Calling for Help

In case of an emergency in Japan, being able to communicate with the emergency dispatcher can literally be a life-saver.

Throughout Japan, an emergency phone call can be made free of charge from any phone including public pay phones.

Ambulance – Dial 119
Fire – Dial 119
Police – Dial 110

For further information on calling an ambulance or the fire department, (PDF 888 KB) check the following websites. Although these websites are published by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the information contained in them is generally applicable throughout Japan.

For further information on calling the police, check the following website.

Persons seeking assistance should be able to describe their address/location in Japanese or enlist a friend who can do so, as few police officers and fire department staff speak English.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government website has information on emergency calls at The phone numbers and procedures also apply to other areas in Japan.

The Tokyo fire department emergency operator staff, which can be reached by dialing 119, has English-speaking staff available.

The Osaka Municipal Fire Department also has useful information in English, including Osaka Municipal Emergency Hospital Information Service, 06-6582-7119.

Here’s how to deal with emergency calls for ambulance in Japan.

First Steps

  • In case of emergency, dial 119;
  • In case of fire, say: KAJI DESU;
  • To call an ambulance, say: KYUU-KYUU DESU;
  • Do not hang up until the dispatcher understands your address and telephone number;
  • Send someone out to the nearest major intersection to meet the ambulance or fire truck.

What May Happen During Your Call

Dispatcher: SHOU BOU CHOU… KAJI DESU KA? KYUU KYUU DESU KA? (Fire department… Fire or ambulance?)
Caller: KYUU KYUU DESU. (Ambulance)
Dispatcher: DOU SHIMASHITA KA? (What happened?)
Caller: (see vocabulary below)

English Japanese
Telephone number is… DENWA BANGO WA (number)…
My name is… WATASHI NO NAMAE WA (name)…
Difficulty Breathing KOKYUU KONNAN DESU
Convulsions KEIREN DESU
Unconscious KI FUMEI DESU

Giving Your Address

The emergency service people need to know how to locate you in order to help. The dispatcher may say JU-SHO WA? (or) NANI-KU, NANI- MACHI, NAN-BAN DESU KA?, asking “What is your address?”

For example, the address of the American Embassy in English is: 10-5 Akasaka 1-chome, Minato-ku, Tokyo

In Japanese, this is reversed, and best understood, as follows: Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Akasaka itt-chome juu no go.

English Japanese
Front MAE
Behind URA
Diagonally in Front NANA ME MAE
Next to TONARI
Intersection KOOSATEN

Since many Japanese streets do not bear names and house/building numbers are not consecutive, it is very important that you learn how to give adequate directions to your residence in case you need to explain it to a dispatcher, usually guiding them by way of major landmarks.

One of the best tests to determine if you have the capability to guide someone to your residence is being able to order a taxicab, and not from a company which has your information already programmed into its computer.

Japanese neighbors are a great source of information – ask them to tell you, word by word, how they direct people to their residences. Practice these directions on a regular basis and keep a cheat sheet by your telephone for family, babysitters, or friends to use in case of need.

Assuming you are not calling from a cell phone, just stay on the line. Emergency operators at the fire department in most major urban centers have the ability to trace calls to your location.

Other Important Points

You can call an ambulance anytime and anywhere in Japan by simply dialing 119. Ambulances as a part of municipal fire departments, do not charge for transportation to hospitals.  However, patients are responsible for medical expenses.

Ambulance personnel transfer the patient to the nearest, most suitable medical center depending on the symptoms and condition of the patient as well as on the situation and location. The patient may not therefore be taken to the hospital of his or her choice.

To call an ambulance from a public phone, no coins nor telephone cards are needed if the public phone has an emergency call button (exceptions include red and pink phones, which operate only with 10 yen coins). Pick up the receiver, press the red emergency call button and dial 119. Newer public phones do not have an emergency call button, but do allow you to call for help by simply dialing 119.

International Telephone Dialing Instructions

Dialing direct to the U.S. from Japan:

  1. First dial Japan’s International Access Code (dial 010)
  2. Then dial the U.S. Country Code, Area Code, and local phone number: dial 1, then the 3-digit Area Code, and 7-digit Phone Number.

Example: dial 010 +1+202-555-1234
Intl Access Code + U.S. Country Code + U.S. Phone Number

Dialing Japan from the U.S.:

  1. First dial the International Access Code in the U.S. (dial 011)
  2. Then dial the Japan Country Code, the City Code (delete the first zero), and the local phone number.

Example (a): the phone number in Tokyo is 03-3224-9999; from a phone in the U.S., dial 011 + 81 (Japan Country Code) + 3 (City Code) + 3224-9999 (local phone number). Do not dial the “0” in the “03” when dialing internationally.

Example (b): the cell phone number in Tokyo is 080-1234-5678; from a phone in the U.S., dial 011 + 81 (Japan Country Code) + 80-1234-5678. All Japanese cell phones have 090 or 080 as the first three digits, when dialing internationally do not dial the first “0”.