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New Year Parade of Fire Brigades to the Capital

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

New Year Parade of Fire Brigades to the Capital

by Unread (Kotō?), 1873

Seven Variations in a Kyōka Contest in the Bunsei Era

IHL Cat. #201

About This Print

A depiction of the annual New Year parade of firefighters to the Imperial Palace.  Firefighters in happi coats perform acrobatic stunts on top of bamboo ladders in the inset.

The same design reissued by a different publisher as a book illustration in 1899
Image size: 8 3/4 x 14 in. (22.2 x 35.6 cm)
source: Digital Collections of Keio University Libraries http://dcollections.lib.keio.ac.jp/en/bon-ukiyoe/024/311


Old Photos of Japan webste http://oldphoitosjapan.com/?q=fire
Source: Japan National Tourism Organization website http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/indepth/history/traditionalevents/a02_fes_dezome.html

The ladder stunts were the main event of Japanese New Year celebrations. The demonstrations, called dezome-shiki (出初め式), were intended to warn people of the dangers of fire, and to demonstrate the agility and courage of the firefighters.

The old way to fight fires was to tear down surrounding houses, so ladders were needed to climb on roofs. Because of the climbing involved, especially scaffolding workers served as firemen. They had incredible strength and stamina because of having to build scaffolds on a daily basis. The demonstration was preceded with the firemen praying at a shrine for their safety during the coming year. Dezome-shiki are still held at many towns today.

click on image to enlarge
We Japanese, Vol. II, Atsuharu Sakai, Fujiya Hotel, Ltd., 4th printing, 1947, p. 90-91.

Note on Artist’s Signature

With the assistance of Noel Chiappa and Guy Pepermans it has been determined that the unidentified artist's signature 湖東 (appearing immediately to the right of the square artist's seal) likely reads Kotō.  It is unlikely that this artist is the same at the artist Ōkura Kōtō who designed Russo-Japanese War prints, as the Ōkura Kōtō's signature uses different kanji.

Hara Shobo catalog No. 70 2010.7, which shows this print on p. 20, item 211, also lists the artist's name as Koto.

The full signature, as confirmed by Maribeth Graybill, Curator of Asian Art at the Portland Art Museum, reads 應属湖東正  ōzoku Kotō sei.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description  New Year Parade of Fire Brigades to the Capital (東京各消防出初式之図)
 Artist  Unread (artist's signature has been read as "Kotō."  See "Note on Artist's Signature" above.)
 Signature  應属湖東正(生)  ōzoku Kotō sei
 Seal  unread ?東
 Publication Date  1873 (Meiji 5)
Hasegawa Tsunejirō 長谷川常次郎 
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  good
 Condition  fair - overall toning and moderate foxing; full size unjoined sheets
 Genre  ukiyo-e
 Format  vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper
 9 3/4 x  14 1/2 in. (24.8 x 36.8 cm) each sheet
 Collections This Print

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