Japan Data

Japanese Emergency Call Survey Highlights Free Pay Phone Function


Making emergency calls in Japan is always free, even from pay phones, and it is possible to dial the number from a locked smartphone.

Japan’s emergency services can be reached at 110 for police and 119 for fire and ambulance. Calls are free, even from pay phones. It is also possible to make calls from smartphones while still on the lock screen by tapping “Emergency” (written as 緊急 in Japanese), so if necessary one can call using someone else’s smartphone.

The childcare support service Baby Job conducted a nationwide survey of 441 parents who are currently raising children, revealing that 86.6% knew that it is possible to make an emergency call from a smartphone without unlocking it.

Knows How to Make an Emergency Call on a Smartphone

An emergency call to 119 or 110 can also be made on a public payphone by pressing the red button by the dial pad first, even without inserting coins or telephone card (or simply dial the emergency number for newer phones without this button). The percentage of parents unaware of this was 28.6%, and by age group, this rose to 38.3% of those in their twenties. This generation has grown up using mobile phones since they were young with very few opportunities to use a public payphone.

Not Aware How to Make an 119 Emergency Call from a Public Payphone

The spread of smartphone use has meant the number of public payphones has fallen drastically, but as of the end of March 2022, there were still 108,000 installed across Japan. These phones are an effective way of communication at times of disasters and other emergencies, as unlike personal phones, even if the lines are busy there are no limits on their usage and they are prioritized for use. They also work even in the case of a power outage. Japanese residents are recommended to know the location of their nearest payphone and how to use it.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

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