Fire (kaji)


Fire (kaji)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: All winter in Japan
***** Category: Humanity


Fires are a problem at any time. Some seasons are more prone to fires. In Japan, we have most fires in winter, when people use heating devices and the air is dry.

During the Edo period, when people lived closely in wooden homes and used open fire for cooking, fires were especially terrible.
Fire and fighting are the flowers of Edo (kaji to kenka wa Edo no hana) is an old proverb of these dangerous times.

In other places of the world, regular wildfires come at different seasons, see below.

Let us look at some kigo related to this word.

Katen, the God of Fire
© www.tctv.ne.jp/tobifudo/butuzo/12ten/katen.html


fire, kaji 火事
big fire, taika 大火
small fire, boka 小火

fire close by, kinka 近火
fire far away, tooka 遠火

fire during the day, hiru kaji 昼火事
fire at night, yoru kaji 夜火事

mountain fire, forest fire, wildfire, bushfire
..... yamakaji 山火事

traces of a fire, kaji ato 火事跡

watching out for fires, hi no miban 火の見番
watchtower for a fire, hi no yagura 火の櫓 やぐら
mound for the fire bell, hanshoo dai 半鐘台


on the lookout for fire, hi no ban 火の番
watching out for a fire, hi no yoojin 火の用心

hut for the night watch, banya 番屋
..... hi no ban koya 火の番小屋
night watch, yoban 夜番
..... yokei, yakei 夜警 (やけい)
making the night rounds, yomawari 夜回り
kantaku 寒柝(かんたく wooden clappers of the watchman

visiting someone after a fire damage, kaji mimai 火事見舞
..... usually with a gift of money

Look at some photos from big fires !

. hi no yoojin 火の用心 fire prevention goods .

fire brigade, fire brigade car, shooboosha 消防車

machibikeshi, machi hikeshi 町火消し
kaji shoozoku 火事装束(かじしょうぞく)protective colths for the firebrigade
protective hood for fire, kaji zukin 火事頭巾

© 鳶頭政五郎覚書 Edo Fire Museum With MORE photos !

protective coat, kaji baori 火事羽織
..... PHOTOS !

. kawabaori 皮羽織 leather haori coat .


猫の江戸火消し neko no edobikeshi
cats were popular images for firefighters.
Click on the image to see more !

source and more : ameblo.jp/edo-sanpo

tobishoku, tobi-shoku 鳶職 construction workers
who also helped in the fire brigade

鳶 tobi、鳶口 tobiguchi、鳶の者

They had the tools to tear a home down during a fire to prevent the spread of the flames.
They also worked to harden the ground before setting up a building, helping the
jigyooshi 地形師 "ground-preparing" worker .

. tobi, tonbi 鳶 Tombi, Black Kite, Milan noir .

. shokunin 職人 craftsmen, artisans in Edo .


kigo for the New Year

hatsu kaji 初火事 (はつかじ) first fire

The first fire of the new year is often seen as a bringer of bad luck, if it happens during the first three days of the New Year.



observance kigo for mid-winter

. ohotaki, o ho taki 御火焚 (おほたき) "making a bonfire"
..... ohitaki, o hi taki おひたき

In many temples and shrines and workplaces or restaurants that use fire, this custom is observed in the middle of November. It used to mark the end of autumn and beginning of the winter season, with prayers to protect the region from fires.

Worldwide use


Bushfires, hell on earth
kigo for summer and other seasons



Fires engulf properties in Manila here and there because of the hot days... ironically, march is fire prevention month.

quiet night...
fire at the far corner
of the street

billows of thick smoke
from the razing mall

raging fire...
just what three firefighters
make do

- Shared by Bos Tsip
Joys of Japan, March 2012



Southern California

Bushfire, wildfire, Santa Ana Winds
kigo for autumn

dry sumac
waiting for a brush fire
patient seeds

chaparral vistas
shimmer in the hot wind
ready tinder

Billie Dee, 2006

Things found on the way

Ban Dainagon Ekotoba
(Scroll of the Courtier Ban Dainagon)

(伴大納言絵詞) The Tale of Great Minister Ban, is an emakimono (handscroll painting) depicting the events of the Ōtemmon Conspiracy, an event of Japan's early Heian period. The painting, attributed to Tokiwa Mitsunaga of the Tosa school, is over 20m long and about 31.5cm tall.

The full-color painting depicts the events of March 866, in which Ban Dainagon, also known as Tomo no Yoshio, set fire to the Ōtemon 大手門 gate of Kyoto. He then blamed one of his political rivals, Minister of the left Minamoto no Makoto for the fire. However, the true culprit was soon discovered, and Tomo no Yoshio was banished to Izu province.
© http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ban_Dainagon_Ekotoba


. The Kitchen Deities of Japan .
Kamagami 釜神 The Hearth Deity
hi otoko 火男 "man of the fire"
Aragamisama, Koojinsama, Koojin sama 荒神様
Dokujin, dokoojin 土公神


Homusubi no mikoto 火産霊命 Deity of Fire
and the shrines called Atago jinja 愛宕神社
. The Atago shrines of Japan .


fire and love -
quite a hot topic
for a cold night

Gabi Greve
Read about O-Shichi in the Edo period


. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

yake ni keri sashite toga naki yabu ka made

everything has burned
even the blameless
thicket mosquitoes

Tr. David Lanoue

Lanoue's comment:
This haiku has the prescript, "Shitaya fire." Shitaya was a district in Edo (today's Tokyo), near the place where Issa was living at the time.

