1923 Great Kantō earthquake

The Great Kantō earthquake (関東大地震, Kantō dai-jishin; Kantō ō-jishin)[11][12] struck the Kantō Plain on the main Japanese island of Honshū at 11:58:44 JST (02:58:44 UTC) on Saturday, September 1, 1923. Varied accounts indicate the duration of the earthquake was between four and ten minutes.[13] Extensive firestorms and even a fire whirl added to the death toll.

1923 Great Kantō earthquake
Destroyed shops lined along the street toward Sensō-ji temple in Asakusa, with walking people, 1923. Both the middle gate (center) and the pagoda (left, lost later) is pictured standing.
The ruined Ryōunkaku in Asakusa, which was later demolished
1923 Great Kantō earthquake is located in Japan
1923 Great Kantō earthquake
UTC time1923-09-01 02:58:35
ISC event911526
Local dateSeptember 1, 1923 (1923-09-01)
Local time11:58:32 JST (UTC+09:00)
Duration4 min[1] 48 sec[2]
Magnitude7.9–8.2 Mw[3][4][5]
Depth23 km (14 mi)
Epicenter35°19.6′N 139°8.3′E / 35.3267°N 139.1383°E / 35.3267; 139.1383[6]
FaultSagami Trough
Areas affectedJapan
Max. intensityXI (Extreme)

JMA 7 (estimated)
Peak acceleration~ 0.41 g (est)
~ 400 gal (est)
TsunamiUp to 12 m (39 ft)
in Atami, Shizuoka, Tōkai[7]
Aftershocks6 of 7.0 M or higher[8]
Casualties105,385–142,800 deaths[9][10]

The earthquake had a magnitude of 7.9 on the moment magnitude scale (Mw ),[14] with its focus deep beneath Izu Ōshima Island in Sagami Bay. The cause was a rupture of part of the convergent boundary where the Philippine Sea Plate is subducting beneath the Okhotsk Plate along the line of the Sagami Trough.[15]

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the Kantō Massacre began. Rumors emerged that ethnic Koreans in Japan had poisoned wells or were planning to attack cities. In response, the Japanese police and bands of armed vigilantes killed ethnic Korean civilians and anyone they suspected of being Korean. Estimates of the death toll vary, with most third-party sources citing around 6,000 to 10,000.[16][17][18]

Since 1960, September 1 has been designated by the Japanese government as Disaster Prevention Day (防災の日, Bōsai no hi), or a day in remembrance of and to prepare for major natural disasters including tsunami and typhoons.[19] Drills, as well as knowledge promotion events, are centered around that date as well as awards ceremonies for people of merit.[20]

Earthquake edit

The SS Dongola's captain reported that, while he was anchored in Yokohama's inner harbor:

At 11.55 a.m. ship commenced to tremble and vibrate violently and on looking towards the shore it was seen that a terrible earthquake was taking place, buildings were collapsing in all directions and in a few minutes nothing could be seen for clouds of dust. When these cleared away fire could be seen starting in many directions and in half an hour the whole city was in flames.[21]

This earthquake devastated Tokyo, the port city of Yokohama, and the surrounding prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa, and Shizuoka, and caused widespread damage throughout the Kantō region. The earthquake's force was so great that in Kamakura, over 60 km (37 mi) from the epicenter, it moved the Great Buddha statue, which weighs about 121 tonnes, almost 60 centimeters.[22]

Estimated casualties totaled about 142,800 deaths, including about 40,000 who went missing and were presumed dead.[citation needed] According to the Japanese construction company Kajima Kobori Research's conclusive report of September 2004, 105,385 deaths were confirmed in the 1923 quake.[23][24][13]

The damage from this natural disaster was one of the greatest sustained by Imperial Japan. In 1960, on the 37th anniversary of the quake, the government declared September 1 an annual "Disaster Prevention Day".

Damage and deaths edit

Because the earthquake struck when people were cooking meals, many were killed as a result of large fires that broke out. Fires started immediately after the earthquake.[25] Some fires developed into firestorms[26][27][28] that swept across cities. Many people died when their feet became stuck on melting tarmac. The single greatest loss of life was caused by a fire whirl that engulfed the Rikugun Honjo Hifukusho (formerly the Army Clothing Depot) in downtown Tokyo, where about 38,000 people who had taken shelter there during the earthquake were incinerated. The earthquake broke water mains all over the city, and putting out the fires took nearly two full days until late in the morning of September 3.[29]

Desolation of Nihonbashi and Kanda seen from the roof of Dai-ichi Sogo building

A strong typhoon centered off the coast of the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture brought high winds to Tokyo Bay at about the same time as the earthquake. These winds caused fires to spread rapidly.

