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A Tale of Three Cities: Penrith, Fujieda and Hakusan

The Museum has all sorts of fascinating objects from all around the world in the collection. Each has its own story shaped by where it came from, who owned it and its place in history.

In the lead up to the exhibit, Celebrating Our Connections with Japan, we thought we’d shine a light on two of the Japanese vehicles in the Museum’s collection. We’ll be taking a look at the 1976 Toyota Pumper and the Japanese hand pump, both of which are out on display at the Museum.

Penrith City Council is fortunate to have two sister cities in Japan: Fujieda City and Hakusan City, formally Matto City. Fujieda City is located in the Shizuoka Prefecture, approximately 180 km southwest of Tokyo. In 2019, the estimated population of Fujieda was around 145,000. Over 40 years ago in 1984, Penrith and Fujieda signed a Sister City Agreement pledging to “broaden the range of cultural, sporting, education and economic exchange programs to establish a lasting friendly relationship.” In testament to this pledge, a number of cultural and sporting exchanges have taken place between the two cities.

Japanese firefighters during a visit to the NSW Fire Brigades (now Fire and Rescue NSW) headquarters. [Museum of Fire collection]

Similarly, Hakusan City, from the Ishikawa Prefecture is located on the western coast of Hunshu, by the Japan Sea. In 2005, Hakusan merged with Matto and several of the adjoining towns and is now known as Hakusan after the nearby Haku-San Mountain. In November of 1984, Penrith and Hakusan, still called Matto then, signed a Friendship Agreement and have since made many cultural visits and exchanges with each other. One of these exchanges involved a hose cart donated from the Museum of Fire. The cart was originally procured from Randwick Racecourse by Brian Martin, a former member of the NSW Bushfire Brigade who played a significant role in the early days of the Museum’s transition to Penrith. Brian completed a restoration of the hose cart at his home in Mt Druitt and later donated it to the Museum, where it then made its way to Japan during one of the cultural exchanges. The hose cart is still on display at the Hakusan City Matto Cultural Hall.

The first vehicle we’re going to look at is the Japanese manual hand pump. Up to the start of the second half of the 20th century, Japan comprised predominantly of small, rural communities. In these communities, firefighting was left up to the residents to organise, so often only very basic equipment could be afforded, and options were limited considering that very few people had motor vehicles.

Japanese Hand Pump made in 1945. This appliance is on display at the Museum of Fire.

In the days before the lightweight, motorised, portable pump units, the only suitable appliance was the small hand pump. Some had wheels while others were mounted on skids and could be moved around on a farmer’s trailer. Even with a crew of about 6 to 8 people, they could only deliver about 100 L/min. These continued to be manufactured up until the 1950s.

This pump was made by KOKA PONPU SEIZO (State Pump Mfg Co) of Nagoya and was made in 1945. It was a gift from the City of Matto on the west coast of Japan, who have a Friendship Agreement with the City of Penrith, and was followed by a visit from the Mayor of Matto in 1990. The Museum of Fire subsequently donated a hand drawn hose cart from its collection to Matto City, which was formally donated in 1992 by Museum representatives and is now on display at the Matto Fire Department Headquarters.

Another Japanese vehicle in the collection is the 1976 Toyota Pumper. This is a typical light fire appliance used in small towns, rural areas of Japan and in parts of some larger cities. Its small size is necessary to take on the narrow and often steep roads found all over Japan, particularly when winter sets in. Japanese light fire appliances, such as this one, are usually constructed on the chassis of Toyota Landcruisers, Nissan Patrols or other light 4-wheel drive chassis, and tend to have open cab designs.

Toyota Pumper made in 1976. This appliance is on display at the Museum of Fire.

These vehicles do not carry water onboard, instead they hook up to reticulated water systems, water cisterns or rural dams or irrigation systems. This works to reduce the weight the vehicle carries. The pre-connected suction hoses allow rapid access to water supplies and the pump has a capacity of about 1000 L/min.

This particular vehicle was constructed on a Toyota Landcruiser FJ-55 chassis by the NIHON KIKAI KOGYO (Japan Industrial Manufacturing) company of west Tokyo. This company is one of the major fire engine producers in Japan. It was supplied as a new vehicle to the Fujieda City Fire Department in Shizuoka Prefecture and operated from one of its branch fire stations until 1989. It was then restored by the Fujieda City Council and donated to the Penrith City Council for display in the Museum. This was a part of the Sister Cities Agreement between Fujieda City and Penrith. Transporting the vehicle from Fujieda to Penrith was a lengthy process and the two cities worked together to get the vehicle to the Museum.

A ceremony was held to welcome the vehicle by the Mayor of Penrith at the Museum on 6th June, 1990. Members of the Council, Sister Cities Association and the Penrith Fire Brigade joined in the celebrations with members of the Museum of Fire.

1976 Toyota Pumper being unloaded at the Museum of Fire, 1990. [Museum of Fire collection]

Celebrating Our Connections with Japan highlights the significant relationships that Penrith City Council has with its two sister cities in Japan, Fujieda and Hakusan Cities, and the shared appreciation of the history and continued support that fire and rescue services provide. These relationships are exemplified through the cultural objects exchanged in mutual respect between the three cities, shown in the exhibition space, and the ongoing understanding towards the significance of fire safety on an international platform. The new exhibition provides a space for reflection and a deeper understanding of Penrith City Council’s international network with Japan, as well as informative information on fire safety in Japan and, of course, the history of Penrith, Fujieda and Hakusans’ ongoing relationship.

We look forward to providing more details about this exhibition soon. Keep an eye on our website and on our social media channels for updates.

- Story by Museum of Fire Heritage and Engagement Teams


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