The Tokio Fire Department’s Annual Drill

Tokio (for so it was spelled by Westerners until the early 20th Century) was a disaster waiting to happen. Some 40,000 buildings were made of paper and wood, and the slightest spark could set the whole city ablaze; indeed, some 15,000 buildings burned to the ground in a conflagration in the middle of the 1800’s. A town with such fire danger demanded a well trained fire department, and Tokio had it. Fire drills, such as the one shown here, showcased their skill and were well attended by the population. According to Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, which sketched the drill in 1884, “the occasions upon which the Tokio Fire Brigade turns out for drill are red-letter days for the almond-eyed inhabitants of that city, who assemble to witness the vaulting ambition of the nimble and acrobatic members of the force….going through a series of evolutions connected with ladders – evolutions more like the feats of acrobats in a circus than the drill of responsible firemen.” In addition to ladder acrobatics, the Tokio firemen were specially trained to rescue furniture from the blaze; with prizes and plaudits awarded those who could lower a chair, table, or other household good deftly down the ladders without any unnecessary damage.

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  1. J. G. Burdette

     /  June 22, 2012

    Looks dangerous!

    I wasn’t sure if you did this type of thing or not but I have nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award here:

    • That’s awesome man, and quite an honor. I haven’t been nominated for anything since the Class Clown Elections in high school!


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