Jun'ichiro Sekino: Firemen on Procession on Nihonbashi Bridge (SOLD)

  • Sold.

Artist: Junichiro Sekino (1914-1988)
Title: Firemen In Procession On Nihonbashi 日本橋
Date: 1960

A group of Japanese firemen carry the standards of their brigades over the famous Nihonbashi bridge, on their way to the dezome ( 出初め) ceremony, one of the traditional New Year’s Events which took place January 4. At this ceremonial gathering of regional ”hikeshi” and “tobi”, they wear traditional  Edo  uniforms and demonstrate their acrobatic skills on tall bamboo ladders.   This event remains even today as a New Year’s celebration. 

Firemen in Japan were classified into two types: “hikeshi”火消しand “tobi”.  Both worked to fight fires, which occurred with great frequency in Edo.  “Hikeshi” worked to extinguish the fire itself, while  “tobi”  firefighters  worked to prevent the fire from spreading by breaking down structures with their tools called tobi-kuchi 鳶口which have a hook like a beak of tobi, a black kite. 

During the Edo period,  48 groups of firemen were divided into 10 larger units to cover the west part of the Sumida River in Edo, whereas 16 groups covered Higashi Honjo and Fukagawa area of Edo. The number 48 comes from the Japanese alphabet, i, ro, ha…いろは and each single hirakana letter was used for the identification of the groups. Here each group wears their shirushi-hanten 印半纏, (half-coat) that bears their group letter. Matoi, a flag-like standard with numerous shapes are also carried. (With thanks to Michiko Sato-Grube for her assistance.)

A woman and a girl in a kimono stop to watch. Nihonbashi’s iconic, western lanterns are prominent in the background. Sekino is one of the greatest artists of the 20th c. sosaku hanga movement, and his prints are in many museum collections, including the MFA Boston, the British Museum LACMA and others.

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition.
Dimensions: 42.5 x 55 cm
Signed: Signed "Jun. Sekino" in  pencil on watermarked paper. Artist's seal in red, lower right.