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夜警

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夜警

Postby Oyaji » Sun 12.31.2006 1:30 am

Friday night I did my part for community safety by going on 夜警 (yakei), the night patrol.

At the end of every year communities throughout Japan divide into groups (班) which take turns wandering around the neighborhood late at night shouting 「火の用心!火の用心」 reminding people to be careful with their kerosene heaters and such. Here's how the night went:

At 9:00 p.m. we reported at the community center. There were six of us (all men), and at 47, I was the youngest. The oldest was 74. We turned on the heater, filled a pot with water to boil, and another with sake to heat up, set up a table, and spread out the food that our wives had made for us to bring. We then proceeded to eat, drink, watch TV (some Korean drama) and shoot the breeze for three hours - all in the name of protecting the neighborhood. At midnight we cleaned up, locked up, and walked home, drunkenly shouting 「火の用心」 all the way.

Where were the younger men you may ask? They are in the volunteer fire department and were driving around the streets in fire trucks actually doing patrols. In years past they would pop into the community center for a drink and a bite, but now they just stop by for a quick greeting.
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RE: 夜警

Postby Schattenjedi » Sun 12.31.2006 2:26 am

Sounds like a good time. Sign me up. :)

Is it normal to start the 火の用心 warnings at 12 or are you supposed to be walking around the neighborhood from 9-12 doing it?
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RE: 夜警

Postby Mike Cash » Sun 12.31.2006 2:34 am

Sounds very similar to the traffic safety campaigns, where they set up canopies on the sidewalk and all the neighborhood old women, who probably have never driven in their lives, sit around and drink tea all day.

Japan has a charming way of doing utterly pointless and meaningless "activities" all in the name of advancing worthwhile community goals.
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RE: 夜警

Postby paul_b » Sun 12.31.2006 4:12 am

Oyaji wrote:
We turned on the heater, filled a pot with water to boil, and another with sake to heat up

Heating sake on a kerosene heater with a bunch of elderly and/or soon to be drunk people? Sound like a good way to start a firs.
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RE: 夜警

Postby Dehitay » Sun 12.31.2006 1:11 pm

and running around the neighborhood at midnight screaming sounds like a good way to get set on fire. Is that really a tradition in Japan? It's a quick way to get arrested in the US.
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RE: 夜警

Postby Mike Cash » Sun 12.31.2006 9:42 pm

Dehitay wrote:
and running around the neighborhood at midnight screaming sounds like a good way to get set on fire. Is that really a tradition in Japan? It's a quick way to get arrested in the US.


It's organized by the 町内会 or some other such neighborhood body and is a tradition that goes back into the mists of antiquity. Fortunately (if you dislike the noise) or unfortunately (if the quaint appeals to you), the tradition is dying off. As Oyaji indicated, his gang didn't even go through the motions.

They don't "scream". It's more of a mild bellow, accompanied by clacking a couple of sticks together.
Last edited by Mike Cash on Tue 01.16.2007 10:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: 夜警

Postby bikki » Tue 01.16.2007 9:45 am

oyaji さん、

Oyaji wrote:
divide into groups (班) which take turns wandering around the neighborhood late at night shouting 「火の用心!火の用心」 reminding people to be careful with their kerosene heaters and such.


Was it done on voluntary basis?

drunkenly shouting 「火の用心」 all the way.

--- so what's the point doing it after that enjoyable night with sake but not during that said period ?


In my impression, Japanese will try their very best to take care of everyone nearby and not to offend anyone else.

I was amazed by the train staff last time when I was travelling in the subway in Japan. The subway staff said "失礼します”everytime he took off the poster and replaced with a new one. Please imagine there are a lot of posters hanging in the subway train.
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RE: 夜警

Postby Mike Cash » Tue 01.16.2007 10:18 am

bikki wrote:

In my impression, Japanese will try their very best to take care of everyone nearby and not to offend anyone else.



And in my personal experience the only time Japanese will go out of their way for a person in dire need of assistance is to go out of their way to go around rather than stepping over the person. There have been several times I have watched this happen, while I would be the one to stop and render help. And I'm not talking about giving directions type help. I'm talking situations that required police/ambulance intervention.
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RE: 夜警

Postby Dehitay » Tue 01.16.2007 2:51 pm

Mike Cash wrote:
And in my personal experience the only time Japanese will go out of their way for a person in dire need of assistance is to go out of their way to go around rather than stepping over the person. There have been several times I have watched this happen, while I would be the one to stop and render help. And I'm not talking about giving directions type help. I'm talking situations that required police/ambulance intervention.

LMAO, you phrased that kind of weird. I'm picturing you sitting about 20 meters away watching people walk around some one in need of dire assistance and thinking "Woah, they should help that person" and not doing anything yourself >=D
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RE: 夜警

Postby Mike Cash » Wed 01.17.2007 5:42 am

I didn't phrase it weird. You read it weird.

I stop, do what I can, and telephone for police and/or ambulance assistance if necessary. And I am disgusted by the lack of action and concern for their fellow 我々日本人 that so many people here display.
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RE: 夜警

Postby two_heads_talking » Wed 01.17.2007 12:00 pm

Mike Cash wrote:
I didn't phrase it weird. You read it weird.

I stop, do what I can, and telephone for police and/or ambulance assistance if necessary. And I am disgusted by the lack of action and concern for their fellow 我々日本人 that so many people here display.


I concur. I think in trying to save face, that japanese often turn away and avoid any and all occassions to step out of the shadows.

I just wonder how much of it is learned and how much of it is just lack of concern as you mentioned?
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RE: 夜警

Postby Kagemaru » Wed 01.17.2007 1:40 pm

I dig hearing these stories, thanks Oyaji. :)
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RE: 夜警

Postby AJBryant » Wed 01.17.2007 2:31 pm

I was once in a Miami having a cuppa when a lady walking by outside just... dropped. Whump. Right to the pavement. I watched people navigate their way around her and keep going by. I actually had time to walk out of the coffee shop and walk around the corner and was still the first person to actually see if anything was wrong.

It's times like that that I don't mind embarrassing the surrounding people. Fargin' apathetic schmucks.


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RE: 夜警

Postby Matsumoto_hideto » Wed 01.17.2007 6:39 pm

Are you apart of the anzen patororu Oyaji?
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RE: 夜警

Postby Oyaji » Wed 01.17.2007 9:06 pm

Matsumoto_hideto wrote:
Are you apart of the anzen patororu Oyaji?


Why, yes I am, thank you very much. Around here we call it the 防犯パトロール (crime prevention patrol). The members of the 老人クラブ(senior citizens' club) go on actual patrols, and the rest of us just keep an eye out for suspicious characters when we are out and about.


The custom of 夜警 began back in the days when houses were made almost entirely of wood, and heated with an open flame. Back then an entire neighborhood could be destroyed by a single spark from an unattended fire. I'm sure they took the patrols much more seriously than we do.

It continues mainly as an excuse to get together and drink, a fact that everyone readily admits. When I first moved into the neighborhood I thought it was meaningless, but now I don't mind because it is the only time I really talk to some of the older men.

I think most people find the shouting more reassuring than annoying - more from a sense of tradition than any practical meaning. On the nights when other groups make their rounds, hearing their shouts puts a little smile on my face.

As Mike said, this tradition will probably die out some time in the future. I, for one, will miss it.


paul_b wrote:
Heating sake on a kerosene heater with a bunch of elderly and/or soon to be drunk people? Sound like a good way to start a fire.


One of the younger men always stays sober and keeps thinks under control. Drinking without really drinking is a valued skill in Japan. :)
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