Friday, May 7, 2010

Speak of the devil: real fires

No not my house. Just in case you worried.

Last week I posted about a fire drill. This week there was an actual fire in my town. But before I get to that, a little bit about firemen. Most of the firemen in my town are volunteer firemen. I assume that the ones at the main station on the outskirts of town are professional firemen, but I don't know.

We have 5 fire stations in Central Ichinohe. The big one at the Southern edge of town has 4 fire engines and an ambulance. There are 4 volunteer stations, each with an engine apiece. From the furthest North to the furthest South of these is about 20 minutes. WALKING. I wonder how anything can possibly burn here. But then the houses are made of wood and paper. They could probably burn faster than you could dial 119 (fire number here). Case in point, there's a burnt out building directly across from a fire station - but then that happens at home too.

Anyhow, last week my neighbour's parents were here, and we were on our way to the store when we ran into a guy who works in our Board of Education. He was coming out of a fire station. Turns out he's a volunteer fireman. My neighbour really wants to be a volunteer fireman. Mostly because the Firemen get to wear happi (shown below) and because they only seem to ever take part in school events and parades, and have drinking parties. The firemen at the station we passed that evening, as if to prove my point, were having a barbecue. They even invited us in, but we already had plans.

Happi- FRONT


These pics were taken at Karumai Festival 2008. Karumai is one town North and East of my town. It's about 80 square miles and 11,000 people.

Firemen march in the Summer Festival

And firewomen

And fire scouts

And fire motorcycles

And 23 !!! 23 fire trucks

Making their way down to the river (Can anybody tell me why a town of 11,000 needs 23 fire trucks?)

Displaying the ability to shoot coloured water

Japanese Fire Departments brought to you by Skittles. Taste the rainbow.

Another thing the firemen do here is drive around town at night, with the bells on. Not sirens. BELLS. All night long. Ding ding. Ding ding. Ding ding. You learn to tune it out. Ding ding. I had totally forgotten about it. Ding ding. Until my neighbour's mom mentioned it. Ding ding. So if they drive around with the bells on, how do we know when there's an actual fire?

Air. Raid. Siren.

I am so not kidding. On Tuesday there was an actual fire and off goes this caterwauling playing on speakers at the town hall (we live 10 mins walk away) and repeaters through town. It's the scariest thing. When you hear it, you want to dig a hole and hide. They announce the details on the town PA system afterwards. But the town PA system is about as understable as airport announcements. Even for people who are native Japanese speakers. I went outside and my neighbours were all out there listening to the announcement and the only detail they could gather was "fire". Thanks, I got that on my own.

Even though I'd already heard this air raid siren, it still freaked me for a second before I remembered what it was. Oh, and the first time I heard it? The day after North Korea announced that debris from their "communications satellite launch" could possibly fall on our prefecture. Imagine. North Korea possibly missile testing. You're living due East of North Korea. And then you hear an air raid siren. Yups. Thought it was the end of the world!

This week, Iwate Swan visits Sendai and goes to an Oktoberfest! It's one prefecture South of here, and I affectionately refer to it as the big city of the North. Notice the squatty-potty in the toilet? lol.


Marsha Sigman said...

HAHAHHAHHHA, taste the rainbow. That is so funny and the reason they have so many fire trucks is because they are so awesome obviously!!

But the bells would get on my nerves, and an air raid siren for a fire? So I guess there is no chance that you can keep that quiet if you accidentally start a fire in your house, huh?

ElbieNy25 said...

It's fascinating how an outsider sees another culture. I bet you someone from Japan could come to America and stare wide eyes at about a dozen different things we casually do or deem "normal".

Dana Sease said...

This post made me chuckle! Love the fire scouts and fire motorcycles. :) As far as I know, Kuji doesn't have all this. No bells all night or air raid sirens for fires, either.

Apparently Ichinohe firemen (and firewomen and fire scouts) don't mess around!! I wonder if they're nationally known?

By the way, it's 4:30 a.m. as I write this...I'm having an insomnia night. (I know you can relate)

Anonymous said...

please tell me he's not wanting to be a fireman just because he gets to wear a happi and drink? that's not very responsible at all.

but thank you for your comment on my post:

you can find a transliterated version of jitensha here if you're looking:

Anonymous said...

good~ keep sharing with us, please....I will waiting your up date everyday!! Have a nice day........................................

Jon Paul said...

Yeah, I remember when we used to have the annual airshow on base, and about a million of those guys showed up with all kinds of trucks and motorcycles and stuff.

I can't for the life of me imagine what use a "fire motorcycle" would be to any flame dousing operation, but I suppose there's a good reason.

Taste the rainbow indeed. :)