Tokyo, Kanto

Warning people of the dangers of fire through acrobatic stunts on top of ladders.

Organized by the Tokyo Fire Department, this is an event held to pray for a safe year. Although similar events are held throughout Japan, the spectacular New Year’s Parade of Firemen has over 100 fire engines and helicopters participating, along with as large-scale fire-fighting and emergency drills.

The main attraction is the ladder stunts. Men dressed as firemen of the Edo Period (17th-19th Centuries) perform circus-like acrobatic stunts on top of bamboo which tower over the heads of the men supporting them. These demonstrations have been held since then to warn people of the dangers of fire.

The ladder was an indispensable fire-fighting tool in the Edo Period. This was because the main method back then was to tear down the surrounding buildings to prevent fire from spreading, so there was a need to climb up onto roofs. As agile movement was required, it was mostly nimble scaffolding workers who served as firemen in each town. These workers set up scaffolding when constructing buildings. As they needed to climb up higher when putting up the scaffolding, they had extraordinary strength and stamina.

Great fires struck Edo several times, burning down the greater part of the city. Following a very big fire known as Meireki no Taika in 1657, the Jobikeshi fire brigade was formed to protect strategic sites such as Edo Castle. Fire corps were stationed full-time in four locations in Edo.

The New Year’s Parade of Firemen first started with firemen praying in front of the shrine of Ueno Toshogu for a safe and sound year ahead, free of fires for Edo.


[Rail]Ariake Station is on the Yurikamome and Rinkaisen Lines.
Tokyo Big Sight
January 6th
Dates and functions are subjects to change without notice. Be sure to check the latest information in advance.
Ariake, Koto-ku, Tokyo

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