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Celebrating our Connections with Japan

On Friday 3 June, the Museum of Fire held a formal opening of the Celebrating our Connections with Japan exhibition. The new exhibition highlights Penrith City Council’s enduring relationship with its two sister cities, Fujieda City and Hakusan City (formally Matto) in Japan, through the lens of firefighting history. Belinda McMartin, Museum of Fire CEO, opened the exhibition with a number of key representatives from Penrith City Council, Fire and Rescue NSW and the Japan Local Government Centre (CLAIR). To celebrate the new permanent exhibition space, a short morning tea was held for VIP guests with an opportunity to view and remark on the collection items. The exhibition space is a wonderful addition to the museum and the local community and brings an international perspective to the museum’s collection.

The formal opening of 'Celebrating our Connections with Japan'

Celebrating our Connections with Japan features a number of collection items that demonstrate the multiple cultural exchanges that have occurred over a 30-year period between Penrith, Fujieda and Hakusan. In our earlier blog, A Tale of Three Cities: Penrith, Fujieda and Hakusan, we highlighted two of the firefighting appliances in the new exhibition – the Japanese manual hand pump and the 1976 Toyota Pumper. While these appliances are a significant feature in the exhibition and certainly have become favorites for some of the museum’s visitors, the space also contains other objects that have been part of the cultural exchange program between the three cities.

Over the last few decades, several uniforms have been exchanged between the cities – including three sets of Hikeshi Banten. Hikeshi Banten are early firefighting jackets consisting of a heavy cotton weave with multiple layers. These early firefight jackets were soaked in water before attending to a blaze to protect the wearer. Many jackets were reversible and consisted of both characters and elaborate designs that identified the firefighter’s brigade or unit. The permanent exhibition also highlights a number of more contemporary uniforms that have been exchanged, including photographs of Fire and Rescue NSW uniforms that are on display in Hakusan and Fujieda.

A display case showing photographs and Japanese firefighting uniforms

The space also consists of illustrated prints known as ukiyo-e artworks that were donated to the Museum of Fire from Tokyo Fire Department. These illustrations are created through the use of woodblock prints and ink on paper and were very popular during the Edo period. Firefighters were a common subject amongst ukiyo-e artists and often were featured displaying their respective brigade’s matoi, which were a traditional standard or pennant used to identify different fire brigades from the days of feudal rule in Japan. Each brigade had its own distinctive shape. Matoi would be carried by a member of the brigade when attending a fire. The strips were traditionally made of heavy paper or cloth, which would be soaked in water. Although no longer used, matoi are a revered part of firefighting tradition in Japan, and most fire stations have displays of reproductions relevant to their district. These reproductions are sometimes used at festivals, such as National Fire Awareness Day.

Illustrated prints known as ukiyo-e

Celebrating our Connections with Japan is now open to the public, we are open 7-days a week 9:30am – 4:30pm so come and enjoy this new permanent exhibition.

- Story by the Heritage Manager


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