chapter  22
10 Pages

The Great Earthquake of 1923 & the Showa Era

THE FIRST OF SEPTEMBER 1923 was a warm, wet day. The first tremor which was accompanied by an underground rumbling, was extremely violent. It happened one minute before midday. The hands of the clock of the meteorological tower at Kanda stopped, and for several weeks the fatal hour stood out above the ruins. The initial shock caused a number of wooden houses to collapse in the lower part of the town. As it was lunch-time, stoves were burning and fires quickly started everywhere. It was impossible to fight them: the damage caused by the fires was certainly greater than that caused by the earthquake itself. However, strong tremors followed during the rest of the day. The large concrete and stone buildings resisted well, although cracks appeared in some of them. Most of the brick buildings collapsed and caused a great many accidents. In Asakusa Park there was a twelve-storey brick tower built by an English architect in 1890 as an amusement centre where there were plays, bazaars and cafes. The top storey of the tower fell to the ground. In the streets below the crowds tried to flee for shelter in the parks and gardens.