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Firemen were popular figures in Edo: the timber construction of the city made fires a regular hazard. Their heroics and colourful appearance lent themselves to depiction in prints. They wore tattoos partly to demonstrate their indifference to pain; they wore elaborately patterned padded robes, which they reversed to the plain side when fighting fires; and they carried huge geometric standards (matoi) so that they could be easily identified and so that they could signal above the flames.

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