A Japanese Fire Engine

How to make an emergency call in Japan – “119” Fire Department / Ambulance / Rescue –

It is important to know how to make emergency calls in Japan, whether you are a resident or a tourist. There are two main types of emergency calls: 119 (Fire department & Ambulance) and 110 (Police).

About 110 (Police), you can jump to the article below:
How to make an emergency call in Japan – “110” Police –

Hotline 119 (Fire Department / Ambulance / Rescue)

A Japanese Fire Engine

When to call “119”?

Call 119 when you see a fire and need to call an ambulance for a medical emergency or need a rescue. A 119 operator will ask you which service (fire department/ambulance/rescue) you need.

If you are unsure if you should call an ambulance, please call #7119. (It is not available in some regions. Some areas support English, while others are still only available in Japanese.)  Alternatively, you can visit this website. They can help you decide if you should call an ambulance.

In Japan, ambulances do not charge a fee, so there is a problem with people using them like taxis. We ask for your cooperation in the proper use of ambulances.

How to call “119”?

From your smartphone:

  1. Open Phone app
  2. Press “119” and call

*Please be aware that you may not be able to make a call from a smartphone purchased overseas. In such cases, look for a public phone, borrow a phone from someone nearby, or ask the staff at a station or any commercial facility to call 119.

From public phone (light green one): 

A Japanese Public Phone
  1. Lift the receiver
  2. Press the red “SOS (emergency call)” button (next to the pictures of emergency vehicles)
  3. Dial “119” (*No area code is required. Just 119.) 

*No need for coins or telephone cards for emergency calls.
*Please note that some public phones do not have an SOS button. You can just dial 119.

Available language

English is supported in most areas of Japan. In recent years, more and more regions are supporting other languages as well. It is a good idea to check if your language is supported first.

*There is no guarantee that first responders will also speak English or other languages than Japanese.

What information should you give to 119 operators?

A Japanese Ambulance

119 operators will ask you the questions below one by one. All you need to do is keep yourself in a safe place, remain calm and answer the questions. (If you call the fire department, please make sure to evacuate first. If you call an ambulance and are at home alone, do not forget to unlock the front door so paramedics can come to you.)

  • In case of fire
    • Fire or ambulance?
      – “Fire”
  • Where are you calling from?
    – “I am calling from Minami Building, 1-2-3, Minami, Nishi City.”
  • What is burning?
    – “The Tempura restaurant on the 5th floor is on fire.” 
  • What is your name and phone number?
    – “I’m Mark Edwards. XXX-XXXX-XXXX.”
  • In case of ambulance
    • Fire or ambulance?
      – “Ambulance”
  • Where are you calling from?
    – “I’m at the Minami elementary school bus stop.”
    • You can get your location from the address written on a utility pole or the name written on a traffic light at an intersection. You can also tell them what you see (for example, a park, a store, a school). If there’s no landmark around you, you can just tell them where you start your trip and where you are heading (For example, “I got off at Nippon station and headed to Nippon shrine using the route Google maps suggested. I walked about 1km for 20minutes”). And make sure to turn on your location service on your phone before you call.
    • If you call from a public phone, they will know where you are calling from.
traffic light
  • What happened?
    – “An old lady collapsed suddenly and she’s unconscious. It seems like she’s breathing.”
  • What is your name and phone number?
    – “I’m Mark Edwards. XXX-XXXX-XXXX.”

*They will dispatch an ambulance. Please stay until an ambulance arrives and give paramedics detailed information.
*They will also dispatch a rescue team if they find it necessary.

Useful Japanese words to communicate with first responders

  • “Here!” –  “Koko desu!” (ここです!)
  • “I called (the fire department/ambulance/rescue).” – “Watashi ga denwa shimashita.” (わたしがでんわしました / 私が電話しました)
  • In case of fire
    • “There is/are a person/people inside.” – “Nakani hito ga imasu.” (なかにひとがいます / 中に人が居ます)
    • “There’s someone injured.” – “Keganin ga imasu.” (けがにんがいます / けが人が居ます)
    • “There’s a gas leak.” – “Gasumore shiteimasu.” (がすもれしています / ガス漏れしています)
  • In case of medical issues
    *You can use just as written below even if the subject is she or he or I.
    • “I have chest pain.” – “Mune ga itai.” (むねがいたい / 胸が痛い)
    • “I have abdominal pain (stomachache).” – “Onaka ga itai.” (おなかがいたい / お腹が痛い)
    • “I have back pain.” – “Senaka ga itai.” (せなかがいたい / 背中が痛い)
    • “I have a headache.” – “Atama ga itai.” (あたまがいたい / 頭が痛い)
    • “I collapsed.” – “Taoreta.” (たおれた / 倒れた)
    • “I had a seizure.” – “Keiren ga okita.” (けいれんがおきた / 痙攣が起きた)
    • “I got burned.” – “Yakedo shita.” (やけどした / 火傷した)
    • “I’m bleeding.” – “Chi ga deteiru.” (ちがでている / 血が出ている)
    • “I can’t stop bleeding.” – “Chi ga tomaranai.” (ちがとまらない / 血が止まらない)
    • “I’m having trouble breathing.” – “Iki ga shinikui.” (いきがしにくい / 息がしにくい)
    • “I had an allergic reaction.” – “Arerugii hannou ga okita.” (あれるぎーはんのうがおきた / アレルギー反応が起きた)
    • “S/he is unconscious.” – “Ishiki ga nai.” (いしきがない / 意識がない)
    • “I got heat stroke.” – “Necchuushou ni natta.” (ねっちゅうしょうになった / 熱中症になった)

Hope you guys don’t have to use any of the terms we introduced today. If you have some words you’d like to know how to say in Japanese, please leave a comment.
Stay safe and healthy, everybody!