May 11, 2017
The days of the Biblical telephone directory may be long over, but it’s always nice to have the essential numbers to hand. Despite Japan’s feverish thumbing of smartphones and a bizarre fetish for the fax machine, there is still need in Japan to speak to people over the phone. Here we attempt to collate a ‘directory’ of useful phone numbers for Japan. Some are for Japan’s emergency services, some are for ‘helplines’ and consultation services based around Japan (or with nationwide coverage), and others are listed just because they might be useful to foreign residents of Japan.
In compiling this list of useful phone numbers for Japan, we didn’t actually call any of them. This might strike as being lazy, but nearly all of the following phone numbers / helplines are there for people in need. Serious, genuine need. At the time of writing, touch wood, we are not, and don’t want to be clogging up phone lines unnecessarily. Obviously calling up emergency services without there being an emergency would be a breach of the law, and anyway, this expat at least, can hand-on-heart say that they would know how, even if it was back home.
To this end then, we can’t guarantee or vouch for who is going to pick up the phone and to what extent they can speak foreign languages (if at all). This list of useful numbers and helplines in Japan is also a work in progress. We will likely add to it, subtract from it, and update it as we move forward. If you have any phone numbers useful for expats in Japan that you think should be on this list, be sure to leave them in the comments below.
Emergency services in Japan
|Fire / Ambulance||119|
|Emergencies at sea||118|
For a useful set of instructions on how to make calls to fire / ambulance services in Japan see: Tokyo Fire Department (English and other languages).
English-speaking police (Tokyo)
|Hours||8:30 - 17:15 (Mon - Fri)|
The Metropolitan Police Department has a ‘violence hotline’ available 24 hrs. No word on if this available in multiple languages.
Medical support in Japan
AMDA International Medical Information Center
This organization is widely listed for providing all-round introductory support with your medical concerns in Japan. A look at the English page of their website makes one wonder if they are still active (the copyright hasn’t been updated since 2009 and their last news update was in 2013). However, on the Japanese site we can see entries made in 2017.
|English, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Spanish||9:00 - 20:00 (daily)|
|Portuguese||9:00 - 17:00 (Mon / Weds / Fri)|
|Filipino (Tagalog)||13:00 - 17:00 (Weds)|
|Vietnamese||13:00 - 17:00 (Thurs)|
|English, Spanish, Chinese||9:00 - 17:00 (Mon - Fri)|
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government
... is a good resource for medical concerns and for a point in the right direction …
Tokyo Metropolitan Health and Medical Information Center
Information provided by multilingual staff regarding medical services / institutions / insurance.
Languages available: English/Chinese/Korean/Thai/Spanish
|Hours||9:00 - 20:00 (daily)|
Emergency Translation Services
For interpretation over the phone when receiving medical treatment (if language barriers are hindering the treatment).
Languages available: English/Chinese/Korean/Thai/Spanish
|Hours||17:00 - 20:00 (weekdays) / 9:00 - 20:00 (weekends & holidays)|
Counselling and support
Any city office worth its salt will have some kind of foreign residents’ consultation service, usually free. Maybe you can call them first and have your inquiries addressed over the phone, or maybe you have to go in in person. These consultations can cover daily-life issues, issues relating to one’s understanding (or lack thereof) of Japanese society and the way things over here work, family matters, and initial medical support (in the sense that they might be able to point you in the direction of those who can actually help in this regard).
City offices often have a variety of consultation services, covering labor law, job hunting, taxes, issues with the law. See your city’s homepage (with the rough translation) for more information.
A non-profit offering emergency assistance nationwide for foreign residents of Japan. Available 24 hrs. The site looks very dated and the copyright remains set at 2005.
tell (Tokyo English Life Line)
... provides all manner of support and counselling services, and information to foreign residents of Japan, particularly in relation to mental health issues.
AIDS counselling is available in Japan where you should be able to find clinics that will do free tests.
Japan HIV Center
A non-profit founded in Osaka in the 80s providing support for people affected by HIV/AIDS in Japan, “regardless of means of infection, nationality, sexuality.”.
JHC have branches in Tokyo, Shikoku, Nagoya, Hyogo, Okayama, and Sasebo
Osaka-based NPO ‘Charm’ has a multi-language website with information about their services in supporting and counselling those foreign residents of Japan living with HIV. They have a support line …
|English/Spanish/Portuguese||16:00 - 20:00 (Tues)|
|Thai||16:00 - 20:00 (Weds)|
|English/Filipino||16:00 - 20:00 (Thurs)|
Calling immigration centers in Japan is a mixed bag. The Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau has a kind of help line / help desk the staff of which attempt to help you with your inquires in a number of languages (English, Chinese and Korean, at the last check). The problem is that the people on the other end of the line (as well meaning as they might be), are not actually immigration officials, and can’t really give you definitive answers (you can hear this in their voice as your questions get harder). That said, answers at immigration centers across Japan can vary according to who you speak to, and what kind of mood they are in. Without doubt, the best way to handle immigration questions is to get someone Japanese to call for you and have them put through the relevant department.
Anyway, the people at Tokyo should at least be able to start addressing some of your inquires (wherever you might be calling from).
Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau:
|Hours||9:00 0 12:00 / 13:00 to 16:00 (except for Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays)|
Phone numbers for regional immigration bureaus / offices in Japan
|Higashi-Nihon Immigration Center (Ibaraki)||029-875-1291|
|Nishi-Nihon Immigration Center (Osaka)||072-641-8152|
For a full list of immigration facilities in Japan: http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/info/
Other useful phone numbers in Japan
NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone)
These are the people that control most of the phones in Japan.
Public Pay phones in Japan
Although getting thinner on the ground these days (for obvious reasons) they are still relatively easy to find, particularly near train stations and similar transport hubs. While not likely to smell of urine and be covered head-to-toe in innuendo-heavy graffiti (as many of us may have become accustomed to) they may still come furnished with ads for services that, well, could be considered medical.
Using public pay phones in Japan to call emergency services
Some of the NTT phones may have a red ‘emergency call button’. Press this first and then enter the number. For phones without that button, simply dial the number directly.
Dialing charges …
Local calls: 8.5 yen ( 3 - 4 mins depending on time of day)
In-prefecture long-distance: 10 yen (up 20 km = 90 seconds - 2 mins / Over 60 km = 45 seconds - 90 seconds)
For 10 yen on a local call this will get you around 60 - 80 seconds depending on the time of day. Once you get out of the ‘local zone’ (from around 20 km) time allowance begins to decrease. Over 160 km and you’re down to 8 - 14 seconds.
It’s worth noting that during the March 2011 earthquake / tsunami, the NTT public pay phones were available for use free of charge. We don’t know if this is fixed policy for all situations like this.
For the Japanese ‘directory inquiries’ (with NTT) ...
State the name and the address of the number that you are after.
Charges: First inquiry of the month = 60 yen per number. Second and subsequent inquires (90 yen). Late night inquires (23:00 - 8:00 am) = 150 yen. Presumably Japanese only
Find English-language information about NTT public phones:
Like we said, this list (directory) of phones numbers and helplines in Japan is a work-in-progress. If there are useful numbers for services of a similar nature in Japan, help us all out and jot them down in the comments.
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