Fireman’s headgear
Cotton
Stenciled paste resist

This fireman’s headgear has seen a lot of use, and may actually have been converted from a jacket. In the photos of the front and back, above and below, the only markings are on the ties, where they would not have been highly visible. Firemen were supposed to be identifiable according to the group they belonged to, since responsibilities for firefighting in the city were divided geographically. The ties may have originally been from the collar of a jacket.

Even up close, the ties are so worn that it is difficult to identify the name of the group.

It is not until opening the headgear to look inside that the group name becomes clear. This is the I Kumi (い 組). Below, inside the front of the headgear, is the traditional red I Kumi crest, most likely taken from the back of the jacket.

At the back of the headgear are the traditional diamond checks that signified the I Kumi, also in faded red (most likely a cinnabar pigment).

Here it is possible to see one of the layers sandwiched between the outer and inner layers. These layers soaked up water to help protect the fireman during a conflagration.

Below, the high density stitchwork that held the layers together. The unevenness throughout of the stitchwork may be an indication of age of the headgear. This piece dates back at least to the turn of the 20th century, and possibly several decades beyond that.

Here, a well known print by ukiyo-e master Yoshitoshi (dated 1886) depicting a member of the I Kumi wearing headgear clearly showing his affiliation. Note at his left wrist the diamond check motif.

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