Vintage Japanese Fireman’s Coat | Hikeshibanten | Cotton Hanten | Showa Period

For over one hundred years, Japanese firemen (hikeshi) wore thick, woven coat referred to as a Hanten Fireman’s Coat. This specialized garment was typically worn in winter by firemen to protect them against the cold, and in this case, to soaked in water prior to leaving to fight a fire. Each different group of firefighters were members of an agricultural cooperative or guild, and wore jacket, called “shirushi-banten”, (jacket with inscription), specially made for their group. This jacket has an inscription on the front lapels meaning “fighting spirit for working”. The round symbol identifies the fire station/district. When there is a public event /festival, the coats were also worn as a mark of masculinity and pride. The calligraphy is wonderfully woven into the design in a very skillful manner and translates Megumi (Fire Brigate to which this coat belonged).

There were three kinds of hikeshi beginning in the Edo Period (1603). Those in charge of protecting the Shogun’s castle and samurai residences were known as Jobikeshi and they were part of the samurai class. The Daimyo-Bikeshi had the highest honor as they were chosen amongst the leading samurai by their lords. They protected important public buildings including rice warehouses. However, the true heroes of the masses were the Machi-Bikeshi. The Machi-Bikeshi defended the houses and buildings of the common people.

The front of this Fireman’s Coat is black and red, with pockets and a traditional motif. It has a vibrant and bold red striping across the shoulders on both the front and back, complete with an intricate, woven graphic motif, and banding at the base of the jacket. The back also features bold Toraichi characters (specialized worker’s cloths), while the quality of the weaving speaks for itself.

This is a rare vintage collectible (see the book entitled: Japanese Fishermen’s Coats by Sharon Sadako Takeda, page 38), for which the condition is excellent to great condition with the exception of the banding on the end of the sleeves in which the lighter cotton shows minimal wear. Unlined. Age: Pre-1930s. Dimensions:50-0″w x 35-0″L.

Note: Many people refer to the design on this garment as Sashiko. Sashiko is a HAND or machine STITCHING process, and a form of decorative reinforcement stitching, (called functional embroidery), onto an existing surface. The garment being sold here is WOVEN goods, in which the motif (art work) is part of the garment itself and hand loomed to be reversible.

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