Firefighters perform Hashigo Nori ladder acrobatics at the Kawagoe Dezome Shiki

Ten places for Dezome Shiki, a New Year Firefighter festival of sorts, in Saitama Prefecture.

For the first time in three years, all of the New Year Firefighter festivals around Saitama Prefecture are scheduled for January 2023. In 2022, only three of the places on this list of ten, had their firefighter festival. I am a huge fan of firefighters the world over. And have been very fortunate to work with the Japanese fire brigade on several occasions over my years in Japan. I have a sincere and deep admiration of every single man and woman who is drawn to this honorable vocation. Therefore, the dezome shiki firefighter celebration is an event I feel very passionately about. If you are in Japan over the New Year, I highly recommend checking out this only-in-Japan event. Especially one that has hashigo-nori, which is acrobatics on bamboo ladders!

Firefighter Festival

In recent years Dezome Shiki is often translated as New Year Firefighter Ceremony, but when I first came to Japan the term New Year’s Parade of Firefighters was most commonly used. However, many of them are really more like a festival than a parade or ceremony. We try to attend a firefighter festival every year out of respect for fire fighters and gratitude to the fire department. Bonus: it is a really fun family day out! Dezome is one of the those uniquely Japanese traditions that it can’t be translated into just one word. Literally, it means “first performance”or “debut”. It is usually written with shiki for ceremony. It is most commonly used for the first fire fighter’s ceremony and celebration of a New Year.

I’ve been to several dezome shiki over the years and they really are all quite different. For example, some have parades, some don’t, some have hashigo-nori (ladder acrobatics) some don’t etc. Generally most of them have some sort of ceremony and / or blessing followed by a demonstration of the skills and work of fire fighters. All are entertaining, but some more entertaining than others! Whatever way you want to describe it, dezome shiki firefighters festival is well worth seeing at least once in your lifetime. Even the smallest of dezome shiki have some entertainment and not just a blessing of the fire fighters. Most have rescue vehicles on display and some type of rescue demonstration at the very least.

Saitama Prefecture Firefighter Festivals in 2023 埼玉県出初式 令和5年

Here is a list of ten places you can see a fire fighter festival in Saitama this New Year and every New Year. The dates will change for some of them each year. But some of them have a fixed annual date, which I highlight when applicable. The dates in the table below are specifically for 2023. There is a summary of each dezome shiki below this chart. But please do check with the official websites before going out the door, as the 8th wave of the pandemic may lead to last minute changes, even cancellations.

1. Sunday 8th of January 2023Iruma City 入間市
2. Friday January 6th 2023Kumagaya City  熊谷市
3. Saturday January 7th 2023Tokorozawa City 所沢市
4. Saturday January 7th 2023Sayama City 狭山市
5. Sunday January 8th 2023Kawagoe City 川越市
6. Saturday January 7th 2023Kawajima Town 川島町
7. Sunday January 8th 2023Saitama City, Omiya さいたま市
8. Monday January 9th 2023Kasukabe City 春日部市
9. Sunday January 8th 2023 Misato City 三郷市
10. Sunday January 8th 2023 Asaka City 朝霞市

1. Iruma City Dezome Shiki

Iruma Dezome
Clipped from the official website

This is actually one of the Firefighter Festivals that does have a parade. Each section of the Iruma City Fire Department parade in either their relevant work uniforms or full dress uniform. It is one of the dezome shiki in Saitama that does have hashigo-nori ladder acrobats. They also have water fighting demonstrations at this festival too. A siren will go off on the morning of the event at 8.30 am to indicate the festival is going ahead. 2023 Information in English.

Date:Sunday 8th of January 2023
Time:From 10 am to about noon
Location:Sai no Mori Park Car park (on google maps)
Online:Official event web page on the Iruma City website

2. Kumagaya City Dezome

From the official website

This dezome shiki is a bit different to most other dezome in Saitama Prefecture. Because 1) it starts at a shrine, 2) the firefighters parade from one location to another. They do have the famous hashigo nori ladder acrobatics at this festival, as you can see in the photo above from Kumagaya City website. More information in English.

Date:Annually on the fixed date of January 6th
Time:From 12.30 to 3 pm
Location:Takagi Shrine (on google maps)
Online:Official event website

3. Tokorozawa City

The Tokorozawa City new year firefighting event is quite a large one with several elements. However, they unfortunately do not have hashigo nori. For any fire engine lovers; there is a parade of the brigade’s vehicles. There is a taiko drum performance and local kindergarten music performance too. It takes place in the beautiful, family friendly and engaging Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park.

Date:Saturday January 7th 2023.
Time:From 10 am to noon
Location:Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park (on google maps)
Online:Official website

4. Sayama City

The Sayama City Dezome Shiki has been confirmed for Saturday January 7th in 2023. It is held at Kami Okudomi Undo park along the Iruma river. The finer details for 2023 have not yet been released, but generally fourteen fire trucks are on display and there are several demonstrations including one with a helicopter. They also have a water jet demonstration.

