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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Tokyo Smells & Other True Stories

Because it's always good to get multiple opinions on every subject, presented here is a October 14, 1923 newspaper article from the Dallas Morning News.

The title below is self-explanatory, but I think you'll get a kick out of how the headline is backed up by fact. However, most of the article is about aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 - a 7.9 Magnitude quake that hit on September 1, 1923... and thanks to a subsequent typhoon, it blew embers all over the damn place causing a massive fire... the earthquake also caused landslides and a tsunami wave - both of those killing hundreds...

While the earthquake damage was extensive, the biggest loss of life was caused by a fire tornado, that hit one particular area, killing about 38,000 people who were sheltering there after the earthquake, and became trapped when the fires blocked all escape routes.

Here's a photo of a fire tornado in Missouri... how screwed up is that?
Thanks to the kind folks over at the American Antiquarian Society, who maintain and continue to grow a important resource of America's historical newspapers for scholars like you and me, and those scholars who expect to rule the world (like you and I perhaps once did). And that's a double entendre.

The article below, like many articles from that era and earlier confounds me because of the number of conflicting headlines or sub-headlines.

Japanese People Are Superstitious
Earthquake Regarded As Showing Divine Approval Of Prince's Wedding.

Tokio and Yokohama Will Be Reconstructed Slowly, It Is Believed.

By W.D. Hornaday
Written for The News 
TOKIO, Japan, Sept. 15.—It is the popular superstitious belief of the masses of people of Japan that the recent earthquake and fore catastrophe which sacrificed untold number of lives was a demonstration of divine approval of the approaching marriage of Prince Hirohito. The wedding will take place according to original plan, so fast as is now publicly know,
From the time of the reign of Emperor Inkyo, 416 A.D., a great earthquake or volcanic eruption has been regarded as foretelling the success of some royal social event. Earthquakes are also believed to serve as a stimulus for the bravery and courage of the people in time of danger from outside human foes.
During the twelve-year period 1844 to 1856, a series of severe earthquakes shocks  destroyed more than 300,000 house in Tokio, and with an attending loss of life of about 150,000 people. It was following the treaty with Commodore Perry in 1854 which opened the country to the commerce of the United States that the Daimyo of Toso issued a proclamation enjoying his subjects to take the earthquake catastrophes which had almost overwhelmed the island of Honshu (Andrew's Note: click HERE to read about that awesome experience!) as divine warnings and to arouse themselves to the necessity of protecting the country from foreign complications and internal troubles. Other official proclamations of a similar nature were issued in the early days of Japan following earthquakes and volcanic catastrophes.
Many ancient buildings of Japanese construction which had withstood seismic disturbances for more than 100 years were piled into ruins by the recent shocks. One of these was the gojunoto, or five-storied pagoda, at Asakua, which came through the great Ansei earthquake of 1855 unscathed. It is now a pile of debris.
Shocks Get Little Notice.
Although the number of earthquakes occurring in different parts of Japan average about four a day and in Tokio a sensible shock has occurred on the average of one a week from time immemorial, the people paid little or no attention to the disturbances. It has long been scientifically known that a seismic district underlies the city of Tokio and Tokio Bay. It is upon the bay that Yokohama is situated. Like Tokio, that greatest seaport of Japan, with its population of 400,000 people, lies waste, with the exception of the homes upon the high ridge that runs through the city. This is commonly known as the Bluff, and it is there that many of the foreigners live and where the American Naval Hospital of the Orient is situated.
It is explained that the recent earthquake's widespread destruction was probably caused by simultaneous action in the four seismic zones of Japan. These are Tokio and Tokio Bay, Awa-Kazusa Peninsula and the adjacent sea bottom, Mount Tsukuba and vicinity, Hakone and Ashigara district.
It was only a few weeks ago that Prof. F. Omori, who is recognized as one of the world's greatest authorities on earthquakes, made the statement that Japan would probably be free for a generation or so from any disastrous seismic visitation. In connection with the scientific seismic research in Japan, an official Japanese statement published prior to the recent disaster says:
"Japan has done more than any country in the world as regards seismic investigations. In 1880 the Japanese Seismic Society was created in Tokio by the combined efforts of Prof. Milne and Prof. Ewing, then at the Imperial University, Tokio, and their colleagues, the late Prof. Sekiya, first occupant of the chair of seismology in the Tokio Imperial University; Baron Kikuchi, Drs. Kato Tankadate and Omori and several other geologists and physicists. The society was dissolved in 1892, but the work it started has been kept up by the Central Meteorological Observatory in Tokio and the provincials meteorological stations.
(Andrew's Note: Here the article is tough to read, as the right edge of the original article is curled around, as though it has been bound in a book. Whatever… I might not have the exact words after this, but I'll provide the gist of those words via best guess and superior whatchamacallit - thinking.)
The seismograph invented by the society first enabled the observers to obtain accurate record of earth vibrations and thereby paved the way for the creation of the science of seismology.
"Although the problem of the prediction of destructive earthquakes is still very far from a solution, considerable light has been thrown on the causes, the geological relations and time distributions of earthquakes, so that we can determine in many cases the probable intensity and the direction of motion in a future shock at a given place or the nearest locality in a given earthquake (?) likely to be visited by a destructive earthquake. As far as wooden structures are concerned, the question of the earthquake proof building has to a large extent been solved, as it is not difficult to construct timber houses which can resist any shock whatever. Steel, brick and reinforced concrete also furnish good systems of constructing antiseismic buildings."
Imperial Family Loses.
That thousands of fortunes were wiped out by the earthquake and fire in Tokio and Yokohama, to say nothing of the losses in many smaller cities, is apparent. It is said that the Imperial family had undoubtedly the heaviest losses. Millions of yen belonging to the royal money chest were invested in buildings and industrial enterprises that have been wiped out by the catastrophe. The Imperial Hotel, the finest in the Orient, which was rebuilt not long ago at a cost of approximately 8,000,000 yen, equivalent to $4,000,000 United States currency, was chiefly financed by the Imperial family.
This is true of a great number of buildings as well as manufacturing plants in the two sister cities. The Government itself suffered loses of until millions of yen by the destruction of track, stations and other property of the Government railway system and other physical holdings. Foreign interests got off comparatively light, due largely perhaps to the Japanese law restricting investments of that nature.
Caring for the more than 2,000,000 homeless people of Tokyo and Yokohama is a problem that will tax the financial resources of the Imperial Government and municipal authorities for some time to come, it is asserted. That the two cities will be ultimately rebuilt no one questions, but a more inopportune economic time for doing the necessary rehabilitation work could not have been found.
The country as a whole was in serious business distress at the time the terrible catastrophe occurred. The trade through Yokohama, the chief port of Japan, will be paralyzed for months to come, according to present outlook. The great export movement of silk and other products will be checked indefinitely, it is stated.
Chance for Modernization
Along what lines the rebuilding of the two great cities will be undertaken remains to be seen. Whether the opportunity for raising modern cities upon the sites of the ruined will be taken advantage of is yet to be determined. Before its destruction, Tokio was one of the most unsanitary stench pots of the Orient and Yokohama was but little behind the capital in this respect. They both ranked well along with the native cities of Shanghai and Canton for their absolute lack of sanitation of streets and stores. Before the earthquake and fire, some progress toward street widening had been made in Tokio. If property lines can be properly adjusted the streets of the new city may be widened and and building ordinances adopted and enforced that should in large measure do away with fire hazards in the future. The placing of telephone and telegraph cables in the underground conduits may also be done, thus doing away with the primitive practice of burying cables and having to dig a whole street up in order to find a break in the wire. Sidewalks of the modern kind are practically unknown in Tokio and Yokohama. There was no room for them under the former condition of narrow lanes for streets. Neither was there room for automobiles except upon a very few streets of the old international settlement districts. With street widening the modernizing of the two cities will have made much advancement.
During the last few years Tokio population increased enormously. At the time of the earthquake and fire it was estimated to contain more than 3,000,000 people. Only eighteen miles away is Yokohama which has also shown an increase of more than 100,000 in the last three years. The two cities were connected by electric and steam railways and the region in between them was built up almost solid. Most of these intervening towns are now in ruins.


