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How to Deal With Emergency Situations in Japan

If you get sick or get caught up in a situation while in Japan, it's nerve-wracking. Here are some points to remember if you're not good at Japanese and don't know what to do.

1. If you get sick

If you get sick while you're at the hotel you can speak to your front desk, but if you're out, you can call 119, the emergency number for ambulances. There's an English-speaking operator available 24 hours a day. If it's not an emergency but you still need medical attention, there are a few hotlines that offer information about medical services for foreigners.

A. AMDA International Medical Information Center

They offer information about medical services and will translate over the phone for free during medical exams. Available in English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Thai, Portuguese, and Tagalog.

A. AMDA International Medical Information Center

B. JHI (Japan Healthcare Info)

Depending on the patient's condition they will offer available services, fee estimates, and will coordinate medical services. English available.

B. JHI (Japan Healthcare Info)

C. Tokyo Metropolitan Medical Related Information Center

They offer support and translation for medical-related purposes within Tokyo. You can also look up Tokyo pharmacies on their homepage. Available in English, Chinese, Korean, Thai, and Spanish.
Tokyo Medical-Related Information Services ☎03-5285-8181
Translation Services for Medical Exams ☎03-5285-8185

C. Tokyo Metropolitan Medical Related Information Center

2. If you lose something

Losing something is really upsetting. If you lose something in Japan, first go to the nearest police station or police box and submit a "ishitsu todoke," or a report of what you've lost. If you think you lost it on a train or in a station, department store, restaurant, or other building, contact the managers of the establishment. Once someone turns a lost item over to them, it's automatic that they hold it for 7 days before handing it over to the police, so if you have only a few days left it might be better to contact the building first.
Of course if you lose something important like your credit card, cash card, or cell phone, please contact your card or phone company to stop fraud.

3. If you get lost

You can rent mobile WiFi at places like airports or use international roaming to utilize GPS apps on smartphones. You can also rent a smartphone in Japan. If you're nervous, it might be good to list the names and addresses of places you want to go to in Japanese, and if you get lost you can show it to a Japanese person. Most Japanese people will eagerly help you. Also, if there's a police station or train station near by, you can ask a police officer or station employee. Most convenience store workers are familiar with the area so if there isn't anyone walking by it might be good to stop by and ask. If you believe in your phone's GPS and the kindness of Japanese people, you shouldn't have trouble even if you get lost.

4. If there's a fire or traffic accident

・If there's a fire
If you're in a crowd, don't move on your own judgment and instead listen to any orders being given. If you've accidentally caused the fire, ring the nearby emergency bell and call the emergency line for fires, 119 (the same number for the ambulance). What you must be careful with is the smoke. In order to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, wrap a towel or some other sort of fabric around your nose and mouth so you don't inhale the smoke directly. If you're inside a building, don't use the elevator, but evacuate the building by using the stairs.

・If you get involved in a traffic accident
No matter how big or small the accident, there are laws regarding the perpetrator and victim, so first call the police. The number to contact the police is 110. If the other person is Japanese, have them call. Write down the person's name, address, phone number, workplace information, and other necessary info. It's also important to remember the details of the accident as best as you can. If there are any witnesses having proof will be important later, so ask them for their name and contact information. Also, if either of you are hurt, a light injury may become a worse injury in the future, so make sure that you get a medical check. If you rented a car, don't forget to contact the rental company. It may be good to get a compensation clause when you sign the contract just in case of anything happening.

5. If there's an earthquake

Japan is a country where earthquakes happen on a regular basis. People from countries where earthquakes never happen tend to panic, but Japan has many strategies in place and buildings built to withstand earthquakes, so when an earthquake happens, please remain calm. Depending on the earthquake, there is an emergency earthquake information announcement system that informs people through speakers, TV, and radio. If you feel a large shaking and the announcement begins, please get away from any glass surfaces and large furniture and protect your head. First deal with any lit flames such as candles, but please be careful not to get burned with any hot pots or pans on the stove. In the case of big earthquakes, there may be aftershocks afterwards to please take care. If you're inside a building or public transportation, listen to the managements' orders and relocate to an evacuation center. Directly after an earthquake public transportation, communication systems, and utilities may be stopped. It may take time until everyone's up and running, so don't wander around thoughtlessly. Instead remain where you are, gather as much information as you can, and plan your next movements. In the case of a large earthquake, you'll be able to find information on the JNTO website (

While you want to avoid emergencies in an unfamiliar country, in cases where it can't be avoided it would be good to have basic information about what to do. If you know then you can avoid panic.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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