Fireman’s jacket (hikeshi hanten)
Cotton, wool, plastic (tab closure,button)
Woven, layered, padded, stenciled, hand painted

This fireman’s jacket has traditional thunderclouds and lightning bolts, but takes a distinct step into modernity by transitioning from the customary sashiko stitching used to hold the layers together to machine stitching, which would have been far faster and less punishing on the fingers.

The jacket is marked by a number of oddities in comparison with other fireman’s jackets. Above, a strip about an inch wide has been inset between the main body and each of the left and right sleeves, using the original material, as if the maker had initially miscalculated the sleeve length. In the next photo, it is clear that the jacket once had an embroidered white crest, which has not worn away with time, but rather has been forcibly removed.

Across the shoulders and sleeves, it is also possible to see traces of several horizontal lines, which seems consistent with rank stripes. The photo below shows – just barely – the lines sewn across one sleeve. In some firemen’s jackets, red or white stripes indicated a member of higher rank within the group. No red or white threads remain at all, so it is hard to interpret these lines with certainty.

The outline of a large sawtooth pattern has also been machine-stitched all around the lower part of the jacket, as shown in the next photo. In contrasting red or white, this sawtooth pattern would be visible from quite a distance, but stitched in black it is nearly invisible even inches away. It is unclear whether contrasting stitching was sewn in and later removed, or whether the stripes were outlined but never added. Here too no evidence remains.

Although the material was quilted by machine, the seams were all hand sewn.