The Emperor and Empress were staying at Nikko when the earthquake struck Tokyo, and were never in any danger.[30] American Acting Consul General Max David Kirjassoff and his wife Alice Josephine Ballantine Kirjassoff died in the earthquake.[31] The consulate itself lost the entirety of its records in the subsequent fires.[32]

Many homes were buried or swept away by landslides in the mountainous and hilly coastal areas in western Kanagawa Prefecture; about 800 people died. A collapsing mountainside in the village of Nebukawa, west of Odawara, pushed the entire village and a passenger train carrying over 100 passengers, along with the railway station, into the sea.

The RMS Empress of Australia was about to leave Yokohama harbor when the earthquake struck. It narrowly survived and assisted in rescuing 2000 survivors. A P&O liner, Dongola, was also in the harbor at the moment of disaster and rescued 505 people, taking them to Kobe.[33]

Marunouchi in flames

A tsunami with waves up to 10 m (33 ft) high struck the coast of Sagami Bay, Bōsō Peninsula, Izu Islands, and the east coast of Izu Peninsula within minutes. The tsunami caused many deaths, including about 100 people along Yui-ga-hama Beach in Kamakura and an estimated 50 people on the Enoshima causeway. Over 570,000 homes were destroyed, leaving an estimated 1.9 million homeless. Evacuees were transported by ship from Kantō to as far as Kobe in Kansai.[34] The damage is estimated to have exceeded US$1 billion (or about $17 billion today).[35] There were 57 aftershocks.

Ensuing violence edit

Ethnic Koreans were massacred after the earthquake.

Ethnic Koreans were massacred after the earthquake.[36][37] The Home Ministry declared martial law and ordered all sectional police chiefs to make maintenance of order and security a top priority. A false rumor was spread that Koreans were taking advantage of the disaster, committing arson and robbery, and were in possession of bombs.[38] Anti-Korean sentiment was heightened by fear of the Korean independence movement.[39] In the confusion after the quake, mass murder of Koreans by mobs occurred in urban Tokyo and Yokohama, fueled by rumors of rebellion and sabotage.[40] The government reported that 231 Koreans were killed by mobs in Tokyo and Yokohama in the first week of September.[41] Independent reports said the number of dead was far higher, ranging from 6,000 to 10,000.[16][17][18] Some newspapers reported the rumors as fact, including the allegation that Koreans were poisoning wells. The numerous fires and cloudy well water, a little-known effect of a large quake, all seemed to confirm the rumors of the panic-stricken survivors who were living amidst the rubble. Vigilante groups set up roadblocks in cities, and tested civilians with a shibboleth for supposedly Korean-accented Japanese: deporting, beating, or killing those who failed. Army and police personnel colluded in the vigilante killings in some areas. Of the 3,000 Koreans taken into custody at the Army Cavalry Regiment base in Narashino, Chiba Prefecture, 10% were killed at the base, or after being released into nearby villages.[38] Moreover, anyone mistakenly identified as Korean, such as Chinese, Ryukyuans, and Japanese speakers of some regional dialects, suffered the same fate. About 700 Chinese, mostly from Wenzhou, were killed.[42] A monument commemorating this was built in 1993 in Wenzhou.[43]

Metropolitan Police Department burning at Marunouchi, near Hibiya Park

In response, the government called upon the Japanese Army and the police to protect Koreans; 23,715 Koreans were placed in protective custody across Japan, 12,000 in Tokyo alone.[38][44] The chief of police of Tsurumi (or Kawasaki by some accounts) is reported to have publicly drunk the well water to disprove the rumor that Koreans had been poisoning wells.[citation needed] In some towns, even police stations into which Korean people had escaped were attacked by mobs, whereas in other neighborhoods, civilians took steps to protect them.[citation needed] The Army distributed flyers denying the rumor and warning residents against attacking Koreans, but in many cases, vigilante activity only ceased as a result of Army operations against it. In several documented cases, soldiers and policemen participated in the killings,[45] and in other cases, authorities handed groups of Koreans over to local vigilantes, who proceeded to kill them.[46]

