Embodying Japan: Cultures of Sport, Beauty, and Medicine 2017

Becoming One: Firefighter “Gattai”?

      To caveat off of Jordan’s definition of “gattai”, the origin of coming together as a single unit might have easily found its roots in the collectivist notions of small-unit civil communities in Japan that existed before the Tokugawa shogunate. The bond of these communities was necessary for survival, and so necessitated the yielding of most personal parts of interaction. One of the most important aspects of "gattai", however, is emphasizing how different the components are separately and then bringing the unit together under a single feature. The Power Rangers  each have their own unique color, weapon, personality and specialty apart from the single humanoid mechanized fighting unit or Zoid that represents all of them as an indestructible collective. The Zoid, however, does not become completely homogenous (at least in most versions); one can see which part each of the rangers is operating by the color that part is, such as the  Zoid arm being operated by the Red ranger and the leg operated by the Yellow ranger. Which presents the conversation of complete collectivity, and whether distinction or collectivity holds more power. This conversation is actually very fluid throughout the series as there is clear leadership qualities involved in bringing the rangers together and fighting from that standpoint, yet there is emphasis on being incomplete and nearly powerless if a single part of the collective is missing.

      Going back to  Edo’s firefighters, the civil guilds of police, firefighters, ect. performed many functions before being set under the higher echelons of government gave them primary functions that make up modern Japan today . For example, the firefighters would wear “plain and uniform-like” hanten “with characters or numbers of the fire brigade stenciled in white for quick identification, needed if a building collapsed or a fire spread too quickly…” (Goddard 1). As discussed in my sections on tattoos and Edo firefighters (see Tattoos and Class Divide), the most distinctive features of these ensembles were either their tattoos or the extensive embroidered designs on the inside of their jackets (Goddard 1). In conversations of “gattai”, coming together as a single unit is celebrated, but keeping the components distinctive seems to draw attention to the process of coming together, by yielding that distinctiveness for the good of the collective. This is why in other narratives of gattai there is often a discussion of a component of the gattai wanting to be distinctive; in Power Rangers an example would be the Black Ranger being tempted by evil or the Blue Ranger getting disheartened and wanting to quit. The solution in these narratives is to yield the distinctive trait, such as pride or doubt, in order that the components can harmonize again. Firefighters had to wear their guild’s hanten and could not alter the outer design, at the risk of being unidentifiable during a fire (thereby risking their guild’s lives), not getting paid, or not being identified at their deaths should they die by fire. Firefighters could, however, personalize the inside of their uniforms, and get dragon tattoos, without relinquishing their "gattai".

Works Cited

Goddard, Dan R. “Edo firefighters' outfits a work of art.” The Chicago Tribune. December 04, 2003.

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