Emergency numbers and ambulances


To call an ambulance in Japan dial 119. Public phones are also equipped with red emergency call buttons. Most operators understand English if it is spoken slowly.

Japan Helpline (0120 461 997) offers 24-hour English-language emergency services, including phone support for health questions and minor injuries.

Ambulance service is free in Japan, but due to the country´s dense population, the nearest emergency ward may be full. If that is the case, incoming patients are rejected. Ambulance drivers will divert to the next most convenient hospital, repeating as necessary until they find an emergency room with space. This is a controversial policy, one that leads to several tragedies per year when patients with seemingly minor ailments (especially pregnant women and the elderly) are rejected by hospital after hospital.

The Japanese government has proposed numerous solutions to the problem, including more extensive paramedic training and hospital reorganization. Additionally, the quota of medical students permitted to enter university has been increased by several hundred. Regardless of the solution, the problem will take years, if not decades, to fully resolve.

An ambulance ride is hardly the equivalent of a death sentence, though! Japanese hospitals offer some of the finest medical care in the world. Patients with known issues, such as cardiac patients and pregnant women, should simply take care to contact emergency services at the first sign of a problem in order to minimize the risks.

Further reading

Does this article help?

Do you have any comments, updates or questions on this topic? Ask them here: