Outside my office at J-List, a fire truck has just driven by, just like it does every evening this time of year. It's our local volunteer fire brigade, driving around ringing a bell and announcing to our neighborhood, "Please be careful with all sources of fire and turn off your heaters before going to bed." Fire is unfortunately all too common in Japan, a country that has historically built homes out of wood and paper which only started requiring smoke detectors a few years ago. Instead of modern central heating, it's all too common for rooms to be heated with a standalone kerosene heater, and it seems every week you see an article of a terrible fire somewhere in the country. At noon every day we hear a blast from the air-raid siren (well that's what it sounds like to me) at a nearby elementary school announcing that it's lunch time, and whenever the siren goes off at a time other than noon it means that there's a fire somewhere nearby. On no less than three occasions I've looked out my window to see homes nearby J-List burning, and once it was a house just a few doors down from us, totally engulfed in fire. Japan's tradition of organizing itself against fires has a long history, since the Edo Period.
There's a long tradition of ukiyoe art of Edo Period firemen.