Working with the local fire brigades, the chokai recruit local residents as volunteer watchmen for the hinoyojin patrols. The walks are conducted during winter when the air is dry and the chance of fire increases among heating appliances, stoves, and unattended lit cigarettes.
Fires have been on a decline, though. According to the Tokyo Fire Department, the number of fire incidents in the city has dropped over the past decade because of improved fireproofing in buildings and better firefighting equipment: There were 5,089 fires in 2011, which decreased to 4,205 in 2016, and 3,939 in 2021.
“In Japan, the fire season is generally from December to March, although this may depend on the region,” said Kiyotaka Takeuchi, who oversees the fire safety and disaster prevention department at Koto Ward City Hall. “(The hinoyojin patrols) are usually held at the end of the year from December 25 to 30.”