39th Tokai Fire and Rescue Skills Competition

About a week a go I went out with some of Kanako’s friends (she was working) to the 39th Tokai Area Fire and Rescue Skills Competition (39回消防救助技術東海地区指導会-long name!) at the Mie Firefighting School (三重県消防学校) in Suzuka City.

I went out because I thought I’d get to see some nifty (and big!) fire engines, but alas that was not to be. However, there was still a ton of stuff going on throughout the day. The place was packed, though mostly with competitors! Of the people who came to watch there was an overwhelming proportion of beautiful young women dressed in all the latest fashions. Imagine – it’s hot (90’s and humidity), dusty (the whole lower field was just stones and gravel) and you start sweating after about a minute just standing in the shade!!! Is this the place to wear 3 or 4 inch heels? I guess firefighters have it good 🙂 Maybe a career change is ahead of me?

Regardless, I sweated my fair share as I roamed the grounds (and the upper pool) snapping away on…yep, film! The first mention of big, red trucks told me I would need all of my 20mm. So I went out and snagged a few rolls of my favorite negative film Reala 100 (only so you guys could see the results! Slide film woulda been my choice but no scans are offered for it here 😦 ) – and what fun it was! I was again reminded of how sweet my 70-200 f/2.8 L lens is. And of course, 20mm 😀 It was pretty amazing to see guys scale walls, repel, save dummies in the pool, and just do all kinds of awesome stuff. I think it was an amazing celebration of the things firefighters are put through to save all of our lives on a daily basis. I wish more people could have come to see the hard work and dedication it takes to do such a noble job.

Anyway, enjoy the pics!

Association flag

Firefighters Association of Japan - Though the flag was facing the opposite direction! Oops!

39th Fire and Rescue Skills Competition

39th Tokai Fire and Rescue Skills Competition

Fire fighters under a blue sky

20mm is so wide things start to look tilted! You can see the picture is straight because the flag poles are straight up and down! My angle probably skewed the picture. Trucks and buildings on a gorgeous clear blue sky.

20mm and blue skies

I just wanted to show how amazing the view was looking...up! Note how the pole on the left seems to be sucked towards the middle 🙂 Ultra-wide: you either love it or hate it!

Red trucks in a row

There were certainly a lot of fire vehicles, if smaller ones. Here they are parked in a row.


I thought the crane arm looked pretty spiffy 🙂

Red on blue

Red red red! Screaming color!

Window reflection

Kind of a crazy perspective, I put us into the shot just for fun - you can see me and camera on the left side!

Lined up

Here are some firefighters lined up and ready to compete.

Ladder climbing challenge

The ladder climbing challenge. How fast can YOU scale a 15 meter high ladder?

Repelling down the wall

Repelling with a buddy (or a wounded person maybe?). I love the guy on the bottom right sprinting into action!

Suzuka fire brigade

The Suzuka Fire Brigade demonstrates how to rope things between two buildings.

Rooftop pool

This pool was on the roof of one of the buildings. It went down five meters! So I guess that means the whole building is actually just a pool 😀

Let's get swimming!

Swimmers getting ready. I love the guy 2nd from the right - he sure looks fired up!

Exploding forward

Exploding out of the water. I probably missed the perfect timing by a split second but the rush of water looks pretty cool!

Rescue swimming

His expression is great - you can feel the intensity. Swimming is pretty difficult to take as they move in and out of the water at an alarmingly high-speed.

Saving a life (dummy)

Dragging a person (dummy) across the pool.

Relaxing in the hanger

The hanger where competitors were cooling off.

Kids on parade 2

Two groups of kids performed during the closing ceremony. They were really quite good, a combo marching band and group synchronization performance.

Kids on parade 4

They noticed me and flashed their peace signs - some didn't have all their teeth in yet 😉

The band is ready

The real marching band prepares for their exhibition.

Marching girls

A marching brigade of young women, ready to do their flag twirling performance.

Band performance 1

The group of ladies and the band doing their show in the middle of the grounds, in full uniform! Did I mention it was really hot??

Band performance 2

A wider shot. The puffy clouds and the blue sky are a nice touch.

Band performance 3

My composition is spotty but I liked the pose enough to keep the picture. Notice how all of the girls in the back have their left leg up at exactly the same angle! Crazy!

Band performance 4

It's a parade of color!


The AI servo focus slipped from the girl in front to the next row, but the picture still works. We salute you!

X in flags

I thought the X (actually six pointed) shape they had going was cool.

Ena fire brigade

The Ena fire brigade looks on.

Shadow play

After the band performance, there were a few more demonstrations. Non participants watched from the back and sides; I like the shadows cast by this ring of guys.

Kids' flags

The kids were smiling and ready to do their own marching performance!

File in rank

Filing in before the closing ceremony. There must have been hundreds of them all in rows; a pretty amazing sight.

Super Rescue!

A final group shot in front of the "Super Recuse" truck. Apparently it's a pretty unique and decked out model, as other teams were stopping by to take photos as well.

That’s all there is – hope you enjoyed it! It was a lot of fun but dreadfully hot – I ended up buying two 500ml drinks along the way and still feeling thirsty. Can’t imagine what the guys in suits (fire ones) were going through! I also realized that it takes a ton of skill to shoot action with film – I botched a few pictures here and there but no deleting, unlike digital. A good experience overall, but I can see why news and sports jumped ship to digital almost immediately. The colors, though, are still unmatched in my book – bold reds and pastel blues mix oh so well with soft and neutral skin tones. Don’t know how it happens but I’ll always enjoy shooting with Reala 100!


One thought on “39th Tokai Fire and Rescue Skills Competition

  1. Man, you are light-years ahead of me in documentary photography – props for moving around so much on such a hot summer day! You got some great shots from dynamic angles, with extra drama from the ultra-wide 20mm on film. And yeah, I’m loving the soft skin tones and vivid colors, I can see why you like Reala 100 so much. The shots of the swimmers are excellent as well, you really captured the intensity of it.

    Keep up the good work man. I’ve got a beach and picnic party on Saturday, still debating whether or not to bring the 5DII out to the beach (just the thought of sand is making me shudder), but count on me breaking out all the big guns for the picnic. Gotta get some more practice in with the flash and umbrella!

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