Japan Marks Centenary of Great Kanto Earthquake Disaster; Memorial Service Held in Tokyo

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A woman offers prayers in front of Tokyo Metropolitan Memorial Hall in Sumida Ward, Tokyo, on Friday.

Friday marked the 100th anniversary of the Great Kanto Earthquake, Japan’s deadliest natural disaster since the Meiji era (1868-1912).

A memorial service was held Friday at Tokyo Metropolitan Memorial Hall in Sumida Ward, Tokyo, to mourn the around 105,000 individuals who died due to the temblor.

About 130 people — including Crown Prince Akishino, Crown Princess Kiko and officials from the Tokyo metropolitan government — attended the service, which began at 10 a.m.

“As a lesson for the future, it is our mission to pass on the memories of this tragedy to the next generation without letting them fade away,” said Yasushi Aoyama, a former vice governor of Tokyo who now serves as chairman of Tokyo-to Irei Kyokai (Tokyo metropolitan memorial association).

Following a recitation of sutras by monks, participants burned incense and offered prayers for the souls of the victims.

Friday was also Disaster Prevention Day, during which drills were held at various locations to prepare for major earthquakes and other disasters.

Mitsubishi Estate Co., the Metropolitan Police Department and the Tokyo Fire Department began a disaster drill at 10 a.m. in the Marunouchi area of Tokyo, where many people gathered following the earthquake a century ago.

The drill was conducted on the premise that an earthquake measuring as high as 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale had occurred in Tokyo, causing fires, car crashes and other serious incidents. As part of the exercise, a ladder truck was deployed and firefighters sprayed water at the Shin-Marunouchi Building in front of Tokyo Station.

The Great Kanto Earthquake, which occurred at 11:58 a.m. on Sept. 1, 1923, had an estimated magnitude of 7.9, with its focus in the northwest of Sagami Bay in Kanagawa Prefecture.

The quake caused tremors equivalent to an intensity of 6 or 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7, and led to large-scale fires and tornado-like fire storms in Tokyo and Yokohama, destroying about 40% of the former Tokyo City — present-day central Tokyo.