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Fireman's Coat (Hikeshibanten)
Fireman's Coat (Hikeshibanten), 19th century
Japanese
Painted plain weave cotton 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
2000-113-14
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About This Coat

Over one hundred years ago, a Japanese fireman wore this thick, quilted coat along with a hood, gloves, and pants while fighting fires. In this photograph, we see the inside of the coat, decorated with a painting of Momotaro, a legendary Japanese hero, stomping on a wicked oni, or ogre. When putting out dangerous fires, the fireman wore the coat with the image on the inside next to his body as a reminder to be as brave as Momotaro. To prevent catching fire, he soaked himself in water while dressed in full gear.

Momotaro was given his name ("the peach boy" in Japanese) by his mother, who discovered him inside a beautiful peach floating in the river. Poor and childless, she and her husband were thrilled by this miracle. Momotaro grew into a strong, good-looking, brave boy. When he was fifteen years old, he received permission from his parents to travel to the Island of Ogres to stop the monsters who lived there from killing and stealing. By sharing his mother's delicious homemade dumplings, he made friends with a fierce dog, a monkey, and a pheasant along the way. At first, these creatures quarreled but Momotaro convinced them to help him fight the ogres instead. The pheasant flew at the ogres' heads, pecking their eyes, the monkey clawed and scratched, and the dog snarled and snapped ferociously until the monsters surrendered. After they promised to return everything they had stolen and to live peacefully, Momotaro gave the ogres some dumplings, too.

This object is included in Learning to Look: 20 Works of Art Across Time and Cultures, a teaching kit developed by the Division of Education and made possible by the Comcast Foundation, The Delphi Project Foundation, and Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company. Additional information and activities are included in Learning from Asian Art: Japan.

 

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