Dezomeshiki: The New Year’s Parade of Firemen!

  • Have you ever seen firefighters in action? If not, you can do so in Japan. A popular New Year’s custom celebrated by many local and foreign people in Tokyo is known as “Dezomeshiki” or New Year’s Parade of Firemen. This is a historical reconstitution of Edo period firefighters’ acrobatic performances during emergency situation. It is held annually on the first Sunday of January.

    What is Kaga Tobi?


    Fires were a huge problem in ancient Japan. An incident could result in the death of thousands of people and cause a large portion to be barren. The acrobatic performance of the firefighters is known as Kaga Tobi. It was the style used in preventing the spread of fire during the Edo period, particularly in the early 18th century. The firefighters destroy the adjoining houses by going on top of ladders while doing their work. They have to train properly in order to do this. In the event, they perform the stunts with traditional background music.

    There are some firefighting devices which may sound strange such as the pole with white stripes on it. This is called “matoi.” Only the strongest man in the unit carries it due to its heavy weight. It is used by soaking first in water and spinning it around for water to be sprayed in a fan effect. This can help put out the flames and prevent the further spread of fire. On the other hand, some firefighters pose on the ladder to let the other members know the direction of the wind. It helps the other members in deciding where to build firebreaks.

    The Event

    Dezomishiki is attended by 1,100 self-defense fire brigade members of the Kanazawa City Fire Department who come from different areas of the city. It is held in Kanazawa Castle Park and starts with Kaga Tobi’s traditional ladder style, followed by some water-discharge exercises. It also involves some high-tech fire-fighting equipment used in modern times.

    Dezomeshiki Festival is a unique event that will give you the chance to watch live stunt performances. Why don’t you add this up on your itinerary for the first week of January next year?

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