Amidst the mob violence against Koreans in the Kantō Region, regional police and the Imperial Army used the pretext of civil unrest to liquidate political dissidents.[44] Socialists such as Hirasawa Keishichi [ja] (平澤計七), anarchists such as Sakae Ōsugi and Noe Itō, and the Chinese communal leader, Ō Kiten [ja] (王希天), were abducted and killed by local police and Imperial Army, who claimed the radicals intended to use the crisis as an opportunity to overthrow the Japanese government.[44][47]

Director Chongkong Oh made two documentary films about the pogrom: Hidden Scars: The Massacre of Koreans from the Arakawa River Bank to Shitamachi in Tokyo (1983) and The Disposed-of Koreans: The Great Kanto Earthquake and Camp Narashino (1986). They largely consist of interviews with survivors, witnesses, and perpetrators.[citation needed]

The importance of obtaining and providing accurate information following natural disasters has been emphasized in Japan ever since. Earthquake preparation literature in modern Japan almost always directs citizens to carry a portable radio and use it to listen to reliable information, and not to be misled by rumors in the event of a large earthquake.

Aftermath edit

A view of the destruction in Yokohama

Following the devastation of the earthquake, some in the government considered the possibility of moving the capital elsewhere.[48] Proposed sites for the new capital were even discussed.

Japanese commentators interpreted the disaster as an act of divine punishment to admonish the Japanese people for their self-centered, immoral, and extravagant lifestyles. In the long run, the response to the disaster was a strong sense that Japan had been given an unparalleled opportunity to rebuild the city and rebuild Japanese values. In reconstructing the city, the nation, and the Japanese people, the earthquake fostered a culture of catastrophe and reconstruction that amplified discourses of moral degeneracy and national renovation in interwar Japan, fostering a culture of militarism.[49][50]

After the earthquake, Gotō Shinpei organized a reconstruction plan of Tokyo with modern networks of roads, trains, and public services. Parks were placed all over Tokyo as refuge spots, and public buildings were constructed with stricter standards than private buildings to accommodate refugees. The outbreak of World War II and subsequent destruction severely limited resources.

Memorial service for foreigners who died at the earthquake: The woman burning incense is the wife of the Italian Ambassador to Japan. The venue is Zōjō-ji in Shiba Park.

Frank Lloyd Wright received credit for designing the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, to withstand the quake, although in fact the building was damaged, though standing, by the shock. The destruction of the US embassy caused Ambassador Cyrus Woods to relocate the embassy to the hotel.[51] Wright's structure withstood the anticipated earthquake stresses, and the hotel remained in use until 1968. The innovative design used to construct the Imperial Hotel, and its structural fortitude, inspired the creation of the popular Lincoln Logs toy.[52]

The unfinished battlecruiser Amagi was in drydock being converted into an aircraft carrier in Yokosuka in compliance with the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. The earthquake damaged the ship's hull beyond repair, leading it to be scrapped, and the unfinished fast battleship Kaga was converted into an aircraft carrier in its place.

Fire clouds over Kantō

In contrast to London, where typhoid fever had been steadily declining since the 1870s, the rate in Tokyo remained high, more so in the upper-class residential northern and western districts than in the densely populated working-class eastern district. An explanation is the decline of waste disposal, which became particularly serious in the northern and western districts when traditional methods of waste disposal collapsed due to urbanization. The 1923 earthquake led to record-high morbidity due to unsanitary conditions following the earthquake, and it prompted the establishment of antityphoid measures and the building of urban infrastructure.[53]

The Honda Point Disaster on the West Coast of the United States, in which seven US Navy destroyers ran aground and 23 people died, has been attributed to navigational errors caused by unusual currents set up by the earthquake in Japan.[54]

Memory edit

Beginning in 1960, every September 1st is designated as Disaster Prevention Day to commemorate the earthquake and remind people of the importance of preparedness, as August and September are the peak of the typhoon season. Schools and public and private organizations host disaster drills. Tokyo is located near a fault zone beneath the Izu Peninsula which, on average, causes a major earthquake about once every 70 years,[55] and is also located near the Sagami Trough, a large subduction zone that has potential for large earthquakes. Every year on this date, schools across Japan take a moment of silence at the precise time the earthquake hit in memory of the lives lost.

