Hanten (a firefighter’s livery)

In short, hanten liveries are a sort of uniform for firemen. The combination of patterns, designs, characters and numbers on the uniforms greatly vary.
Yaku-hanten (for officials) and sougata-hanten (with patterns as identification of brigades) are the most popular among all.

1. Yaku-hanten
Yaku-hanten was the uniform of municipal fire companies under the Metropolitan Police Department in the Meiji era. The number of white line(s) on the waist part represents the district (the lines are straight for odd numbers and curved for even numbers). Also, the name of the brigade and one’s title are indicated on the back and sleeve, respectively. The red line over the shoulder indicates the rank of leader.
For firefighters, what is the most important in fire situations is a clear chain of command. Therefore, the hanten liveries were designed so that firemen could see at a glance who belong to which brigade, and who is under whose command, from any angle. The hanten liveries are probably the most rationally-designed firefighter’s uniform in the history of the world.

2. Sougata-hanten
Sougata-hanten was originally the uniform for machi-bikeshi in the Edo period. Each of the 48 Iroha brigades and 16 Honjo-Fukagawa brigades (64 brigades in total) had a distinct design of sougata-hanten to make affiliation clear.
Members wearing such hanten liveries were proud of their respective patterns and the brigades, and therefore they often wore the hanten for colorful events such as festivals or underneath yaku-hanten.

Reference: website of the First Section of the EDO Firemanship Preservation Association (Japanese)



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