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Japan’s Most Unusual Volunteer Firemen


Fire. It’s played a crucial role in Japan’s religions, and history. Japanese houses are generally built of wood. Though this reduces the damage from earthquakes It increases the likelihood of devastating fires. In the olden days when a fire broke out, the local chief would spin a heavy metal crest to announce the blaze. Nowadays they have a less colorful –
though probably more effective – way to spot fires. Every neighborhood has its own volunteer fire brigade that patrols the streets each night. The call, “watch out for fires” and the clapping wood is meant to remind people to turn off
their gas heaters before going to bed. Though sometimes they can’t
resist the chance to elaborate. The volunteers do more than just look
for fires – they cut down on crime and encourage old fashioned village camaraderie. The equipment gets very little use. These volunteers don’t actually fight fires. They use their cell phones to call the fire department. And in between patrols, there’s
always time to shoot the breeze. Though if the whole exercise doesn’t seem that serious, think again. This is, after all, Japan. It takes six months of training to qualify for a patrol. You have to have the proper uniform, the proper attitude, and know the proper drill. And have the official firefighter’s passport open to the proper page. Though they don’t REALLY
take themselves that seriously. Until it’s time to head out again and keep the streets of old Kyoto safe and fire-free.

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