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Dezomeshiki – New Year Firefighters Ceremony

New Year is the most important holiday in Japan. Praying the first shrine visit (hatsumode) is a popular New Year custom that both Japanese and foreign tourists can experience. But if you want something a bit different, check out the Dezomeshiki, a historical reconstitution of Edo period firefighters in action.

Organized by the Kanazawa City Fire Department to warn the public of the dangers of fire, Dezomeshiki has become a classic New Year event in Kanazawa.

On a clear but chilly Sunday morning in January, I headed out to Kanazawa Castle Park to observe the event. Actually, I had never been to Dezomeshiki before, and I was surprised to see that many citizens and tourists had come as well.

The ladder stunts performed after the opening ceremony are the main attraction. Firefighters dressed in festival coats (happi) perform acrobatic stunts on top of ladders to the sound of traditional music. The performers are members of a local community of firefighters that traces its origin back to the Edo period firefighters known as Kaga Tobi. (see http://www.kanazawa-tourism.com/eng/event/event4.php). Their wonderful feats delighted the crowds.
The Kanazawa Hyakumangoku Festival in June is another chance of seeing the Kaga Tobi perform.

Towards the end of the event, the firefighters stripped down to their loincloths and jikatabi shoes and used the hoses to shoot jets of water into the sky simultaneously. Of course, all the men were drenched to the skin, but they seemed to be having a wonderful time. Let me remind you that it was a freezing day!

Dezomeshiki takes place on the first Sunday of January every year and is free. But I recommend that unlike the firefighters, you dress warmly!

(A.T.)