Great Fire of Meireki

Great Fire Of Meireki

Great Fire of Meireki

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The , also known as the Furisode Fire, destroyed 60-70% of the Japanese capital city of Edo (now Tokyo) on March 2, 1657Blusse, Leonard & Cynthia Vaillé (2005). The Deshima Dagregisters, Volume XII 1650-1660. Leiden, this is the third year of the Meireki Imperial era. It lasted for three days, and is estimated to have claimed over 100,000 lives.


The fire began on the eighteenth day of the year, in Edo's Hongō district, and spread quickly through the city, due to hurricane force winds which were blowing from the northwest. Edo, like most Japanese cities and towns at the time, and like most of those in mainland East Asia, was built primarily from wood and paper. The buildings were especially dry due to a drought the previous year, and the roads and other open spaces between buildings were small and narrow, allowing the fire to spread and grow particularly quickly. (Many cities in Europe had similar problems, being built of flammable material and tightly packed; indeed, London was to burn only nine years later.) Though Edo had a designated fire brigade, the Hikeshi (火消し, "fire extinguishing"), it had been established only 21 years earlier, and was simply not large enough, experienced enough, or well-equipped enough to face such a conflagration.

On the second evening, the winds changed, and the fire was pushed from the southern edges of the city back towards its centre. The homes of the shogun's closest retainers, in......
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