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Origin[]

Edofirefighters

Edo firefighting styles are still preserved (only for performances) in modern Japan.

Fires in Edo were fires which occurred in Edo, now Tokyo, of Japan during the Edo period. Even in the modern days, the old Edo was still remembered as the "City of Fires". The city was something of a rarity in the world, as vast urban areas of Edo were repeatedly leveled by fire. During the Edo period, fire was an indispensable element of daily life. It was used for cooking and lighting, which in turn gave rise to accidents. Arson, due to various motives, was another source of fires. The greater frequency of great fires in Edo compared to other cities came from various reasons, which included a dense urban layout housing a large population, existence of an impoverished social class, and Edo's unique meteorological conditions.

In the early Edo period, firefighting was not institutionalized. However, repetition of great fires became a turning point for the establishment of the hikeshi ("firefighting") system. The hikeshi's primary method of firefighting was to demolish buildings surrounding those already ablaze to prevent fire from spreading. Up until the Meiji Restoration, the manual demolition of buildings by professional firefighters, of which steeplejacks were a majority, remained the primary method of firefighting. The hikeshi's dexterity on those ladders, as well as other fascinating aspects of their history, have been kept and revisited thanks to annual festivals held around Japan, with ladder-climbing acrobatics (hashigonori) and singing traditional firefighting songs (kiyari).

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