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The New Year's Parade of Fire Brigades


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.