Guardhouses and tobi

Kidai Shoran (detail) © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum für Asiatische Kunst (Asian Art Museum, National Museums in Berlin), former collection of Hans-Joachim and Inge Küster, gift of Manfred Bohms 2002, photography: Tadao Kodaira

Tobi were construction workers who often doubled as vigilantes and firefighters for the townspeople of Edo, a city known for its many fires. They were stationed at neighborhood guardhouses and also patrolled their local area on foot. In addition, a tobi would likely have been a member of one of the 48 groups of firefighters in the city. The present-day Edo Firemanship Preservation Association still maintains some of the old traditions of these groups, like the kiyari work songs sung by workmen and matoi standards that symbolized each group of firefighters.

Edo Firefighting Memorial Association