fireman hanten, Japan, Showa (circa 1940), cm 75x134. In old Japan, where wood architecture was predominant, fires occurred frequently. The capital city of Edo (Tokyo) suffered its worst fire in 1657 when nearly 170,000 people perished. At first samurai firefighters were employed, and by the mid-18th century well-organized groups of townsmen firefighters took control of activities. Firefighting was an extremely hazardous occupation and before entering the scene of a fire, a firefighter wearing full gear, including coat, hood, trousers and gloves (all done in cotton) soaked himself with water, thus providing (though an added weight of as much as eighty pounds) necessary protection from heat and falling objects. Firemen’s cloth coats are made of several layers of thick cotton fabric quilted by ‘sashiko’ stitchings, and therefore able to absorb large quantities of water. These coats are typically reversible, and some 19th century examples show striking hand-painted designs in the lining, and are very collectible and valuable items. The present ‘hanten’ (sashiko coat) is not as old, proves that the above attitude was still working well into the 20th century though. The lining of this coat has a decoration showing a ‘matoi’ and a bamboo ladder amid flames of a fire. a very symbolic representation, as matoi was a large three-dimensional paper-mache structure attached on the top of a long wooden pole, and over its top was placed a wooden tag or plaque with the crest identifying the specific fire brigade. Typically, the matoi holder (matoi mochi) would have climbed on top of the nearby roof of the burning building holding the matoi to notify people of the proximity of fire, to coordinate work and provide a courageous and vocal reference point to mates. Despite having been used, the coat is in good condition with lining tsutsugaki design not faded at all. Visually grabbing and a funky evidence of a past world.
price:  SOLD