Monday, 20 March 2017

Japanese Indigo Dyed Fireman Jackets.

There is a museum in Tokyo dedicated to Japanese fire fighting.

There is a collection of old fire brigade uniforms on display so I went for a few hours to take a look.

The museum was quite lively. There were plenty of mothers there with their young ones who seemed to aspire to be fire fighters. There is a fire station in the building so there were plenty of brave, duty loving, serious looking Japanese in the building along with a few non-Japanese hunky fire fighter looking tourists who would be very interested in the long history fire fighting in Tokyo.

There were millions of people living in this city for five hundred years plus. The city was crowded and made of wood. One of the fire brigades main jobs was to tear down buildings quickly to create a fire break. (Interesting aside...There was a small city upstream where large boats owned by the wealthy held all the materials to rebuild buildings after fires or buildings being torn down as a fire break. )

As with all Japanese museums there was a magnificent miniature recreation model. This time of a section a Tokyo with a fire watch tower and fire fighters tearing the clay tiles off a roof before collapsing the building to make the fire break. (I love Japan on museum days.)

But my interest this day was the indigo dyed work jackets. What was the spirit they were wore in?

I have nine guests at the farmhouse from April 1st here to design and indigo dye these jackets for themselves. It is time to get out of the cave of winter hibernation and get in the work mode again.

Japan is beautiful in May. I had a few cancellations in a regular indigo workshop. If you are up to a ten-day workshop here at the farmhouse with a lot of indigo dyeing, good food and cultural activities we will spoil you & take care of you well. Drop me a line at

The jackets on display were typically masculine and bold.

Fire fighters were always gorgeously tattooed. He is carrying a mattoi with his brigades insignia design on the top. These are made of white painted leather. They are amazing when every man holds one and they do a choreographed uber tough guy parade dance.

There was a healthy collection of these matoi on display.

Here is a sample design pattern for the hanten jackets. The amount of stripes and their position signifies rank.

The Museum is the Tokyo Fire Museum.

A few more related pictures of old time fire fighters..


  1. Oh I wish, a stay making and using indigo would be wonderful, would be nice to knock off a few years. Like the sound of the museum, all the things we didn't do on our visits to Japan, but then we did some great things too.

    1. So many things to see here. I've been here 28 years and still haven't seen a thing.

  2. How interesting the idea of tearing down some houses to make a fire break and being already organised to rebuild those houses. It sounds bizarre but makes sense. A bit like our 'back burning' of the bush in Aust often done in winter in preparation for the bushfire season. Love those photos of the firefighters and their beautiful jackets..

  3. The old photos are wonderful, the clothing is great. They are tough looking guys. Have fun with the April hanten workshop. I'm just finishing my third handwoven hanten, for the conference fashion show.

  4. Thanks for sharing Bryan. another wonderful museum. bet there is one for Fishermen too. The intricacy of the stitching on them is truly wonderful.