Date:Saturday January 7th 2023
Time:From 9.30 am
Location:Kami Okadomi Undo Park (on google maps)
Online:Official event website

5. Kawagoe Firefighter Festival

A kawagoe firefighter performs Ladder acrobatics at a New Year Firefighter festival called a dezome shiki
Hashigo Nori at Kawagoe Firefighter Festival

The fire brigade’s new year celebrations takes place in a few areas, with the main area around the Kawagoe City Hall. There they perform the hashigo nori ladder acrobats, which really have to be seen to be believed! There is also a water jet show and helicopter display at this annual dezome shiki. In 2022, it was one of only a handful of dezome shiki that went ahead despite the pandemic, with spectators. And don’t you know – I was one of them!

Date:Sunday January 8th 2023
Time:From 9 to 11 am
Location:Kawagoe City Hall (on google maps)
Online:Official event website

6. Kawajima Festival

Kawajima New Year

Kawajima, although its own town, is actually part of the Kawagoe Fire Brigade. Despite that, it has its own separate festival in Heisei no Mori Park in Kawajima Town. A highlight of this festival is the rescue demonstrations, including a helicopter rescue demo. There are traditional performances such as shishimae as well. Usually the town’s mascots are also on site for photo ops. However, that may not be the case in 2023 as the festival is on for a much shorter period than normal.

Date:Saturday January 7th 2023
Time:From 9 to 11.30 am in a usual year, but in 2023 it finishes at 10.40 am.
Location:Heisei No Mori Park (on google maps)
Online:Official event website

7. Omiya, Saitama City Dezome

The official flyer of the Omiya Dezome Shiki in 2023

Saitama City is the capital of Saitama Prefecture. It used to be called Omiya, which is still an area within Saitama City. The Omiya Firefighter Festival is, not surprisingly, one of the largest in Saitama prefecture. However, it is not particularly long despite that. It is also one of only a few that takes place at a fire station. In 2022 it was not open to the general public, but you could watch it live on Youtube. In 2023, it will be on site. This particular Dezome Shiki has its own English event page on this website here. Please note that the time is from 10 am in 2023.

Date:Sunday January 8th 2023.
Time:*From 10 am to noon – not 2 pm like last year
Location:Omiya Fire Station (on google maps)
Online:2023 Event web page

8. Kasukabe Dezome Shiki 春日部市出初式

Its the first time I’ve included the Kasukabe Dezome Shiki on the annual round up of dezome shiki in Saitama Prefecture. It replaces the Tsurugashima / Sakado event at Wakaba Walk, because information for the event is not yet available for 2023. Moreover, it has not been confirmed yet for 2023. Kasukabe has confirmed they will have a dezome shiki, but unfortunately they have only released the date so far. In previous years, there was a procession of approximately 180 firefighters. They had demonstrations such as how to operate a pump car and rescue training using a helicopter. Finally,they have a water jet demonstration into the river creating a colorful arch of water, almost like a rainbow.

Date: Monday January 9th
Time: tbc
Location: Parking lot of the Kasukabe Citizen’s Cultural Center aka Kasukabe Civic Culture Hall. View on Google Maps.
Online: Kasukabe City Official website

9. Misato

The Misato Dezome Shiki has been confirmed, but it will be a festival lite in 2023. It will only be on for one hour. They used to have an English language web page for the event, but unfortunately, its gone in 2022. I took this from the website in 2019:

Special performances by the firefighters, Kiyari (work song for carrying heavy logs) and Hashigo-nori (acrobatic performance atop ladders) by Misato Tobi Association (scaffolders), demonstrations by children/ students of municipal elementary / junior high schools, appearance of MIKA+RIKA the Misato City PR ambassador, and more

Misato City website
Date:Sunday January 8th
Time:From 9.40 am to 12.30 pm in a normal year, but from 10 am to 11 am in 2023.
Location: Misato City Culture Hall (on google maps)
Online: 2023 specific information.

10. Asaka City Dezome

The Asaka City firefighters new year celebration takes part around the Asaka City Hall. Like several other of the dezome shiki, it will not go ahead in the event of rain. This is a particularly nice one for kids because they have an interactive corner from around noon to around 1:00 pm. The “Firefighting Team Fureai Hiroba” allows children try discharging water and / or explore a fire engine, ride a fire rescue car and they have photo ops too.

Date:Sunday January 8th
Time:From 9 am to 1 pm
Location: Asaka City Hall (on google maps)
Online: Asaka Official Website

I hope you can make it to a firefighter festival aka dezome shiki near you this year. There are a few other that didn’t make it on the list, because they are currently not confirmed for 2023. For example, Toda City, Sakado and Shiki to name but a few. Please note heavy rain and / or snow fall will effect the line up of these events. There may also be cancellations due to you-know-what! Please do check with the official websites for any last minute changes.

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New Year Japan dezome shiki fire fighting new year parade

The above photo is a stock photo from Pixabay. I took the featured photo at the top of the post at the Kawagoe Dezome Shiki.

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