In Case of Emergencies

Where to Turn to in Case of Emergencies

What should you do if you run into a case of emergency, while traveling or living in a foreign country? It may be reassuring to know where to turn to in times of trouble, under such conditions. Here, I'd like to introduce some information and advice, in case of emergencies during your stay in Japan.

Emergency Calls

There are two different phone numbers to call in Japan, in case of emergencies.

110 : to call the police
119 : to call an ambulance, or to report a fire, or to call fire engines

Both numbers are used nationwide and can be called from a public phone without paying ( just press the numbers to call them ), but if you have trouble speaking Japanese, it might be better to have someone who speaks Japanese to help you. However, emergency is the time when you don't have somebody like that around I suppose, so in that case try to inform the operater of the following things, and at least that you need help.

1 ) What kind of help you need. Especially when you are calling 119, it is necessary to tell the operater what kind of help you need, the paramedics or the firefighters.

2 ) If you are calling for an ambulance, you need to inform the operater of the place where you want them to send an ambulance, the number of sick or injured person with the person's sex and approximate age ( adult, child or infant ). If possible, it would be better if you could tell them whether it's a sudden sickness or an injury and how bad the person looks, for you are not to use the ambulance in cases when the person is able to go to the hospital by himself.

3 ) If you are reporting a fire, tell the operater what is burning and where. If there's any landmarks ( such as tall buildings ) let them know, along with your ( reporter's ) name and address. It would be better to inform them if there seems to be any casualties.

4 ) If you are calling 110 ( the police ), tell the operater your name, address and the place you need them to come. If possible, it would be better to let them know if there are any casualties.

I hate to rag, but don't forget to tell them where you are at the time ( give them the address and phone number or they won't be able to reach you ). If you are calling from public phones, the phone number will be displayed automatically on the operater's computer, but if you're calling from car phones or cellphones, it won't. So car phone and cell phone users, must inform the operater of your phone type and phone number, and keep the power on for a while in case the authorities need to contact you for more information.

Embassies and Consulates

The respective embassies or consulates of your home country in Japan, provides you sevice and local informations in your mother language. If you get into any kind of trouble during your stay in Japan, this might be the first place to turn to for help.

Insurance Companies

Some insurance companies offer phone service in assistance of their clients. If you are a client of insurance companies that offer such phone service, it might be a good idea to make use of them, for the working hours of embassies and consulates are often inflexible with temporal restriction.

Travel Agencies

If you are traveling on a package tour, your travel agency will take care of your problems. Consult your respective travel agencies.

Kouban ( Police Box )


Kouban is a box where police officers stay to keep an eye on the town safety. You can find them near most train stations inside cities.

In Japan, people use Koubans naturally in everyday life, when you want to ask directions, or when you've dropped your wallet, or when you've found somebody's wallet dropped on the edge of a sidewalk. ( Kouban also plays the part of a Lost-and-Found. ) Whenever you get into a hassle with a drunken person, or when there's a fight, or when you are encountered by crimes, people run into Koubans for help in times of trouble.

Stepping into the Kouban to ask for help, is an action that needs some courage for foreigners, as well as a little skill of Japanese, like the former introduced emergency calls. But if you look at it as a good opportunity to experience some international communication, it might help you from taking it so seriously. Even if the police officer couldn't speak foreign languages, and couldn't figure out the situation you are under, he would call the interpretation center so that the staff there could help you.

In cases when a police officer, can't get the picture of the situation you are under because of language problems, he would contact the interpretation center. An interpreter there would hear the situations from you, and help you communicate with the officer. But the only way to reach this interpretation center is via a Kouban, and you can't directly call them yourself.

Medical Care and Treatment

Medical systems and facilities in Japan, are well established and is capable of providing high quality medical treatment.

Residents in Japan must join one of the public medical care insurance systems, in order to receive any kind of such high quality medical care or treatment, in clinics and hospitals. In other words, if you are living in Japan and are not a member of the public medical care insurance systems, it is practically impossible for you to receive any kind of medical care or treatment in Japan.

As for tourists visiting Japan only for a short period, it is unnecessary to join these insurance systems. ( That is to say, you can receive medical care or treatment in this country, without being a member of these systems. ) This is because your medical bills must be paid on your own expenses, unless you have a travel insurance that covers such situations when you need medical treatment. ( So for those who might get sick or injured while staying in Japan, it would be smart to join one of those travel insurance beforehand. )

Of course it's the best not to get sick or injured during your trip, but if you ever do get sick or injured, what should you do? Well, you don't have to worry if it's slight illness, since you can find chain dreugstores in every town all over Japan, where you can purchase a wide variety of medical related products, from over-the-counter drugs to health foods. Though I have to admit that the major problem in thsese drugstores, is the present situation that foreign languages can not be understood in most places... .

But what if it's a serious health problem? Well, probably you will be treated in a Japanese hospital. Put your mind at ease and relax, you're gonna be all right. As already said before, Japan's medical services are highly established. So don't worry and be glad, that you can receive medical treatment here in Japan, and not off shore on the ocean or high up in the sky in an airplane.