Monday, 15 January 2007

Burn Kawaguchi burn, taking down steeltown

Ok, I know it doesn’t scan quite as well as the original, but hey, nobody’s perfect.

So yes, Kawaguchi was on fire on Saturday night. I don’t mean that in a figurative sense, I mean that in a real, literal, Kawaguchi was a-burnin’ at the weekend. Now this may seem odd, and indeed it was. At about 9pm on Saturday evening we were getting to that ‘bedtime story’ kind of time when we heard a few sirens going off. Now this is not an unusual thing as we live on a main road and so quite often we get fire engines and ambulances going past. The young ‘un got a noisy fire engine toy from a grand parent for Christmas so he is quite into them and so the Guru thought ‘ah, good learning experience here) and took the little fella to the window for a peek. And what did she see? Not one engine but a whole host, certainly more than one would normally shake a stick at, and they seemed to be congregating around this area...

Odd, we thought, and then for some reason I thought I’d have a look out onto the river and, low and behold, the river bank was on fire!

For those who have never been in japan in winter I should mention that winters here are very dry indeed, so the grass and reeds on the riverbank become very brittle and easily flammable, a bit like kindling, so in a way it not that much of a surprise that some bright spark might accidentally start a fire. Anyway this was quite a conflagration and at one point seemed to stretch about 100 meters from side to side, and luckily, being on the 7th floor we got a jolly good view, as the photo below shows...

OK, doesn’t really do it justice, but it is all on fire. The fire engine chappies did their darnedest to get to the flames, but I must admit that it did take them a while as they had to get over the levee/bank bit and then past all the sports pitches and finally to the fire itself. But got there they did and once on site made short work of the inferno. How it started can only be pure speculation, but it is a popular place for fisher folk to try and poison themselves by catching swimming turds from the river, and also there are a few homeless souls (or fisher folk who have forgotten how to get home), or indeed it could be young hoodlums and their high jinks (like burning homeless people to death, as seems a reasonably popular pastime amongst the more deranged/crazed/disaffected yoof’). Anyway it was lucky the fire was there and not, say, in my apartment, juding by the time it actually took to get there. But it was good practice as the following day (Sunday, if you’re not paying attention), in exactly the same place, was...

Kawaguchi Fire Persons Training and Demonstration Day

No really, which means, of course, that the fire that really happened was actually about 12 hours early and was meant to be part of the Sunday jollity.

But seriously, folks, Sunday was the local fire brigades’ deomstration day. We kind of half remembered this from last year and again thought it would be a jolly good wheeze to take the young ‘un down to enjoy the show, after all it is only 5 minutes away, involves loud fire engines, gets us all out in the fresh air and contains the possibility of a helicopter being included for free (and the youngster loves helicopters at the moment). So at about 855 we can see the fields have been set up and long line of fire engines are in a sort of scramble mode on one of the riverbank access roads. We wonder when things are going to start, but as 9am passes by and nothing happens, the business of breakfast takes over. The same thing happens around 955, but this time, as the more likely hour of 10am looms do we do anything about getting ready? Of course not, so when the sirens start blaring at exactly 10am, we are thrown into a frenzy of ‘get him changed! Where are his gloves? Sort out the pushchair! I said it would start at 10am but who listens to me! Etc’. But we get out of the front door in a world record 1 minute 35 seconds and , as I mentioned it was all quite close, we get there in time.

‘In time’ for what? is a question that might be asked. Well. There were lots of fire engines and lots of hoses spraying a lot of river water into the air. There were mocked up buildings surrounded by, I guess, earthquake style debris and detritus, from which ‘injured’ people had to be rescued. There were also other buildings that were torched so the firefighters could strut their stuff and dowse the flames. This last bit was quite impressive, but less so for those who had been witness to the real thing the evening before. They also had those long extendable ladder things and rescued a ‘person’ from a tallish building that only about 27 floors lower than the new tower blocks they are building here at the moment, so no need to worry (much) for those new residents. You can get a feeling about the whole thing from these photos below (click for bigger photos).

The main thing was the youngster thoroughly enjoyed it. Well, he seemed to and he did wave to the fire engines and ambulances that went past, which is always a good sign. I am glad to report that the chaps coped very well with all the drills and everything went off with nary a hitch, though I must admit I was slightly worried about what might have happened if, say, a major fire had broken out in Omiya whilst all these engines were on the riverbank as there were a lot of them and not just from Kawaguchi but from all over southern Saitama. But this was just idle speculation as nothing of the sort happened, I’m glad to say

This week’s out-of-touch politician award...

...goes to Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa (well known for commonsense approach to politics). There is a potential bill being debated at the moment, known snappily as the White-collar work-hour exemption bill, which as far as I can tell, would exempt office workers from the standard 8 hour day (meaning they could be forced to work much longer hours) and also stop them from being entitled to overtime pay (meaning they wouldn’t get paid for it). Mr Nakagawa apparently complained on a news programme on NHK last weekend that “salaried workers and their families, who should welcome the white-collar exemption system, were opposed to it [so it can’t be submitted]”.

Now call me crazy, but a bill that might mean that I work longer hours for which overtime payments have been abolished, hmm, let me think about it...Hey, sounds like a swell idea, where can I sign up?


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