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Fireman's Coat (Hikeshibanten)
Fireman's Coat (Hikeshibanten), 19th century
Painted cotton plain weave with cotton darning stitching (sashiko)
39 3/4 x 46 1/2 inches (101 x 118.1 cm)
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Purchased with funds contributed by the Otto Haas Charitable Trust, The Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Maude de Schauensee, Theodore R. and Barbara B. Aronson, Edna and Stanley C. Tuttleman, The Hamilton Family Foundation, and Maxine and Howard H. Lewis, 2000
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Looking Questions

  • A Japanese fireman wore this coat while fighting fires over one hundred years ago. What shape is it? Where are the neck and the sleeves of the coat?
  • Look at the painting on the coat. Who do you see? What is happening? What do you see that makes you think that? Read the story about Momotaro and the ogre. How is your story different? Similar?
  • Look for a tool that Japanese firemen use. What else can you see that reminds you of fighting fires? (Hint: Look carefully at the colors and the shapes.)
  • Compare this nineteenth-century Japanese fireman's coat to a contemporary American fireman's coat.

Art Project: Fireman's Coats

Have each student create a miniature fireman’s coat. Start by folding a piece of drawing paper in half vertically. Outline half of the fireman's coat shape so that the middle of the coat is the fold in the paper, and the sleeve points away from the fold. With the paper still folded, cut around the shape and then open up the folded paper to reveal the coat. Now decorate one side of the coat as the outside with a simple geometric pattern, using crayons or oil pastels. On the other side of the paper, the inside of the coat, students should create a design showing their personal hero or heroine engaged in some brave act. Use watercolors for the background and crayons or oil pastels for the figures. Punch a hole near the neck of the coat and then hang them from the ceiling of the classroom, so that both sides can be admired.

Research Idea: The Dangers of Fire

Fire has always been a great danger in Japan. Have students research to learn more about the reasons why. Study some great fires in Japan such as the one that destroyed many buildings in Kobe, Japan, in 1995, after a major earthquake. What does your city or town do to protect itself from the danger of fire?

Group Activity: Tall Tales

Find books in the library of folktales from the United States. Read about Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, and Johnny Appleseed. How do these stories compare to Momotaro? Together, make a list of the elements found in a classic folktale. Then, working in small groups, have students write their own folktale, being sure to include all the elements you have listed.

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