Interpreter services for emergency calls offered by 38% of fire departments in Japan


Around 38 percent of fire departments across the nation offer interpreter services for emergency calls made by people who cannot speak Japanese, a government survey showed Thursday.

The figure, as of the end of June, represents a 13 percentage point increase from December last year and shows the country is on track to achieving its goal of having multilingual call services provided by all of the around 730 fire station headquarters by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

In the survey, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency studied how many headquarters provide simultaneous interpreters for foreigners calling emergency fire and medical services in languages other than Japanese.

Such three-way calling services, provided in languages such as English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish, were offered fully in seven of Japan’s 47 prefectures, including the popular tourist destination of Okinawa and Nagano Prefecture.

Four prefectures, including Shiga and Tokushima prefectures, did not offer such interpreter services.

The agency will encourage the introduction of multilingual services by providing financial support to local authorities, as more foreigners are expected to visit Japan for the 2020 Olympics as well as the Rugby World Cup next year.