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Health Emergencies for Expats in Japan

Submitted: March 2014

If you are in an emergency situation, you must call the emergency helpline or go straight to a hospital. First-aid treatment may be provided by ambulances.

If you need to make a call but you can’t speak Japanese, say it straightaway. In such situations, you might wish to be assisted by a Japanese-speaker to handle the conversation. In any event, you must be able to describe the place where you are.

In Japan, you generally have some choice as to which hospital or clinic you wish to go to. In an emergency, you should therefore let the ambulance know of your preferences in advance. It is always advisable not to be alone at the hospital. Thus, you should call somebody to come with you to the hospital as soon as possible.



Be wary of rejections from the hospital emergency room. If you fail to show that your emergency is serious enough, you may be denied treatment. There are reports of individuals who were turned down by over 10 different hospital emergency departments before dying.

Such problems are particularly relevant in the Tokyo metropolitan area.


Emergency numbers

The official number for health emergencies in Japan is 119. Additional emergency numbers may be available in your local area, especially in Tokyo. For less serious/urgent problems, you can call a doctor’s out-of-hours service.


Non-profit emergency services

If your emergency is not life-threatening, you might wish to call non-official emergency services. This may be for anything from a mere information request to a full intervention.

For example, you may call Japan helpline at 0570 000 911 or 0120 46 1997 (toll free).


Cost of emergency treatment

Healthcare is not free in Japan, and this includes emergency care. Ambulance services, however, may be provided free of charge. A health insurance scheme, whether social or private insurance, would normally help you with the cost of emergency treatment.

Fee waivers may apply for the neediest, e.g. the homeless who are brought to the hospital by an ambulance.


Travel advice

Many countries provide updated travel information to their citizens, and this often includes health advice. You should regularly check the Foreign Office website of your home country to see if there are any specific steps you need to make. Alternatively, you can go to your local embassy in Japan.



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