1923 Great Kantō earthquake


1923 Great Kantō earthquake

The nihongo|1923 Great Kantō earthquake|関東大震災|Kantō daishinsai struck the Kantō plain on the Japanese main island of Honshū at 11:58 on the morning of September 1, 1923. Varied accounts hold that the duration of the earthquake was between 4 and 10 minutes. The phrase "Great Kanto earthquake" usually refers to this earthquake, but is sometimes used to refer to the Ansei-Edo Earthquake of 1855 (安政の大地震).

The quake was later estimated to have had a magnitude between 7.9 and 8.4 on the Richter scale, with its focus deep beneath Izu Ōshima Island in Sagami Bay. It devastated Tokyo, the port city of Yokohama, surrounding prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa, and Shizuoka, and caused widespread damage throughout the Kantō region. [Hammer, Joshua. (2006). [http://books.google.com/books?id=6O8VyhDbUPgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=yokohama+burning&sig=rbgbEDXJV5fht4wdSD1HBoAMANg#PPA278,M1 "Yokohama Burning: the Deadly 1923 Earthquake and Fire that Helped Forge the Path to World War II," p. 278] , citing Francis Hawks, (1856). "Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan Performed in the Years 1852, 1853 and 1854 under the Command of Commodore M.C. Perry, United States Navy," Washington: A.O.P. Nicholson by order of Congress, 1856; originally published in "Senate Executive Documents", No. 34 of 33rd Congress, 2nd Session.] The power and intensity of the earthquake is easy to underestimate, but the 1923 earthquake managed to move the 93-ton statute of Buddha at Kamakura. The statue slid forward almost two feet. [Great Buddha: [http://pacific-islander.blogspot.com/2007/10/all-buddhas-great-and-small.html blog] ]

Casualty estimates range from about 100,000 to 142,000 deaths, the latter figure including approximately 37,000 who went missing and were presumed dead.According to the Japanese construction company Kajima Kobori Research's report of September 2005, there were 105,000 confirmed deaths in the 1923 quake.cite web|url=http://www.eas.slu.edu/Earthquake_Center/1923EQ/|title=The 1923 Tokyo Earthquake|accessdate=2007-02-22] cite web|url=http://www.hku.hk/history/nakasendo/1923quke.htm|title=The 1923 Kanto Earthquake|author=Thomas A. Stanley and R.T.A. Irving|date=2001-09-05|accessdate=2007-02-22] cite web|format=PDF|url=http://nisee.berkeley.edu/kanto/tokyo1923.pdf|title=The 1923 Tokyo Earthquake and Fire|author=Charles D. James|first=Charles D.|last=James|date=2002-10-08|accessdate=2007-02-22]

Damage

Because the earthquake struck at lunchtime when many people were using fire to cook food, the damage and the number of fatalities were augmented due to fires which broke out in numerous locations. The fires spread rapidly due to high winds from a nearby typhoon off the coast of Noto Peninsula in Northern Japan and some developed into firestorms which swept across cities. This caused many to die when their feet got stuck in melting tarmac; however, the single greatest loss of life occurred when approximately 38,000 people packed into an open space at the Rikugun Honjo Hifukusho (Army Parade Ground) in downtown Tokyo were incinerated by a firestorm-induced fire whirl. As the earthquake had caused water mains to break, putting out the fires took nearly two full days until late in the morning of September 3. The fires were the biggest causes of death.

The Imperial Palace caught fire, but the Prince Regent was unharmed. The Emperor and Empress were at Nikko when the earthquake struck the city, and were never in any danger. [http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FB0F12FE3E5416738DDDAA0894D1405B838EF1D3 "Yokohama is Practically Destroyed,"] "New York Times." September 3 1923.] Cases of homes being buried or swept away by landslides were particularly frequent in the mountainous areas and hilly coastal areas in western Kanagawa Prefecture. These cases are reported to account for the deaths of about 800 people. At the railway station in the village of Nebukawa, west of Odawara, a collapsing mountainside pushed a passing passenger train with over 100 passengers downhill into the sea along with the entire station structure and the village itself. A tsunami reached the coast within minutes in some areas, hitting the coast of Sagami Bay, Boso Peninsula, Izu Islands and the east coast of Izu Peninsula. Tsunamis of up to 10 metres were recorded. Examples of tsunami damage include about 100 people killed 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. Some evacuees were transported by ship to as far from Kanto as the port of Kobe in Kansai. [ [http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F50E1FF8385D11738DDDA00894D1405B838EF1D3&scp=1&sq=ss+Empress+of+Australia&st=p "All Ships Aiding Relief,"] "New York Times." September 9, 1923; [http://www.pbs.org/wnet/savageearth/earthquakes/index.html WNET/PBS, "Savage Earth: The Restless Planet" video/broadcast television program] ] The damage is estimated to have exceeded one billion U.S. dollars at contemporary values. There were 57 accountable aftershocks.

