FIRES IN JAPAN.
So much has lately been written about Japan that it seems almost like repeating ancient history to set on record that the Japanese live, move, and have their being in extremely flimsy houses, constructed for the most part of wood and strengthened with paper. These convenient buildings naturally afford frequent food for the fiery element, and inasmuch as they can be reconstructed at a small cost, and almost as quickly as they can be burned down, the Japanese are rather apathetic on the subject of fire extinction. A fire in Japan partakes of the nature of a social function. First the lire bell is rung there are plenty of fire bells, and plenty of fire brigades— and very shortly one or other of the latter arrives on the scene, amid a great clatter and shouting. Nobody is really distressed at the occurrence of the lire, and the zeal of the firemen, who work intelligently and quickly, is fostered rather by a spirit of emulation than by a genuine desire to render a public service. For are they not the first on the scene, and shall they share the glory with others? Everyone in the city goes out to view the fire, be it night or day. At night the honest people carry lanterns as a token of good faith (since no thief would bear a light to reveal his whereabouts), and the whole scene is one of the most cheerful sights imaginable. To be sure, no one is ever killed, and even accidents are rare, for, if anyone is penned up in a blazing house he has only to push a wall down and walk into the street, to receive the congratulations of the public! When the fire has been extinguished, all the visitors to the neighborhood begin a round of calls upon their friends living near, who hurry home to receive them. It may be two in the morning, it matters not ; Japanese etiquette overrides all considerations of convenience. If time does not permit of the whole circle of acquaintances being visited before morning, the duty must be completed next day. Truly this is the quintessence of courtesy! But, despite the Oriental placidity with which the Japanese accept the visitations of fire, they are curiously Occidental in their method of producing conflagrations. Their chief implement is a very cheap form of paraffin lamp, used in conjunction with low-flash-point American oil. Which is one more illustration of the truism that the Japanese are a people of strange contradictionsThe London Fireman.