Weekly Column Kanda This and That 319
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Last weekend, I saw some people cleaning up after the Kanda-matsuri Festival at the former Imagawa Junior High School. Among many people, those wearing the stylish hanten costumes stood out. “Oh! There are kashira (traditional fire fighters)!” Their work at the festival was outstanding. Their duties included setting up the mikisho (resting space for mikoshi), hanging lanterns in front of the houses, and taking charge of guarding and guiding for the mikoshi parade. Surely, the festival has been a big moment for kashira.
When I first came to Kanda after getting married, I was really surprised to see “kashira.” Because, for me, kashira are the traditional fire fighters in samurai dramas! The role was played by an established enka singer/actor in the samurai drama I used to watch! It was very strange to see such kashira still exists today. I checked what “kashira” really refers to and found that “the root of kashira is the community-based firefighting system issued by Ooka tadasuke, a magistrate of Edo in 1718. Community-based kumi (groups) were formed to deal with fires as well as for construction and building of roads and houses, setting up and offering security services for rituals and festivals, and operation of celebrations and events.” Well, they are still basically doing the same things, along with their primary business of construction. What a history! (Although they don’t put out fires anymore.) One of the highlights of kashira’s performance is kiyari, singing work songs. I can feel the atmosphere of Edo in their singing voices. It is one of the aspects of Edo culture that I really hope will continue along with the festival.
*The information herein is as of May 2019.