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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Japanese Fireman Ukiyo-e - 1876

Say what you will about Japan, but they sure seem to tart their firemen with a heck of a lot of respect.

I am of the same opinion, and that goes for the ambulance and police personnel, too…

when everyone else is running away, these guys are running to the trouble. Whatever it is they are being paid, it's never going to be enough.

No… I don't personally know anyone in those professions… except for high school buds: Scott Powers who, as far as I know, was an ambulance drive, and Dave Kasperski who was a police officer. Dave isn't anymore, and I've lost track of Scott and I'm not huge with Facebook because, to be honest, I pretty much do much of my talking here in this blog.

I'm also not huge on taking photos of myself - just because it's ego inflating… but hey, more power to all you self shooters. Also… photos of food? Unless you are doing a blog or website on critiquing food, restaurants et al… all you are doing is making me hungry. I think I eat when I'm down. Man… I'm always hungry.

See… there's a selfie. Not pretty is it? LOL!

Or maybe it's because I work, I go home, I play with the kid, teach him stuff like baseball and hockey, watch TV, and write these blogs… I have a boring life with boring food. I did have Eggs Benedict with lobster this past weekend. Very good, but I needed more. I think that was the second time I've been in a restaurant since 2014. The other, funnily enough was just a few weeks earlier and I had beer-battered fish and chips. Meh.

I did not feel the urge to take photos of the meals.

Rescue me.

Anyhow… in Japan… firemen are very well respected. Here's a story I wrote back in 2012 about a chance meeting with a volunteer fireman. Click HERE. Read it - it's interesting.

The one thing I did not ask him - and I kick myself for not - is how the hell the fire department knows where they are going, as there are no street names - especially in rural Japan?

So… the reason why I am writing today… the Japanese artwork - an ukiyo-e piece… one of 10 from a set by Oju Yoshitoshi and published by Okura Magobei in October of 1876.

The ukiyo-e set is entitled Ohoono haiku matoi… which apparently means A Mirror of Fireman's Standards in Each of the Precincts of Tokyo. Since I don't see Tokyo in the Japanese phrase, I doubt it's a true translation… but I'm guessing it is a reliable English translation for our purposes.

Although… I wonder if instead of 'mirror', we used 'reflection'… as in 'a look back at'… maybe that would be better?

This Tokyo fireman's standard's set of ukiyo-e is apparently difficult to find…

Apparently firemen were (even in the 1890s) as well-respected as sumo-san (sumo wrestlers) and kabuki actors were.

Surely if they were so popular, there would be more prints from this ukiyo-e series available.

Or… maybe they remain popular - just that few people are offering them for sale.

A lovely image, despite the slovenly look, we see the precinct's fireman standard… and I suppose there is some background story about that precinct's firemen or maybe it's history.

The ukiyo-e shows the clothing worn by the firemen… thick and bulky… and though not evident in the picture, a fireman's clothes would be heavily doused in water before attempting to battle it.

Somewhere hoping you don't need to see your local fire department in action,
Andrew Joseph
PS: The firemen have visited my current house a few times… once to try and save my mother after a heart attack, and once when I was a kid when my dad was doing some work with a blow torch inside the walls and though he might have set the fiberglass insulation on fire… and once at my own house about eight years ago when an electrical outlet started a fire inside the walls, raging for hours before I finally figured it out. It was just me and Spek the cat home at that time. I saved the cat. The firemen somehow saved the house, and more importantly my comic book collection without any smoke or water damage, even though I lost a butt-load of Japanese souvenirs.
PPS: Re: photos of food and the non-food blogger... someone needed to tell you... and I'm just sorry it wasn't someone else brave enough to do so. It's always effing Andrew.

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