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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fire in Yanagibashi

柳橋 火事

Work finished yesterday, and I spent today, Wednesday, pottering around the apartment in Tokyo’s Taito ward – not far from Ueno and home to the old Asakusa district.

In the middle of installing a new card reader in my computer, I got a call from my partner asking if I could see “the fire.” He said there were billows of smoke visible from his work (close by where we live). Having heard fire engines anyway, I dropped what I was doing, and set out.

I cycled only a couple of hundred meters before I saw it: a massive conflagration just down the road, on Edo-dori Street. Two buildings. Several fire engines – and there would be about 30 or 40 lining Edo-dori by the time I went back home a couple of hours later.

The building that was most on fire was Hasegawa Merchandise, a five-story fireworks store! (Google Map) So the whole episode was punctuated by the sounds of fireworks exploding – most notably the whistle of skyrockets. (Listen for them at the end of the video.)

I stood at Suga Shrine, just across the road from the blaze. I got talking to a couple of old guys in their 50s, one of them sober, one of them drunk on one-cup sake. The sober one would tell me about every five minutes that ‘the shodo (calligraphy) store” (which was next to the fireworks store, and also on fire) “was full of paper – and so there’s plenty to fuel to blaze.” The drunk one would periodically point out the fire to me, and declaim “Subarashii!,” or “Awesome!”

Fires are very defiant things. There were dozens of fire hoses deluging the group of buildings for the whole two hours I was there, and yet the constant flood seemed to have very little impact on the fire at all. In fact, it spread from two buildings to four during the time I was watching.

By the time I left over 30 fire engines had assembled along Edo-dori Street. Pandemonium!

Watch the Yanagibashi fire.

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