A memorial service to remember the victims of the Great Kanto Earthquake, which struck Japan’s capital and its surrounding areas to devastating effect on September 1, 1923, was held in Tokyo on Sunday, an attended by around 500 people. The Great Kanto Earthquake struck the great Kanto plain of Japan’s main island Honshu just before midnight on that day, and has been marked in history as the deadliest earthquake Japan has ever experienced prior to 2011.
Before it was surpassed by the Great Tohoku Earthquake in March 2011, the Kanto earthquake of 1923 was the most powerful earthquake recorded in the region at that time, at magnitude 9.0. The earthquake was also coincided by a typhoon, and a tsunami hit the coast just minutes after the quake. The earthquake caused fires in the city and there was chaos everywhere. The duration of the quake, according to various accounts was from 4 minutes to a full 10 minutes. Over 100,000 Japanese were killed by the quake, typhoon, city fires and tsunami, and over 40,000 went missing.
On the 90th anniversary of the quake, Masami Higaki, head of the association to commemorate the victims, told those attending, “We need to hand down the lessons learned from the past disaster so we can create a safe society.” It was poignantly remembered in the memorial service that most of the victims died in fires after the quake struck. Toshiko Otake, a 75-year-old beautician from Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward, said four of her relatives died in the disaster, including her grandfather and grandmother. “I will continue praying for them with a sense of gratitude,” she said.
Meanwhile, there were around 200 people who also commemorated the killing of thousands of Koreans in the chaos after the disaster. It was said that false rumors were spread at that time, saying that Koreans had rioted in the confusion following the quake. Facts are thin on this incident, but from stories and accounts, it is said that more than 6,000 Koreans are believed to have been killed by vigilante groups and other people. Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose said in a message delivered at the ceremony, “It was a painful incident that claimed lives of many Koreans living in Japan. We have to hand it down to future generations.”
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