Some discreet memorials are located in Yokoamicho Park in Sumida Ward, at the site of the open space in which an estimated 38,000 people were killed by a single fire whirl.[55] The park houses a Buddhist-style memorial hall/museum, a memorial bell donated by Taiwanese Buddhists, a memorial to the victims of World War II Tokyo air raids, and a memorial to the Korean victims of the vigilante killings.

In fiction edit

In written or graphic novels edit

In the historical fantasy novel Teito Monogatari (Hiroshi Aramata) a supernatural explanation is given for the cause of the Great Kantō earthquake, connecting it with the principles of feng shui.

In Yasunari Kawabata's 1930 novel The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa several chapters deal with the Great Kantō earthquake.

In the TV adaptation of the Pachinko Novel by Min Jin Lee, a young Hansu escapes Yokohama with his father's former yakuza employer, Ryoichi, from the Great Kantō Earthquake. The Great Kantō Earthquake is not featured in the book.

In Oswald Wynd's novel The Ginger Tree, Mary Mackenzie survives the earthquake, and later bases her clothes designing company in one of the few buildings that remained standing in the aftermath.

In TV, film or animation edit

The earthquake is recreated in the 1983 asadora Oshin, from episode 114 to 117, showing the financial and human losses the disaster caused, as the new factory Oshin and her husband Ryuzo built is destroyed, and their faithful retainer Genji dies protecting their son Yu. The earthquake becomes a major a plot point as it drives the family to move to Saga, to live with Ryuzo's parents.

An incident after the Great Kanto earthquake is recreated in the 1998 film, After Life, known in Japanese as Wandafuru Raifu (or Wonderful Life). Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, the plot takes place in a way station for those who have just died. The newly deceased will take their happiest memory with them into the afterlife. One of the newly deceased has a memory of being in the woods after the earthquake.

Michiyo Akaishi's josei manga Akatsuki no Aria features the earthquake in volume 8. Several places frequented by the protagonist Aria Kanbara, like her boarding school and the house of the rich Nishimikado clan that she is an illegitimate member of, become shelters for the wounded and the homeless. Aria's birth mother is severely injured by debris and later dies, and this triggers a subplot about Aria's own heritage.

In Yuu Watase's 2017 josei manga Fushigi Yûgi Byakko Senki, the heroine Suzuno Osugi enters The Universe of the Four Gods for the first time right after the earthquake: her father Takao, who is dying from injuries he suffered when the family house fatally collapsed on him and Suzuno's mother Tamayo, orders her to do so, so she will survive the disaster and its aftermath. After a brief time there, she's sent back to the already destroyed Tokyo, and she, alongside her soon-to-be love interest Seiji Horie and two young boys named Hideo and Kenichi, is taken in by a friend of the late Takao, Dr. Oikawa.

Waki Yamato's manga Haikara-san ga Tōru actually reaches its climax after the Great Kantō earthquake—which happens right before the wedding of the female lead, Benio Hanamura, and her second love Tousei. Benio barely survives when the Christian church she's getting married in collapses, and then she finds her long-lost love Shinobu whose other love interest Larissa is among the victims; they get back together, and Tousei allows them to.

In Makiko Hirata's josei manga and anime Kasei Yakyoku the story finishes some time after the earthquake, as a corollary to the main love triangle between the noblewoman Akiko Hashou, her lover Taka Itou, and Akiko's personal maid Sara Uchida. The earthquake happens just as the marriage between Akiko and her fiancé Kiyosu Saionji is announced. Sara is in the streets, and Taka is taking Sara's brother Junichirou to a hospital after he was injured in a yakuza-related incident. The Hashou's mansion is destroyed, leading to an emotional confrontation between Akiko and Saionji; meanwhile, Sara's humble house in the suburbia is also destroyed and her and Junichirou's mother dies of injuries she sustained in the earthquake.[56]

Maurice Tourneur's 1924 silent film Torment has an earthquake in Yokohama in its plot, and uses footage of the Kantō earthquake in the film.[57]

In the 2013 animated film by director Hayao Miyazaki, The Wind Rises, the protagonist Jiro Horikoshi is traveling to Tokyo by train to study engineering. On the way, the 1923 earthquake strikes, damaging the train and causing a huge fire in the city.