According to R. H. Blyth, "thicket mosquito" (yabu ka) refers to a species of "striped mosquitoes"; Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 3.805. Robin D. Gill notes that the scientific name for these large striped, bloodthirsty mosquitoes is Stegomyia fasciata, according to Kenkyûsha's Japanese-English Dictionary.

Issa's sympathy extends even to the pesky mosquitoes.

Chokugaku kaji 勅額火事 9th day, 10th month 1698
Also called 元禄江戸大火 or 中堂火事
It started from Kyobashi and by a southern wind spread fast. Soon it came down from Surugadai to Shitaya 下谷、Kanda Myojin Shita 神田明神下 and 湯島天神下 Yushima Tenjin Shita.
Then to 下谷池之端 Shitaya Ikenohata and on to Asakusa. It was stopped by a great rain after 22 hours. More than 3000 dead.
- - - More in the WIKIPEDIA !

. taika 江戸の大火 Edo no Taika "Great Fires of Edo" .

- - - - -

New Year's Day 1809.
People say the fire broke out at around six this evening in the Sanai district. At the time a strong wind was blowing, and smoke from the fire spread in all directions as it burned everything in its path. In a single moment it destroyed all the latticed shutters and floor mats people had cleaned and renovated over the previous three days, and it burned even the many New Year's pines and bamboos and other decorations people had put up to pray for a thousand years of good fortune and happiness. Those people lost their homes to fire, while I lost my home to another person, but surely we are all in the same situation.

ganjitsu ya ware nomi naranu su-nashi-dori

New Year's Day --
so many of us birds
without a nest

Tr. Chris Drake

The previous year Issa went on a long trip to his hometown to negotiate about moving into half of the house his father left behind. He also visited several other places, apparently not returning to Edo until the end of the year. When he got back, however, Issa found that his landlord, in his absence, had rented the house he was still renting to someone else. Suddenly homeless, Issa had to depend on his haikai friend and patron, Natsume Seibi, a very rich rice broker who didn't like the business he had inherited and retired early to a house in northeast Edo. Issa spent the end of 1808 and the beginning of 1809 with Seibi in his retirement house, where he wrote this hokku. The fire broke out in the busy Nihombashi business district in downtown Edo, but Issa's rented house that he couldn't return to and Seibi's house were both on the northeast edge of Tokyo, some distance away. Probably Issa watched the fire in the distance from the banks of the Sumida River, and he must have been grieving for all the newly homeless people.

The birds mentioned are definitely plural and numerous. They are also mostly human beings who are like birds, not actual birds, though a few literal birds may also have lost nests in the fire. Makoto Ueda, a very reliable translator, evokes many human birds by translating, "New Year's Day -- / I am not the only / bird without a nest" (Dew on the Grass 64). Issa is not saying that a single bird is visiting him, since many thousands of people have lost their nests / homes because of the fire. Issa's haibun introduction to the hokku, which Ueda translates and which deserves to be always translated along with the hokku, explains this situation.

The expression ware nomi naranu ... in the second line means "not only I...," referring to Issa, but it can also refer to each person who lost her or his home in the fire. This ability of the first-person pronoun to refer both to the writer and, as indirect discourse, to all the people who lost their homes, gives a sense of communal loss to the hokku. It was a big fire, so the suffering is also big. I tried to convey this undertone of communal loss by using "us" as a kind of collective "I," since I think this is how Issa feels his hokku.

Chris Drake

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .


yake ni keri saredomo hana wa chirisumashi

Burnt to ashes,
But the cherry blossoms
Had all fallen.

Tachibana Hokushi
Tr. Blyth

Blyth's comment:
In the 3rd year of Genroku, 1690, Hokushi's house in Kanazawa was burnt down, and he sent this haiku to Basho. Haiku, like Caesar's wife, must not only be devoid of pose, but be above the suspicion of it. We must avoid even the appearance of evil, and avoid the appearance of avoiding it. Above all, art and life must have no "but."

