside of Japan since the market demand would be for a Japanese tourist to use in another country, not a foreigner to use in Japan. The possible exception to this is Akihabara where there are many specialty electronics shops. However, these stores tend to be crowded and communication may be difficult.
Above all, we recommend that you contact your wheelchair dealer for advice. They will be able to tell you if a voltage converter is required, and may even be able to loan you an international version of the battery charger.
If you are traveling from North America you may need a voltage converter like this one from Amazon: