Utagawa Kuniyoshi: Fire Brigade Acrobatics (Fireman’s Festival ) on the New Year’s Day - Honolulu Museum of Art

Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Title: Fire Brigade Acrobatics (Fireman’s Festival ) on the New Year’s Day

Date: c. 1830s

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Source: Honolulu Museum of Art
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Every year in early January, members of municipal fire departments and community firefighting teams put on a display of their skills in the New Year's parade called dezome-shiki. It is a centuries-old tradition that gives the public a glimpse of the latest firefighting and rescue techniques. The parade's attraction lies not only in the display of modern firefighting skills; an important element is an acrobatic show using ladders that originated with Edo period (1615-1868) firefighters. Edo, as Tokyo was then called, was known as a city of fires. Kuniyoshi has adeptly captured the firefighters' practicing stunts that were actually techniques used to save people from burning buildings. The tall, vertical format increases the sense of ladder height, and the cleverly placed image of Mount Fuji in the distant background creates the illusion that the firefighter atop the ladder is actually higher than the grand peak itself. (Tattoo exhibition 2005)

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