I had written how Britain, Ireland, etc. lucked out with their power connector. Well, we can certainly say we’re not Japan at least.
Japanese Domestic Standard (JIS C 8303)
The common Japanese plug and receptacle, derived from ours, isn’t even grounded. This despite being a rainy island, with flimsy homes needing electric heaters and air conditioners everywhere, hit by earthquakes and typhoons. And they aren’t even polarized, so half the time devices are backwards. Combine this with lower voltage than us- nominally rated for up to 125 volts, but usually closer to 100. That means even less power than our plug. The only saving grace is that their rainy, island nation is crowded, so trips are shorter and slower.
(At first glance, the JIS C 8303 resembles our ungrounded standard, NEMA 1-15. This was the 2-prong connector that preceded our current NEMA 5-15. However, C 8303 is marginally different. In some cases, a 1-15 plug will go in a Japanese receptacle; minor differences in dimensioning will simply flex the blades. But just like our switch from unpolarized to polarized, our wide/narrow blades often won’t go into the equal-length slots of C 8303.)
Despite all this, the Japanese aren’t dying off from electrocutions galore. Why?
-Japanese people are more conscientious. Well, it’s certainly possible.
-Electrical devices are well-constructed these days. Sure, lawyers could pounce on anyone who drops the ball… or…
-The Japanese are less litigious. Maybe they blame themselves if actually electrocuted somehow. If…
-Electrocution is harder than it looks. Human skin really isn’t that great of a conductor, certainly when there’s copper nearby for an alternate path. Even rainwater (with essentially no salt content) isn’t that hot.
-This, plus the 8303 standard defines the plastic flange around the mating interface. Human fingers really have to be in a contrived situation to touch live copper.
Faced with injury and death, Japan eventually offered 3-prong connectors, like ours. However, you’re less likely to actually find one, and of course the 2-prong plugs will still go into a 3-prong socket. So the device manufacturers are behind the construction contractors, and in no hurry to change.
Overall, the JIS C 8303 standard is okay for overnight charging. Again, drivers in Japan tend to go shorter distances at lower speeds. There are other standards: Japan offers higher-powered and/or higher-voltage connectors with turned prongs, the same tactic as our NEMA 5-20 and 6-15/6-20 standards. These tend to be for large appliances. But appliance outlets are rarer and less accessible. RVs also tend to be closer to our station wagons and conversion vans, while motels and small, country inns are very common. So something like our TT-30 and 14-50 standards didn’t appeal either.
When anticipating electric vehicles, Japan as a society punted instead. The multiple appliance standards would be skipped, with higher charging speeds going directly to CHAdeMO. There is no real “Level 2” in Japan, they jumped clear to 3 for their new, public installations. This also helps address the apartment problem. Drivers without their own driveways/garages for charging should go straight to a CHAdeMO site, and recharge over lunch, dinner, tea time, a major shopping trip, etc. This punts the loss of at-home charging convenience back towards the gas station model. Not ideal, of course, but it certainly works. There are other benefits, which I’ll get into later. Considering the price of gas to the individual, and the price of import dependency and rising seas to the island nation, a slight loss of convenience is certainly the least a Japanese driver can do for their society.