Nobody wants to end up in an unpleasant situation while travelling in a foreign country – unfortunately, sometimes things do happen, and in that case, it’s best to be prepared. Here’s a short summary of useful emergency information, phone numbers, and tips that might come in handy should you find yourself in a situation.
Emergency telephone numbers:
Police – 110
Fire, Ambulance or Rescue Service – 119
Japan Coast Guard (accident or crime at sea) – 118
Calling from a phone
Public phones do not need money or prepaid cards to call Japanese emergency numbers. Some public phones simply require you to pick up the handset and dial the number. With others, you may need to push a red emergency notification button before dialing the number.
Similarly, with mobiles – emergency calls are free from cellular phones even if you don’t have a SIM card – simply dial the required number.
Most operators will speak and understand some English, but remember to speak slowly and clearly! You will also need to know an address or whereabouts to describe to the operator.
If you do have access to a regular phone line, the Japan National Tourism Organisation also organizes a 24-hour hotline for visitors. Assistance is available in English, Chinese, Korean and of course, Japanese. This number can be used in case of accidents, emergencies or to find information for other situations, such as the current status of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
From Japan: 050-3816-2787 From Overseas: +81-50-3816-2787
You can also find the most updated information directly from their website, such as a list of attractions that are closed, insurance options and general information.
Japan is a country that experiences frequent earthquakes, however, there is little to fear most of the time.
During an earthquake, it’s best to take shelter under a sturdy piece of furniture or a doorway until the shaking stops. Protect and cover your head as best as you can from falling objects. Watch and follow the locals; because earthquakes are common in Japan, emergency drills and evacuation routes are in place and are regularly practiced. After larger earthquakes, messages may play over loudspeakers (only in Japanese) with instructions. Stay calm and follow the locals.
If you are near the coast and a large earthquake hits, there may be danger of a tsunami afterward. Again, follow the locals and to be safe head for higher ground.
There are even a few apps you can download to give you an early earthquake warning. Yurekuru is a free English app that will send an alert a few seconds before an earthquake hits.
Typhoon season in Japan usually runs from late summer to early autumn (around July to October) depending on the weather for that year. Generally during a typhoon, heavy rains and strong winds are encountered, with most places closing until the storm passes. Flooding and landslides can also be encountered in some areas.
It’s best to buy some extra food and water to last a few days before the typhoon hits as you may not be able to go to the shops during the storm! After the storm, roads may be blocked and transport systems may be delayed as they need to check for any damages and make necessary repairs.
The Japan Meteorological Agency website is also useful to check for current and updated information about weather and natural disasters.
For Other Assistance
All throughout Japan, you may notice small police boxes, known as kobans. They are usually located close to train stations, government buildings, and shopping districts. The officers here are able to help with more everyday inquiries and other situations such as missing property or directions if you are lost.
I left my bag on the train!
It happens – jetlag, late nights and long sightseeing days can make us all a bit forgetful! Fortunately, Japan has an extremely low crime rate; it’s known as one of the safest countries after all!
If you realize straight away, approach the station staff on the relevant train line and they will be able to figure out what train the bag should be on by the time and final destination of the train. In most cases, the train reaches the end of the line and the station staff finds the bag sitting untouched where it was left!
If some time has passed before you realize your missing bag, you will need to contact lost and found at the relevant train line and leave a description of your missing belongings and a contact number. If you don’t have a contact number you can be reached on, find out how you can check back daily about your belongings. It may take a few days for the missing bag to be recorded on their database.
On the JR train lines website, you can find lost-and-found phone numbers and locations.
I am sick/injured.
For situations where you need a hospital but not an ambulance, major hospitals/clinics are generally open 24 hours a day. Depending on how serious your condition is and where you are in the country will establish where you need to go. The Japan Health website goes into a bit more detail about how to figure out where you should go and what to expect.
These places will also have access to translations services in a variety of languages by phone during certain hours. When visiting a hospital or clinic be sure to bring your passport, travel insurance details and some cash because credit cards are not always accepted. For medical conditions that are not emergencies, you may need to visit a pharmacist or a medical clinic.
Pharmacies in Japan are called yakkyoku and can help if you just need some basic medication or creams. Please note they will not accept foreign prescriptions. Most pharmacists will speak some English so if you know what you need, they might be able to recommend an equivalent Japanese medication where no prescription is needed. Kampo is the traditional herbal Japanese medicine that consists of a range of remedies which is still used today to treat a variety of illnesses. Finally, don’t underestimate the use of a handy translate app and pointing to the affected areas!
For medical clinics, a quick online search should show a list of relevant clinics close to you. Check the opening hours and whether or not you need to book an appointment in advance. Again, be sure to take your travel insurance details and ID, but be prepared to pay the fees upfront in cash. Keep any relevant receipts and doctors’ reports to be able to claim it back on your travel insurance.
Lastly, don’t be shy asking for help from those around you. You can ask the staff at your hotel to ring ahead and book an appointment or help you search for a clinic. If you have a friend that speaks some Japanese, ask if they would be happy to come with you.
Last but not least, if you need support mentally or emotionally while travelling in Japan, don’t be afraid to ask for help. TELL Japan provides support both over phone and in-person counseling services. Please visit their site for further details.