My house burned down
But anyway, it was after
The flower petals had already fallen.

trans. Alex Kerr,
from "The Classic Tradition of Haiku," edited by Faubion Bowers

Bowers' comment:
When Hokushi's house burned down a second time, Shikoo sent him an "imitative" poem:

yakeni keri saredomo sakura sakanu uchi

You are burnt out, but luckily
Before the cherry-flowers bloom

Tr. Asataroo Miyamori (1869-1952)

And here are Robin Gill's translations of Hokushi's haiku (Gill adds Hokushi's headnote: kanoe-uma no toshi ie o yakarete):

my year of the horse

my hut in ashes:
so what! the cherry blossoms
had all scattered

homeless but happy

burnt down
but my cherry was done

An excerpt from Gill's comment:
This well-known 'ku' complements another well-known poem where the thief left the precious thing, the moon, on the window sill. Hokushi's attitude so impressed Basho that he wrote: "If the ancients wrote great songs at the cost of their own lives, your exchange of this great poem (for having your house burnt down) should leave your spirit without regret."
Is it not a testament to Japan's best side that a man could gain great respect for loving his tree more than his house? Still, I can't help wondering how many people today would trade their house (or spouse) for a poem, even knowing ahead of time it would be appreciated for centuries.


yakeshi no no tokorodokoro ya sumiregusa

violets have grown
among the ruins
of my burned house

Arii Shokyu-ni
Tr. Patricia Donegan


蔵焼けて 障るものなき 月見哉
kura yakete sawaru mono naki tsukimi kana

my storehouse burned down -
now there is nothing to prevent
the moon viewing

Tr. Gabi Greve

Mizuta Masahide 水田 正秀
Read a discussion of this translation


... when Basho's first "Basho Hut (Bashoo An 芭蕉庵" burned down, on January 25, 1683, he apparently didn't write a haiku about it.

Ueda writes:
On January 25, 1683, the Basho Hut burned to the ground in a fire that destroyed a large part of Edo. According to Kikaku's account, Basho "barely managed to survive in the smoke, after submerging himself in the water [Sumida River] and covering his head with a rush mat."

CLICK for more fires of Edo
Meireki Fire in Edo, (1657)

. taika 江戸の大火 Edo no Taika "Great Fires of Edo" .
- Introduction -

Related words

***** The God of Fire (katen 火天, kajin 火神 )

***** Firework Display (hanabi)

***** Bonfire, burning fallen leaves (takibi)

***** Camp, camping (kyanpu), tent (tento) camp fire
Japan, North America

***** Storehouse, warehouse (kura, dozoo) built to withstand a fire !

***** Ash, ashes (hai) and related kigo
and sumi-temae carcoal layout of the tea ceremony

. hi no yoojin 火の用心 fire prevention Daruma .

Thanks to Larry Bole for compiling most haiku information of this page!


Edo Ichiban Gumi 一番組

Edo Megumi. Me-gumi め組

Tokugawa Yoshimune - Disguised as Tokuda Shinnosuke—Shin-san
to his friends—the third son of a hatamoto, the shogun roams freely about his capital, using the Megumi fire company as his base. The captain of the company knows his identity, but others are unaware that he is the shogun.
Yoshimune-as-Shinnosuke is portrayed as the nearly invincible samurai warrior who seldom loses a fight no matter how many enemies opposing him there are.
- see wikipedia Abarenbō Shōgun (暴れん坊将軍)


Edo Regumi. Re-gumi れ組

koma-inu at Suwa Jinja 諏訪神社 Tokyo


hikeshi Daruma 火消だるま Daruma the fireman


- #hikeshi #machibikeshi -


Anonymous said...


First Fire Brigade Parade (dezome shiki) Japan

... Posted by Gabi Greve

Gabi Greve said...


Fire Daruma / Hi Daruma 火だるま

Kenya Forum said...

Another Fire.

The news had just ended, and there is some reflection going on here and there.
Different issues are been argued on. These ranges from politics, sports and business. But everyone is aware that time has run out and the resource need to be closed. It some few minutes to 10:00pm. The day is on Thursday of 2nd July 2007.

move out
the care taker calls - -
i pick my sweater

from a distance
smoke rises up - -
we keep going

when we got closer

flames of fire
through the roof gaps - -
a still night

we immediately embarked on attempting to put the fire off and rescue some properties.

fire fire
a woman shouts - -
a man sobs

the fire goes up
we retreat steps back - -
a child mouth wide open

fire goes up
the building comes down - -
crowd perplexed

we could do very little; we had failed in our frescue mission.

walking away - -
the wood turn to ash
as everything flattens

Antony Njoroge

Kenya Forum

Gabi Greve said...

The shop of a craftsman making the matoi 纏 standards , a pole with the fire fighters brigade mark, is also located here.
纏屋治郎右衛門 Matoiya Jiroemon

carpenters in Edo

Gabi Greve said...

Kagutsuchi カグツチ / 軻遇突智 Kagu-tsuchi - "incarnation of fire"
Homusubi no Mikoto 火産霊命
Hinokagatsuchi 火之迦具土

He is the main deity in residence at the many
. Atago Jinja 愛宕神社 Atago shrines of Japan .

Gabi Greve said...

Edo Nerima ward legends

At a temple there lived an old fox. He had been calling out a fire warning two or three times and thus helped the villagers to live without a major fire destruction.
That is why they called it
hikeshi Inari 火消稲荷 Firefighter Inari Fox