Great Kanto Earthquake. An old friend had been a little boy when it happened. He related to me that it was not the quake itself but the fires that had consumed his hometown of Yokohama.
The Kantō daishinsan hit the main Island of Honshu on the Kanto Plain – where Yokohama and Tokyo are- on September 1, 1923. The Kantō quake was 7.9 on the Richter scale killed over 100,000 people. The Great Buddha statue at Kamakura- which is my profile picture- slid 2 feet. It reminds me of this past earthquake- where the Island itself was moved a few meters.
According to Mr. Ooshi, my very old friend who died about ten years ago now, the quake was at lunchtime, and everyone had outdoor fires to cook with. The fire caught the houses, and with no preparations to stop it, the wooden structures like his home went up in flames. I just read as well that a typhoon at the same time started a firestorm which killed thousands of people. Landslides of mud destroyed homes and also killed many people.
To me, the most horrific part was the horrible false rumors that were in the news, and that ethnic Koreas were taking advantage of the disaster, starting the fires and robbing people and stores, or worse, poisoning wells. Well water being contaminated or cloudy after an earthquake is common. However, I doubt reason could have stopped what happened next. Fuelled already from anti- Korean sentiments, mob mentality and fear by the Japanese ran rapid – hundreds or maybe even a thousand Koreans were murdered. People mistaken as Korean were also murdered. While the army tried to protect the Koreas, most were attacked by mobs.
This tells of why the Government wants to keep calm in the country and try to disseminate information that is clear and factual to the people of Japan, even today. Mob mentality and panic can lead to horrific consequences. They are playing it calmly even now with the threat of a nuclear incident.
Post Script: According to another friend and Wikipedia, there are some monuments to the people killed by the firestorms and the Korean victims in a park in Sumida.