Part of the story in the manga and anime Taisho Otome Fairy Tale (by Sana Kirioka) happens during the earthquake. At that time Yuzuki was in Tokyo visiting a friend, causing Tamahiko to worry, and follow her to Tokyo.

In the 2022 animated film Suzume no Tojimari, directed by Makoto Shinkai, the earthquake is briefly alluded to in a segment recounting Tokyo's devastation 100 years prior.

See also edit

Notes edit

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  3. ^ Kanamori, Hiroo (1977). "The energy release in great earthquakes" (PDF). J. Geophys. Res. 82 (20): 2981–2987. Bibcode:1977JGR....82.2981K. doi:10.1029/JB082i020p02981.
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  5. ^ "首都直下地震モデル検討会" (PDF). 首都直下のM7クラスの地震及び相模トラフ沿いのM8クラスの地震等の震源断層モデルと震度分布・津波高等に関する報告書
  6. ^ Usami, Tatsuo『最新版 日本被害地震総覧』 p272.
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  25. ^ Gulick, Sidney L. (1923). The Winning of the Far East: A Study of the Christian Movement in China, Korea, Japan. New York: George H. Doran Company. p. 15.
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  29. ^ Scawthorn; Eidinger; Schiff, eds. (2005). Fire Following Earthquake. Reston, Virginia: ASCE, NFPA. ISBN 978-0-7844-0739-4. Archived from the original on 2013-09-28. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
  30. ^ "Yokohama is Practically Destroyed". The New York Times. September 3, 1923.
  31. ^ "Brother Thinks Consul Kirjassoff May Be Alive". September 6, 1923.
  32. ^ "Correspondence American Consulate In Yokohama 1931 Vol. 5 File Number 131-600". United States Consular Records for Yokohama, Japan, 1923–1941, ID: 79322859, p. 10. National Archives and Records Administration.
  33. ^ Ship Fact Sheet Dongola (1905) at poheritage.com. Retrieved 9 May 2020
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  36. ^ "Collection of 1923 Japan earthquake massacre testimonies released". Retrieved 2018-04-21.
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  38. ^ a b c "朝鮮人虐殺事件" [Korean Massacre Incident]. Kokushi Daijiten (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 683276033. Archived from the original on 2007-08-25. Retrieved 2012-08-11.
  39. ^ Chuushichi Tsuzuki (2000). The Pursuit of Power in Modern Japan, 1825–1995. Oxford University Press. p. 216.
  40. ^ Hammer 2006, pp. 149–170
  41. ^ 姜徳相『新版 関東大震災・虐殺の記憶』 青丘文化社
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  44. ^ a b c "亀戸事件" [Kameido Incident]. Kokushi Daijiten (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 683276033. Archived from the original on 2007-08-25. Retrieved 2012-08-11.
  45. ^ Choongkong Oh (Director) (1983). 隠された爪跡 – 東京荒川土手周辺から下町の虐殺 [Hidden Scars: The Massacre of Koreans from the Arakawa River Bank to Shitamachi in Tokyo] (Motion picture).
  46. ^ Choongkong Oh (Director) (1986). 払い下げられた朝鮮人-関東大震災と習志野収容所 [The Disposed-of Koreans: The Great Kanto Earthquake and Camp Narashino] (Motion picture).
  47. ^ Mikiso Hane, Reflections on the Way to the Gallows: Rebel Women in Prewar Japan, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1988, p.176 (Hane references the memoirs of Japanese socialist Tanno Setsu)
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  50. ^ Hammer, Joshua. "The Great Japan Earthquake of 1923". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2021-06-26.
  51. ^ Hammer 2006, p. 176
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  54. ^ Honda Point Disaster, 8 September 1923, Naval History and Heritage Command, U.S. Department of the Navy, 2002, archived from the original on 8 November 2013, retrieved 24 May 2014
  55. ^ a b "The Big Ones by Lucy Jones | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books". PenguinRandomhouse.com.
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  57. ^ Waldman, Harry (2001). "The Films in America, 1914–1926". Maurice Tourneur: The Life and Films. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. p. 117. ISBN 9780786409570.

References and further reading edit

External links edit