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Daimyo Fireman

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Textiles: Pre 1837 VR: Item # 881399
Asian Art By Kyoko
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A daimyo’s firefighting wool jacket with a Kiri-no-mon crest, chest protector baring the same crest. It has a silk liner decorated with old marble dye. Dated from late Edo period (1603-1868),

Japanese could not produce wool of their own during the Edo period. Totally depending on Nanban trading, wool was pretty rare and pricey commodity. The liner for this jacket is also unusual. This is our first and only antique marble dyed fabric ever. The technique of marble dye existed in Japan as early as the Heian period (794-1185). Some court nobles were said to have written poems on black and white marbled papers - use of Sumi black ink and pine rosin. Since then, it was like a phantom somewhat vanished from the sight; I don't think you would bump into an old marble dyed examples easily. So, this jacket must had been made for someone important. 51" wide x 37 1/4" long, Chest protector, 22" long.

There were many fires during the Edo period (1603-1868). The town of Edo was crowded with houses quickly built after the first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu, established his castle in Edo. Houses were built with wood and paper with straw roofs. The Furisode Fire of 1657 burned down almost entire towns of Edo and killed 110,000 people. It was caused by a fire set on a furisode (long sleeve kimono) which used to belong to a young woman. The beloved kimono of the woman was donated to the shrine and it was burned there for its bad omen.

There were two different groups of firemen during the Edo period: Early firemen (hikeshi) were Daimyo-bikeshi, organized by high ranking samurai; they mainly protected the Shogun’s castles and his interests (shrines, rice warehouse, and samurai’s mansions). The Machi-bikeshi, the firemen organized by the townsmen (mainly construction workers), were later created in the early 1700s.

Early Daimyo Hikeshi Shozoku (firemen’s uniform) jackets were made out of leather, then wool (rasha, raseita-moslin like thin wool, goro) which was a rare fabric during the period. The uniform for Machi-bikeshi was made out of the piles of cottons stitched together, some with beautiful tattoo-like dye work inside.