Post-quake violence

The panic and confusion created by the earthquake led to numerous false rumors spreading both inside and outside of the affected regions. Japanese newspaper articles carried confused stories, variously reporting the total annihilation of Tokyo and the Japanese cabinet, the entire Kantō region sinking into the sea, the destruction of the Izu Islands due to volcanic eruptions, and a monster tsunami reaching as far inland as Akagi (at the northernmost corner of the Kantō Plain, almost halfway across the width of the country).

The Home Ministry declared martial law, and ordered all sectional police chiefs to make maintenance of order and security a top priority. One particularly pernicious rumor was that ethnic Koreans were taking advantage of the disaster, committing arson and robbery, and were in possession of bombs. In the aftermath of the quake, mass murder of Koreans by vigilante mobs occurred in urban Tokyo and Yokohama, fueled by rumors of rebellion and sabotage. [Hammer, [http://books.google.com/books?id=6O8VyhDbUPgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Tokyo+1923&lr=&source=gbs_summary_r#PPA149,M1 pp. 149] -170.] Some newspapers reported the rumors as fact, which led to the most deadly rumor of all: that the 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, towns and villages across the region. Because people with Korean accents pronounced "G" or "J" in the beginning of words differently, 15円 50銭 ("jū-go-en, go-jus-sen") and がぎぐげご ("gagigugego") were used as tests of ethnic identity. Anyone who failed to pronounce them properly was deemed Korean. Some were told to leave, but many were beaten or killed. Moreover, anyone mistakenly identified as Korean, such as Chinese, Okinawans, and Japanese speakers of some regional dialects, suffered the same fate.

In response, the Japanese Army and the police conducted operations to protect Koreans. More than 2,000 Koreans were taken in for protection from the mobs across the region, although recent studies have shown that there were incidents where army and police personnel are known to have condoned or even colluded in the vigilante killings in some areas. The chief of police of Tsurumi (or Kawasaki by some accounts) is reported to have publicly drunk the well-water to disprove the rumour that Koreans have been poisoning wells. In some towns, even police stations into which Koreans had escaped were attacked by mobs, whereas in other neighbourhoods residents took steps to protect them. The Army distributed flyers denying the rumour and warning civilians against attacking Koreans, but in many cases vigilante activity only ceased as a result of Army operations against it.

The total death toll from these disturbances is uncertain. According to the investigation by the Home Ministry, confirmed victims of vigilante justice were: 231 Koreans killed, 43 injured; 3 Chinese killed; 59 Japanese (including Okinawans) killed, 43 injured. Actual estimates range as high as 6,600, although politically independent studies place the total at just over 2,500. 362 Japanese civilians were eventually charged for murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and assault. However, most got off with nominal sentences, and even those who were sent to jail were later released with a general pardon commemorating the marriage of Prince Hirohito. In contrast, the actual number of Koreans who were charged for crimes during this period were 2 for murder, 3 for arson, 6 for robbery and 3 for rape.

All of those charged with murder were civilians, despite the fact that some military and police units are now known to have taken part in the crimes, prompting accusations of a cover-up. Though the term was not known in Japan at the time, these events have many characteristics of a pogrom, targeting Jews and other ethnic and religious groups in various countries.On top of this violence, Socialists like Hirasawa Keishichi, anarchists like Sakae Osugi and Noe Ito, and the Chinese communal leader, Ou Kiten, were abducted and killed by members of the police, who claimed that they had intended to use the crisis as an opportunity to overthrow the Japanese governmentFact|date=September 2008.

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

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

After the earthquake, Gotō Shimpei 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. However, the outbreak of World War II and subsequent destruction severely limited resources.

