The Firegirls of Higashi Honganji

Fire training at Higashi Honganji

Kyōto is the historical city to visit in Japan. It was the capital of Japan before it was transfered to Edo (Tōkyō) and was spared during World War II, so it still contains many old temples and palaces. I have now visited that city thrice, and twice I have witnessed a strange ritual on the side of Higashi Honganji, the huge temple just North of the main railway station.
Each time, I was there in the late afternoon, just before five, at the time where you feet ache after visiting so many places. On the side of the left building (the one which is not being restored under the large hall), there was some fire-fighting training. It was not real training. Instead some young women and a few young men made some pretense at setting up a water hose and using it under the apparently indifferent eye of some real (and old) firemen. While the drill is done very seriously, it could hardly be called realistic, as I doubt any of the slender girls could handle a hose with real pressure in it, in fact I’m not sure I would like any of them close to a fire. But I must admit seing them doing this ritual is soothing in a strange way…

One thought on “The Firegirls of Higashi Honganji”

  1. While living in Japan, I was also a witness to earthquake response exercises. They too seemed very ritualistic and hardly a preparation for a real-life catastrophe.

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