Most Japanese apartments come equipped with an intercom (usually locally referred to as interphone/ ‘in-taa-hon’). Aside from providing security, this is also very handy for receiving guests and deliveries. A lot of apartment buildings in Japan have an ‘auto-lock’ feature, prohibiting anyone from entering the premises unless allowed by one of the tenants. So, you can let anyone through the front gate by using the intercom.
About Your Intercom
Most commonly, the intercoms in Japan come with a screen and you can answer the person calling from outside by speaking directly to the machine. Another common type is one that has a telephone receiver attached. If this is the one you have at home, you would have to pick up the receiver to speak with the person on the other end of the line.
Buttons And Other Parts
For this guide, I will be using the Intercom unit named Aihon GAM-2MK which is what we have at home. This is actually a pretty simple model as far as intercoms in Japan go so don’t be surprised if the one that is in your house has more buttons. There are many intercoms for example, that allow you to record a video of the person ringing the bell. However, this intercom has all the basic and most common functions so it should at least get you started in using your own device.
On the front part of the this particular intercom you can see the screen which would show the outside when somebody rings the bell. Below the screen is the speaker. Facing the intercom, it is not so obvious but to the right of the screen is actually the microphone. Now on to the buttons:
解錠 (Kaijou): If the accompanying key symbol is not a dead giveaway, I don’t know what is. This button, obviously, is for unlocking the front gate.
通話/終通 (Tsuuwa/Tsuitsuu)：This button has two functions which can be accessed by pressing it alternately. The first one, 通話 (tsuuwa) is in order to answer the call or start speaking. 終通 (tsuitsuu), on the other hand, is in order to end the call.
Left Side (when facing the intercom)
When you open the cover on the lower left side of the intercom, there is actually a switch in order to turn the machine on or off. I have never used this one but I can imagine someone might use this if they are going away for a long time.
Right Side (when facing the intercom)
On this side, you can see a dial and 2 switches. From top to bottom, the labels are:
明るさ (Akarusa): Used to control the brightness of the screen.
受話音量 (Juwa Onryou): From top to bottom, you can choose from high/middle/low volume for the doorbell.
呼出音量(Yobidashi Onryou): From top to bottom, you can choose from high/middle/low volume for your voice (as heard by the person outside).
Answering the doorbell
When somebody is ringing the doorbell, a tune will of course play on your intercom.
- To answer the person (tell him to come in, ask what it’s about etc.), press the 通話/終通 (Tsuuwa/Tsuitsuu) button then speak.
- When you’re done speaking, press the 通話/終通 (Tsuuwa/Tsuitsuu) button again to make sure that your voice is no longer heard outside.
- To open the building gate, press 解錠 (Kaijou).
Note that once the person gets in front of your door, he can press the doorbell again and a tune will once more play on your intercom. This time, there is no need to press anything.