Created for expats living in Japan

Medical Emergencies in Japan: How to Communicate in Japanese

In case of an emergency in Japan, you can call an ambulance (199), the police (110), or the fire department (119).

In these instances, being able to communicate clearly with the help dispatcher can be life-saver. Although the chances of being connected with English-speaking staff are not usually high, those who are not proficient in Japanese can also handle the majority of situations.

If you are worried about certain food for allergies in Japan, please read Allergies in Japan: How to Read Japanese Food Labels. You can also find OTC medicines easily at a drug store or a chemist in Japan. In Japan, heatstroke is commonly observed during the summer season. This article summarizes the actions you can take while waiting for an ambulance.

In this article, you can find comprehensive guidance on how to seek help in Japan and explain your situation.

How to Call an Ambulance in Japan

In Japan, in the case of an emergency, you must dial 119. This number will connect you either with the fire department and with the staff responsible for sending an ambulance to your location. Otherwise, if you need to call the police, you need to dial 110.

Although there are a few operators who speak English, you should be prepared to explain your situation in Japanese. It is advisable to speak slowly and specify first if you need an ambulance (救急車です,  kyuu-kyuu desu) or wish to report a fire (火事です, kaji desu).

You can call the number emergency 119 from a landline, your mobile phone or a public telephone. In this last case, you can pick up the receiver and press the red emergency button (if present), without the need to insert money or coins. You will shortly be connected with trained staff who will handle your situation and provide the help you need.

Before you hang up, make sure that the dispatcher understands your address. Speak clearly and tell your name (私の名前はです,watashi no namae wa… desu) and your phone number (私の電話番号はです,denwa bango wa…desu).

If necessary, seek help from a native Japanese speaker, especially someone who knows the neighborhood. This may be particularly crucial to give the dispatchers adequate directions to reach you or your place.

Do not forget to state your location and your address: 住所はです(jyuushyo wa… desu). Nevertheless, if you are using a fixed or public phone, the emergency staff can automatically track the address where the call comes from.

However, it is important to be clear when explaining the situation and be able to give the dispatcher detailed information about your location and how to find you.

When you finally hear the ambulance siren, someone should be sent out to meet it and signal where the patient is. He or she will be transferred to the nearest medical center, based on his or her situation. As a general rule, you cannot be taken to the medical center of your choice.

In Japan, the transportation of patients by ambulance and the fire and rescue services are free. However, you will be charged for the costs of care if you do not hold Japanese health insurance. Once you arrive at the hospital, you may ask for an emergency interpretation service in English.

Should I Call an Ambulance or Go to the Hospital ?

Image from Tokyo Fire Department

If you are not sure if you should call an ambulance or go to the hospital, when you need help with a sudden illness or injury, you can also ask advice in advance. The ENS (Emergency Medical Services) in Tokyo by Tokyo Fire Department provides the service in English.

>> Tokyo EMS Guide: Should I go to the hospital or call an ambulance? 

Illness and Conditions You Should Know in Japanese

When you call for an ambulance, it is crucial to report your symptoms. You should not hang up the phone until you are sure that the dispatcher understands what happened and where you are. Ideally, the patient who needs the ambulance should call the 119 directly, but you can use this service to report an accident that you witnessed.

Here you can find a list of some of the most common illness and conditions that can require you to seek help. Remember to clearly state what your issue is: if the dispatcher understands what is happening, it will be easier for the ambulance to help you as soon as it reaches you.

Moreover, you will receive the most accurate and informed advice based on your situation. Handling an emergency with care as soon as possible can make all the difference in the world.



zutsuu desu

Chest pain

胸が痛いです Mune ga itai desu

Abdominal/stomach pain

腹痛です/胃痛です fukutsuu desu/itsuu desu

Blood in vomit/stool

吐血です/血便が出ます toketsu desu/ketsuben ga demasu

Broken bone

骨折です kossetsu detsu


ひどい火傷です hidoi yakedo desu

Allergic reaction

アレルギー反応です arerugi hannou desu

Pregnancy-related issue


ninshin shiteimasu


毒物です dokubutsu desu


意識不明です ishiki fumei desu

High fever


kou netsu desu

General injury

怪我です kega desu

If you would like to know more words in Japanese, please refer to: Feeling Sick in Japan? Use These Japanese Words and Phrases

English-Speaking Medical Services in Japan

A range of English-speaking medical services exist in Japan. These include English-speaking hospitals and doctors, English language support services for medical care, and health insurance. It is advisable to keep a list of important phone numbers and hospitals on hand in case of an emergency.

Time Is Crucial, and Knowledge Is Power

Remember that in Japan you can call an ambulance anytime and anywhere, even from public phones, by dialing the emergency number 119.

Although some of the emergency operator staff can speak English, knowing some key terms in Japanese can help you get help more efficiently. In other words, with a little foresight, emergencies can be handled even by those who are not proficient in Japanese.