Frank Lloyd Wright received credit for designing the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo to withstand the quake, although in fact the building was damaged by the shock. The destruction of the US embassy caused Ambassador Cyrus Woods to relocate the embassy to the hotel. [Hammer, [http://books.google.com/books?id=6O8VyhDbUPgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Tokyo+1923&lr=&source=gbs_summary_r#PPA176,M1 p. 176.] ] Wright's structure withstood the anticipated earthquake stresses; and the hotel remained in use until 1968.

The unfinished battlecruiser "Amagi" was being completed as an aircraft carrier in Yokosuka. However, it was damaged beyond repair in the earthquake. It was scrapped, and the unfinished fast battleship "Kaga" replaced it.

Beginning in 1960, every September 1 is designated as "Disaster Prevention Day" to commemorate the earthquake and remind people of the importance of preparation, as September and October are the middle of the typhoon season. Schools, public and private organizations host disaster drills. Tokyo is located near a fault line beneath the Izu peninsula which, on average, causes a major earthquake about once every 70 years. 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 during this tragic event.

There are low-key memorial facilities in a small park in Sumida, at the site of the open space in which 30,000 people were killed by a single firestorm. 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.

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Notes

References

* Clancey, Gregory. (2006). [http://books.google.com.sg/books?id=m0eUSUtm0iMC "Earthquake Nation: The Cultural Politics of Japanese Seismicity."] Berkeley: University of California Press. 10-ISBN 0-520-24607-1; 13-ISBN 978-0-520-24607-2 (cloth)
* Hammer, Joshua. (2006). [http://books.google.com/books?id=6O8VyhDbUPgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Tokyo+1923&lr=&source=gbs_summary_r "Yokohama Burning: The Deadly 1923 Earthquake and Fire that Helped Forge the Path to World War II."] New York: Simon & Schuster. 10-ISBN 0-743-26465-7; 13-ISBN 978-0-743-26465-5 (cloth)
* Heilbrun, Jacob. [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/17/books/review/Heilbrunn.t.html "Aftershocks,"] "New York Times." September 17 2006.
* Nyst, M. and T. Nishimura,F. F. Pollitz, and W. Thatcher. (2005). [http://quake.usgs.gov/research/deformation/modeling/papers/marleen/kanto_1923.pdf "The 1923 Kanto Earthquake Re-evaluated Using a Newly Augmented Geodetic Data Set,"] "Journal of Geophysical Research." Washington, D.C.: American Geophysical Union.
* Scawthorn, Charles, John M. Eidinger and Anshel J. Schiff. (2006). [http://books.google.com/books?id=IWW8qOXd6sgC&dq=Tokyo+1923&lr=&source=gbs_summary_s&cad=0 "Fire Following Earthquake."] Reston, Virginia: ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) Publications. 10-ISBN 0-784-40739-8; 13-ISBN 978-0-784-40739-4 (cloth)

External links

* [http://www.japan-guide.com/a/earthquake/ Great Kanto Earthquake 1923] Online photo gallery by A. Kengelbacher
* [http://dl.lib.brown.edu/kanto The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923: Materials from the Dana and Vera Reynolds Collection] A Brown University Library Digital Collection
* [http://wwwneic.cr.usgs.gov/neis/eqlists/eqsmosde.html USGS Earthquake Lists]
* [http://www.kajima.co.jp/news/digest/sep_2003/tokushu/ A Study by Kajima Construction Company]
* [http://www.kimsoft.com/2003/kanto-1923-massacre.htm The 1923 Kanto Massacre of Koreans in Japan: A Japanese Professor Reveals the Truth] Article from Korean newspaper
* [http://hkuhist2.hku.hk/nakasendo/1923quke.htm Additional information about the Great Kanto Earthquake]
* [http://www.geophys.washington.edu/tsunami/movies/kanto1.mov Numerical simulation (2.6 MB)] (or see [http://www.geophys.washington.edu/tsunami/movies/kanto2.mov 6.2 MB version] ), produced by Professor Nobuo Shuto of the Disaster Control Research Center, Tohoku University, Japan, shows the 1923 Kanto tsunami. Note that the structures in this model are rigid - in a real-life tsunami, coastal structures often are destroyed. (The QuickTime movie presented here was digitized from a video tape produced from the original computer-generated animation.)

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*Earthquake engineering


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