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The New Year's Parade of Fire Brigades

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Firefighters show off their acrobatic prowess atop tall ladders.

Every year in early January members of municipal fire departments and community firefighting teams put on a display of their skills in a New Year's parade called dezome-shiki. It's a centuries-old New Year tradition that gives the public a peek at the latest firefighting and rescue techniques.


About 2,700 professional firefighters participate in the parade in Tokyo each year. They go through exciting, tension-filled drills.


The parade's attraction lies not just in the display of modern firefighting techniques; an important part of the dezome-shiki is a show of acrobatics using ladders that originated with firefighters in the Edo period (1603-1867). Edo, as Tokyo was then called, was known as a city of fires, and so there must have been an awful lot of fires back then. Dezome-shiki began with the stunts that Edo firefighters put on early in the new year.