NWD/Earthquakes/The Great Kanko Earthquake
Earthquakes Jan.13.2021

The Great Kanko Earthquake

1923 tokyo earthquake damage

There are places on Earth where earthquakes occur all the time. Japan earthquake history is rich, and a particularly large earthquake occurs every hundred years and kills hundreds of thousands of people, so it is often called “earthquake country. The ancient Japanese believed that the huge catfish culprit of earthquakes, which lives underground and sometimes bangs its body against it. Namazu’s behavior is supervised by a good deity (Daimedzin) with a large stone pounder in his hands. If the catfish were not under the supervision of this good deity, the earth would shake all the time. But when the Daimedzin is distracted from his duties, the Namazu begins to move, and the earth shakes.

In the area of the Japanese islands, the activity of the Earth’s bowels is so great that, on average, about 1,500 very perceptible tremors occur here per year. The strongest of them mainly occur in the two giant fractures in the Earth’s crust – Suruga and Sagami. And weak tremors (for example, in the city of Niigata) are felt so often that they have long been of little concern to residents. First, advertising signs begin to rattle, then houses begin to sway in front of our eyes, and something may fall off the roofs.

Great Kanto earthquake 1923

tokyo earthquake 1923

Strong earthquakes are felt only in open terrain. At first, small cracks form in the ground, then they become wider, the soil cracking as if plowed by a plow. During the strongest earthquakes, there is a wave-like oscillation of the earth’s surface.

The twenties and thirties of the twentieth century left a sad memory in Japan. On September 1, 1923, a great Tokyo earthquake struck the South Kanto area (including Yokohama). These were the economic, political, and cultural centers of Japan. The epicenter of the earthquake was eighty kilometers southwest of Tokyo, near Oshima Island in Sagami Bay.

Western scientists call this earthquake the Tokyo earthquake (or Yokagama earthquake), but the Japanese themselves call it the Kanto earthquake, after the area where the most devastating effects occurred. The epicenter of the earthquake was under Sagami Bay. Nearly half of the houses in the towns along its coast were destroyed. The damage was greatest in parts of the towns built on loose alluvium.

In just a few seconds, more than 254,000 homes were completely and partially destroyed. The fires that broke out completed the rest: lightweight houses made of wood, plywood, and paper were destroyed in a matter of hours. Buildings built on stone foundations suffered less damage.

What caused the great Kanto earthquake in 1923?

The tremendous underground (or rather, submerged) tremor changed the depth of the gulf, which, in turn, caused 12-meter waves. Many small towns on the gulf coast were destroyed by these giant tsunamis.

Japanese earthquake in 1923 was probably one of the most destructive. Of the great number of Japanese earthquakes in general, this time it struck the most populous areas. There was terror in Tokyo and Yokohama. Six thousand people were killed in the Japanese capital, and the resulting fire destroyed nearly the entire city. Eyewitnesses said: “First there was an underground roar, and then almost immediately the tremors began to follow one after another. One-fifth of the buildings in the city collapsed in an instant. The earthquake happened at noon, while most houses were getting ready for dinner. Almost immediately, fires broke out in many places. It is true that at first, they were small and localized, but then they spread, and it was difficult to deal with them because all the fire-fighting equipment was destroyed by the earthquake.”

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