Understanding your ambulance

Photo: Ishizuka Yoshinori 石塚善規

In my Nov. 20 column in The Japan Times, I addressed what the heck Japanese ambulance crews are saying over their public-address system when they’re trying to make their way through traffic. Here’s a video to give you an idea what a Japanese ambulance looks and sounds like when it’s on a emergency run:

The crew member on the mike (the male voice) seems to be saying Tomatte o-machi kudasai 止まってお待ち下さい (“Please stop and wait.”) while the automatic announcement (the female voice) is saying Migi e magarimasu. Go-chūi kudasai. 右へ曲がります。ご注意ください。 (“Turning right. Please watch out.”)

It can be really difficult–even for native speakers–to understand Japanese ambulances, so as a public service I’m providing examples of commonly used phrases:

Aka shingō o tsūka shimasu 赤信号を通過します。 (“We’re going through the red light.”)

Hantai shasen o tsūka shimasu 反対車線を通行します。 (“We’re passing through the lane for traffic going in the opposite direction.”)

Kinkyū sharyō ga sekkin shimasunode yukkuri to migi e yotte kudasai. 緊急車両が接近しますので、ゆっくりと左へ寄ってください。 (“An emergency vehicle is approaching, so please make your way carefully to the left.”)

Kōsaten ni shinyū shimasu. 交差点に進入します。 (“We’re entering the intersection.”)

Hokōsha no kata, sukoshi o-machi kudasai. 歩行者の方、少しお待ちください。 (“Pedestrians, please wait.”)

I hope that last line is what the crew was saying when this next video was filmed. It’s the one I promised in my column I’d post, for its shocking footage of pedestrians refusing to stop for an ambulance.

This entry was posted in Life in Japan, What the Heck is That? and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Understanding your ambulance

  1. It no longer shocks me that people here don’t care about the ambulance… heck, the ambulance doesn’t even seem to care… they seem to go gratuitously slow. Just yesterday I pulled over to let one pass, but then quickly passed it on the open road because it was going well short of the already-ridiculously-slow 50kph speed limit on the empty 4-lane road. I think they just don’t care because the urgency is limited to once person (the victim) and their family. “Not my problem” syndrome.

    A fire truck, on the other hand, carries urgency for all because fire can spread quickly, and this fear is deeply rooted in the Japanese ethos. A fire truck would have careened almost recklessly around the corner to find that folks in the intersection had already parted like the Red Sea. The difference (between how people consider ambulances and fire trucks) is what’s really shocking for me.

  2. Alice says:

    Thank you for that interesting observation on differing attitudes to ambulances and fire trucks. I will keep a watch out for that. Nice to hear from you. Readers, if you don’t know Jeffrey’s blog, please check it out by clicking on his name above. In addition to interesting observations, he takes fabulous photographs of Japan. I try to stop by regularly.

  3. Scott H says:

    Perhaps the casual attitude of people in the street is the parallel to how casually people call them now. Is there some mass assumption that all ambulances are carrying people without serious problems?

  4. Alice says:

    Scott,
    I think that’s exactly right.

  5. Tamajin says:

    Thank you for the interesting post and the Japan Times column. Probably this is just a small typo: 緊急 should be read as ‘kinkyū’. Looking forward to seeing more of your posts.

  6. Alice says:

    Yes, a typo. Thank you for pointing it out. It’s now fixed.

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