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Samurai Firemen

Samurai Firemen

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Textiles: Pre 1837 VR: Item # 881632
Asian Art By Kyoko
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Daimyo hikeshi shozoku: Samurai firefighter's wool jacket with a silk velvet collar; the crest and design are couched with gold leaf thread (wrapped around silk thread), chest protector and belt. Excellent, clean condition with some holes and damages in velvet collar. Late Edo period (1603-1868), 50" wide x 39" long, Chest protector, 25 1/4" 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.