Splendidly Handsome Firefighters Hold a Mid-Winter ‘Genpei’ Water War!

It’s past midday… Accompanied by high-spirited shouts, the fire truck arrives in the harbor sounding its siren, which marks the start of the battle. The fire truck is surrounded by Bizen city’s, Hinase area fire brigade members. They throw red and white sticky rice cakes to the audience, and there are even some who take sips of Sake from a big bottle to keep away the cold.

The harbor area is filled with spectators. Here and there you can also see people wrapped up in their raincoats. It’s almost like they’re prepared for river rafting, but can it really be…



This is a scene from a drainage practice known as the Genpei Water War, where the fire fighters divide into East and West and board small crafts. They then hose each other with a force almost like they’re trying to sink their opponents! On February 1st, 2015, the temperature is 6℃. The harbor is engulfed in tingling cold air.

But these draining waters are only the beginning…

After a minute, they’re covered in a sheet of water so thick the opponents can’t even see each other.


And then the real competition starts!

Just to control the hose and determine the target takes quite a lot of strength, but the fire fighters also have to stand firm against the merciless water stream coming right at them – at times they even have to stoop over to dodge the attacks. Back when the boats were wooden, it was apparently common for them to sink.

Those indicating the water stream’s direction are more experienced firefighter. Most likely, they’ve experienced being wet to the skin on those small boats.


The ‘water war’ is a Hinase tradition that has continued since 1950. On this day, at 9 am, a Dezome-shiki (New Year’s Fire Review) is held in the yard of the nearby Hinase middle school. After lifting their spirits at the ceremony, the firefighters head to the water war. Held at the beginning of February, the coldest time of the year when mid-winter training is held for martial art practitioners, it’s quite strict training designed to strengthen troop unity and discipline their minds.

As well as locals, nowadays it’s also popular with tourists and amateur photographers from outside the prefecture who crowd the area to catch a glimpse of the gallant firefighters. Some mist-like spray may hit those who watch on the leeward side, but rest assured, you don’t get that wet.

Although “war” has been attached to the name of the event, it’s basically a training exercise, so there are no winners or losers. Five different colored water ‘fountains’ indicate the end of the event. Spontaneous applause erupts to the brightly colored water sheet shooting high into the blue sky, with people praying for peace and security in the coming year.


After a 15-minute battle, the fire fighters are sopping wet. Although shivering with cold, they are surrounded triumphantly by family and friends.

Watching the winter tradition at the harbor town makes you feel somewhat refreshed, too.

Wear some warm clothes when you come and watch!

Genpei Water War
Date: Annually on the 2nd Sunday of February from 12~ (noon)

Venue: Hinase Port (Hinase, Hinase-cho, Bizen city, Okayama prefecture)
Access: 15-minutes walk from Hinase Station on the JR Ako Line
Tel: 0869-72-1104 (Hinase General Branch General Affairs Division)

Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Madoka Hori




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Written by

Madoka Hori

Madoka Hori

Madoka Hori / Photo-writer Entrepreneurial translator/writer living in Hyogo. As a licensed English tour guide, she occasionally takes tourists to beautiful destinations such as Kobe, Himeji, Okayama, Kyoto, and Osaka and her clients have never got lost so far. On Setouchi Finder, as one of the original team members, she enjoys taking photos and sharing her favorite hidden gems. Private Photo Blog http://riderv328.tumblr.com Twitter https://twitter.com/Riderv328


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