December 28, 2004
Fire Safety

Every year around this time, neighborhood volunteers are out on the streets at night, clacking wooden sticks together and calling out to people about fire safety. It’s taken us six years to figure out what they are chanting.

The other night, as we were walking home late from work, the patrol was out. It was a group of three younger men and they were doing their job with gusto.

“Are they yelling Ii yo, ii yo ji? Maybe Iroiro ii?” I wondered after listening to them.

“Um….yoyogi?” Tod suggested doubtfully. He listened again. “I think maybe it ends in shin

“Or jin? I can’t tell. Let’s ask them,” I suggested as we converged on their path. Of course that meant Tod was going to ask; his Japanese is much better than mine.

The patrol volunteers were happy to tell us, carefully and loudly, that they are saying hi no youjin which means “fire caution.”

Have a listen for yourself. I made this recording of a different, somewhat less enthusiastic patrol this evening: Hi no youjin (0:18 mp3 429K)

Posted by kuri at December 28, 2004 11:00 PM


Oh wao. Your recording stir upped my sentiment. Every night in winter Sendagi, we hear hinoyojin, too. The custom has its origin back in Edo period, when a small fire often brought a disaster to the city. Kids enjoy joining them during their winter recess. One night, my kid came home from the patrol quite excited. They told me that the leader of the day was from US whose wife?s name is Mary. ?So what is his name?? I asked. They looked to each other and said, ?We forgot. Tom? Parry? No! It was not Tomasu.? So, I still don?t know who the young foreigner taken care of children was that night. Why don?t you ask them to have you included?

Posted by: sayaka on December 29, 2004 12:15 AM
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