How to call an ambulance
In case of a medical emergency, dial 119 to call for an ambulance.
Dialling 119 will connect you with the fire department and an ambulance will be dispatched from a local fire station. The fire department can also send help for fire and rescue.
There are English speaking operators in Tokyo Fire Departments, though they may not be available in all areas. When speaking in English with an operator, please speak slowly and clearly especially when stating your address.
It is recommended that the patient who needs an ambulance calls 119 directly, unless the patient is medically unable to do so.
You can call for an ambulance from a landline, mobile phone, PHS or a public telephone. When using a public phone, pick up the receiver and press the red emergency call button. If there is no red button, dial 119. It is a toll-free number and you do not need to insert money.
In Japan, transportation of patients by ambulance is free, but fees are charged for the costs of care.
After calling 119
- Tell the operator whether you are calling for an ambulance (kyuu-kyuu desu) or because of a fire (kaji desu).
- Report your symptoms or the condition of your injury, as well as what happened.
- Explain your location in as much detail as possible, and give them your name. Do not hang up until you are sure the dispatcher understands your address. If necessary, seek help from a neighbour or passer-by.
- When you hear the ambulance siren, go to meet them.
You may also find it useful to prepare what you would say in advance. Tokyo Fire Department provides a useful guide to what you might say and hear here.
The paramedics will choose the hospital based on the patient’s condition and their location. You cannot always be taken to the hospital you wish to visit.
Emergency hospitals often require a Japanese speaker to assist with hospital registration and to help with the payment process. If surgery or hospital admission is needed following ambulance transport, additional paperwork will be required.
Please contact us if you need help with this. We do not operate 24 hours a day/365 days a year but can come to help for the above for follow ups.
When to call an ambulance
Telephone consultation service is available from the Tokyo Fire Department, if you are unsure if your condition requires ambulance transport. Emergency medical staff will help you and arrange an ambulance if necessary (Japanese only).
Tokyo Fire Department Telephone Service
Within 23 wards of Tokyo: 03-3212-2323
Tama area: 042-521-2323
Or press ＃7119 on your telephone
Here is a story from a JHI user for her ambulance ride experience. It gives a good information as to what to expect if you ever use an ambulance in Japan.
Getting caught in an emergency situation can be very trying, especially in a foreign country. Knowing what to expect can make the experience a little less stressful.
During a recent hiking trip in Japan, my friend Max had a bad fall and injured his leg. I tried to call 119 for an ambulance, but had no cellphone reception in the middle of the woods. Luckily for us, some Japanese hikers were passing through at nearly the same time and went ahead to where the trail crossed a road and called an ambulance.
From the time the hikers made the call, about 20 minutes passed until the ambulance arrived. Normally I feel Max and I have pretty good Japanese, but my mind went blank in the panic. They asked a few questions about what happened, and we communicated half through gestures. Then he was put onto the stretcher and pushed into the back of the vehicle.
The ambulance was very much like I would expect in our home country, America, albeit a little short. Max is six feet tall, but his feet hung off the stretcher by a few inches. We were in a very small town in the country though, so they might be larger in bigger cities.
I rode in back with Max and one of the emergency workers on the 20 minute ride to the hospital, and we were asked questions about our nationality, where we were staying in Japan, personal details and if we had health insurance. During all of this, my friend’s blood pressure was monitored by a clip on his finger. The worker tried to lighten the mood a little and was happy to tell us ambulances are free in Japan – much different from America!
Upon arriving at the hospital, Max was put into a wheel chair (which again was a little too small), and brought into the hospital’s weekend emergency room. The doctors took him in for an examination and x-rays right away, while the same worker and the front desk staff sat me in a waiting room with our gear and asked me to fill out some paperwork. This form was all in Japanese, but was asking only for insurance details and home address. The secretary took the form and also made a copy of Max’s insurance card.
After waiting for a while longer, Max was rolled into a consultation room, where I was asked to join him. Luckily he hadn’t broken anything, but we needed to hear details on how to properly care for the sprain and how to take the pain medication being prescribed. Though it may be difficult to communicate, it is very important to understand the doctor’s information. He finished by writing us a letter to give to a local doctor for follow-up treatment, and sent us off for billing.
Because we made a visit on the weekend and the billing department was closed, our hospital was unable to bill us immediately. They asked us to call back on a weekday to find out what we owed and then transfer the balance to them as soon as possible. After all the stress of that day, it was nice to call in the following Monday and realize emergency care in Japan is much more affordable than in my home country.