Well… that was a fascinating look back into Yokohama and Tokyo just 90 years ago. Just 10 years or less away from becoming a terrible enemy in war against China and eventually the rest of Asia and the world… a smelly cesspool lacking any sort of decent urban planning… cities lying in ruin after the massive 1923 earthquake and subsequent fire that did more damage than the quake…

That's all it took for Japan to become a global superpower… earthquake and fire.

Hmmm… after the triple disasters of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear fire back in 2011, Japan is now seeking to reinvent itself as a country that can look after itself (as long as the US is standing behind it), with its own Constitution and own military might.

Noooooo…. that couldn't happen twice, could it (see Germany WWI & WWII)?

Anyhow… I love that the article mysteriously began spelling Tokyo correctly from the more archaic "Tokio"… perhaps the times were a-changing during the writing of the article. But then it changed back.

Tokio smells? Ha.

I also like the mention of the number of tremors Tokyo gets… I stayed at a friends Tokyo apartment one night… and there were three shakers that evening… quite disarming.

At a lady friend's apartment in Tokyo, I didn't notice any excessive shaking from the ground.

I almost swallowed my gum when I read the term "antiseismic buildings" fearing it was "anti-semetic buildings" that were being constructed.
I liked the author's proposal of moving phone lines underground into conduits…

A great look back at Japan…

Andrew Joseph

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