Tokyobling's Blog

More Ladder Acrobatics in Kawagoe

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on April 7, 2014

More of the fantastic ladder acrobatics as performed by Saitama prefecture firefighters at the Kawagoe Harumatsuri (Kawagoe City Spring Festival) opening day at the end of March 2014. The ladder is simple and handmade out of hemp rope and bamboo poles. The only thing that keeps it upright is the support of the hooks and bills applied by the team members on the ground. The method allowed firefighting teams in the Edo period of Japan to quickly and safely raise the ladders anytime and anywhere in matter of seconds, regardless of conditions. Ladders were not used only to scale walls or buildings, but also as mobile observation platforms to find fires and routes in the densely packed wooden cities of Japan. The traditions are being kept alive by the modern firefighters although in those days the positions were often hereditary and passed down through special families of samurai or commoners tasked with keeping an eye on fires. The official system that we can see in these performances was introduced in 1720.

Tokyo, or Edo as it was known then, was famous for its many fires. People in other parts of Japan even made fun of Edo by coining the saying 火事と喧嘩は江戸の花 (“Quarrels and fires are the flowers of Edo”, in Japanese to be the flower of something is the be the pride and joy, the finest and the best). During the 267 years of the Edo period (1601-1867) there were 49 massive fires in the city, ten times as many as in the other large cities of Japan. If you include smaller firest there were a couple of thousand during the Edo period. The number of fires increased as the population growth and the inability of the Shogunate government (the feudal ruler of Japan) to handle the growth of the city is part of the reason why the Emperor was able to regain government control of the country in 1868. Without the many fires of Edo this blog could have been called Edobling. The greatest fire of Edo was in 1657 when 107 000 people were killed (about one fifth of the total population). Compared to the 8 official deaths of the great fire of London 1666 it seems even larger. The worst months of the year for fires was in January, February and March, when strong winds, cold and dry weather mean that even small household accidents could easily sweep the entire city if left unchecked. People were so afraid of these fires that many men who had relations outside of the city sent their wives to the countryside in these three months.

kawagoe_harumatsuri_hashigonori_2014_0306

kawagoe_harumatsuri_hashigonori_2014_0291

kawagoe_harumatsuri_hashigonori_2014_0312

kawagoe_harumatsuri_hashigonori_2014_0175

kawagoe_harumatsuri_hashigonori_2014_0343

kawagoe_harumatsuri_hashigonori_2014_0346

kawagoe_harumatsuri_hashigonori_2014_0353

kawagoe_harumatsuri_hashigonori_2014_0358

kawagoe_harumatsuri_hashigonori_2014_0359

kawagoe_harumatsuri_hashigonori_2014_0361

kawagoe_harumatsuri_hashigonori_2014_0362

kawagoe_harumatsuri_hashigonori_2014_0187

kawagoe_harumatsuri_hashigonori_2014_0368

kawagoe_harumatsuri_hashigonori_2014_0369

kawagoe_harumatsuri_hashigonori_2014_0385

kawagoe_harumatsuri_hashigonori_2014_0395

Advertisements

2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Timi said, on April 7, 2014 at 7:40 am

    I know it must be hard to do these, that’s why it’s so amazing! Still it reminds me of myself when I did things like these on the recreation ground..:D

    Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: