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So...What is Hikeshi!?”

Mon, Sep 14, 20

Hello all, I'm Yoshida, the manager of Hikeshi Spirit Asakusa store.


Our store staff is going to write articles regularly on this page.
We hope to show you not only around Asakusa, but also Japan thorough our eyes with this project.

Our name is "Hikeshi Spirit" (pronounces 'he-keh-she spirit'). Some of you might be asking, "what is Hikeshi...?".
Hikeshi was the name of the fire fighters and their organizations. 
Many of our designs are based on their uniform, "Hikeshi-Banten".

Although the history of Hikeshi continues after the end of the Edo period, I will be talking about Hikeshis during this period for now.

Even though Japan is quite well known for its city skylines and tall buildings, on an individual level, there is more wooden architecture than steel architecture.
During the Edo period, the population of Edo (Tokyo's old name) was more than 50 million.
The common people lived in row houses and were restricted to live in certain areas.
Because of that, all the row houses were built very close to each other.
According to Wikipedia, there were 49 great fires in Edo during the period. To compare, other cities such as Kyoto and Osaka's numbers were only 9 and 6.
Now you can imagine how residential areas must have looked like.

Let me ask you a question. What would be the most dangerous, or scariest thing for closely built, wooden buildings?

You're correct. THE FIRE.

If they had flame-proof technology back then, the fire wouldn't have been too severe.
Unfortunately, it didn't exist.
Once one house caught fire, it must have spread very quickly and far.
That's why there were Hikeshis. The stars of this article.

For your information, there were more than one organization of Hikeshis. Nonetheless, they all had only one mission. It was to keep the damage by the fire as small as possible.

Let me tell you about one of the great fires of Edo called "The Great Fire of Meireki."
More than 10 million lives were taken. It lasted for three days, and some parts of Edo castle were burned.
Because there weren't any fire trucks or hoses, Hikeshi destroyed buildings located downwind to stop the fire from spreading.
Although firefighters today use different methods, I'm sure they and Hikeshis share the same goals: to stop the fire and save lives if they need to.

We have no power over the fire. All we can do is to stand there in shock and stare at the flames.
Imagine, all of a sudden, people like Hikeshis show up in front of this hopelessness.
Then they start fighting the fire. If they aren't "the heroes," who are?

Hikeshis were the only hope to face challenges like the fire in the Edo.
They ARE the Japanese version of the Avengers!!!

Well, I guess this is it for the first one.
We will be writing more about Hikeshis. Topics like; how they were seen from others, their eccentric styles etc.

Until next time!

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