Human Fly Tattoo
Original Art - Hikeshi Frog II
Title: Hikeshi Frog II
Size: 45 x 33 cm
Artist: Jee Sayalero
Do in Hanshi Paper from Japan (WITHOUT FRAME)
Hikeshi - Born to be Wild
A document from 1738 mentions a total number of more than 11,000 fire fighters - in relation to a total population of about one million citizens. In 1850 24,000 hikeshi - as they were called in Japanese - were employed to protect the city of Edo. The main task of the firemen was to isolate a fire by tearing down the neighboring houses.
Among the population of Edo the firemen had a very special reputation, depending to which class a person belonged. On one side they were admired for their bravery. On the other side they were considered as wild red necks, rowdies and drunks.
Firemen had a strong group mentality, expressed in manifold ways. One was horimono, Japanese tattoos. It was a way to demonstrate masculinity and solidarity with one's comrades. Body tattoos were widely common among the men of the fire brigades.
The hikeshi came from the lower classes and were looked upon by the members of the samurai class and the merchant class. This created peer pressure and the cultivation of rough manners, coarse language and status symbols like the body tattoos. In 1805 a famous clash occurred between sumo wrestlers and fire-fighters at Shinmei shrine. The fighting went on for a whole day and was later dramatized in a kabuki play and depicted in many woodblock prints.
Fist fights in the streets among rivaling fire brigades were not uncommon. But the common Japanese people revered the hikeshi. The average Japanese always cherished a liking for what they considered to be honorable bandits and outcasts. The popularity of the novel of the 108 heroes of suikoden is another example of this attitude.