In September 1923, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake devastated eastern Japan, killing more than 120,000 people and leaving two million homeless. Using a rich array of source material, J. Charles Schencking tells for the first time the graphic tale of Tokyo's destruction and rebirth. In emotive prose, he documents how the citizens of Tokyo experienced this unprecedented calamity and explores the ways in which it rattled people's deep-seated anxieties about modernity. While explaining how and why the disaster compelled people to reflect on Japanese society, he also examines how reconstruction encouraged the capital's inhabitants to entertain new types of urbanism as they rebuilt their world.
Some residents hoped that a grandiose metropolis, reflecting new values, would rise from the ashes of disaster-ravaged Tokyo. Many, however, desired a quick return of the city they once called home. Opportunistic elites advocated innovative state infrastructure to better manage the daily lives of Tokyo residents. Others focused on rejuvenating society—morally, economically, and spiritually—to combat the perceived degeneration of Japan. Schencking explores the inspiration behind these dreams and the extent to which they were realized. He investigates why Japanese citizens from all walks of life responded to overtures for renewal with varying degrees of acceptance, ambivalence, and resistance. His research not only sheds light on Japan's experience with and interpretation of the earthquake but challenges widespread assumptions that disasters unite stricken societies, creating a "blank slate" for radical transformation. National reconstruction in the wake of the Great Kanto Earthquake, Schencking demonstrates, proved to be illusive.
About the Author
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations xi
Preface and Acknowledgments xv
1 Cataclysm: The Earthquake Disaster as a Lived and Reported Experience 13
2 Aftermath: The Ordeal of Restoration and Recovery 47
3 Communication: Constructing the Earthquake as a National Tragedy 78
4 Admonishment: Interpreting Catastrophe as Divine Punishment 116
5 Optimism: Dreams for a New Metropolis AMID a Landscape of Ruin 153
6 Contestation: The Fractious Politics of Reconstruction Planning 187
7 Regeneration: Forging a New Japan Through Spiritual Renewal and Fiscal Retrenchment 226
8 Readjustment: Rebuilding Tokyo from the Ashes 263
9 Conclusion 301
What People are Saying About This
This fascinating, original book is the first work in English to offer a comprehensive account of the Kanto earthquake. The book could not be timelier. J. Charles Schencking crafts an enticing lead-in, illuminating the uncanny resemblances in how Japanese talked about both the Kanto earthquake and the 2011 earthquake/tsunami as opportunities to revitalize the nation.