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    The fact that there are unusually large number of fires in Japan every day has plagued the Japanese people for centuries.

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    Background: The fact that there are unusually large number of fires in Japan every day has plagued the Japanese people for centuries. Before the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when Tokyo was known as Edo, the many fires that used to light up the sky nightly were called "Edo Blossoms." and attracted big groups of spectators who would gather on the hills and high ground to watch the brilliant conflagrations. Large crowds of people would also gather at the scene of the fire, making it almost impossible for the Fire Brigades to do their jobs. As a result the fires spread and destruction was tremendous, sometimes wiping out whole sections of the city.

    Forty years ago I was awakened in the middle of the night by a fire upstairs, and the memory of my panic is still fresh. Very often bamboo shops and match factories would catch fire. And when the bamboo shops went up in flames, we children delighted in the sound of the exploding reeds which were like the sound of firecrackers.

    Many relatives and acquaintances would rush to the fires to express their sympathy, and the crowd would be swelled still further. In those days the Fire Brigades made use of hand-operated pumps which had to be worked very rapidly with much fuss. The pumps were almost completely infective, and to watch the firemen straining themselves was sometimes funny. But the many people crying and wailing stifled any laughter.

    The fire houses were made of hemp, and after a fire the lines were dried on the high look-out towers. After the Vapor Pump came out it was widely used, and using steam power fired with coal it looked very modern. Today Japan uses the most modern fire-fighting machines imported from West Germany, such as the Benz, imported at a cost of 13,500,000.

    I have never had a fire in my own house, but the fear of such a happening is always present. Of course, today there is no worry about the "Kajiba Dorobo", Fire Thieges, who used to flock to the scene of every fire and make off with everything of value that they could lay hands on during the confusion. Only the people who were wealthy and covered by insurance would be sure of coming out of a fire with anything left.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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