A new publicly accessible website compiles contemporary footage of the deadliest natural disaster in Japanese history into a 64-minute film.

It’s strange to think that we’re only two years away from the centennial anniversary of the Great Kanto Earthquake of Japan. The earthquake, which struck at 11:58 a.m. on September 1, 1923 (the 12th year of the Taisho era by the Japanese calendar), also triggered a tsunami and landslides throughout the capital region. Most destructive, however, were the firestorms that ravaged Tokyo, Yokohama, and the surrounding communities in the wake of the quake due to the fact that many stoves were lit for lunch at the time. This natural disaster remains the deadliest in Japanese history (roughly five times more so than the devastating 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami) with over 105,000 casualties and two million homes destroyed, leaving a profound impact on society for years afterwards.

On August 31, the National Film Archive of Japan, together with the National Institute of Informatics and supervised by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, launched a special website called Films of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Anyone with an Internet connection can now gain an intimate, first-hand view into scenes of the terrible destruction wreaked by the quake as well as humanity banding together in the aftermath in rare contemporary footage.

Since the text for the site (which can be found here) remains Japanese-only at this time, here are a few navigation tips. From the top page, click on the yellow menu button in the upper-right corner to select how you would like the video clips to be organized. You can choose from the following options:

● View clips by place (場所からクリップをみる)
● View clips by type of scene (シーンからクリップをみる)
● View full compilation (全篇をみる) (a 64-minute compilation based on a documentary film released shortly after the quake).

If you select “View clips by place,” you’ll be presented with a short list of what are now some of the 23  wards of Tokyo including Chiyoda, Chuo, Minato, Bunkyo, Taito, Sumida, Koto, and Shibuya, as well as Yokohama and a “place unknown” category:

▼ Places are listed from left to right in the order noted above.

Meanwhile, if you select “View clips by type of scene,” you’ll be presented with a variety of scene types to choose from including fires, destruction caused by fire, collapsed structures/destruction, taking shelter, relief/aid/rescue, life in an evacuation center, reconstruction, revival, and the imperial family.

▼ Scene types are listed from left to right in the order noted above.

The National Film Archive plans to publicly release all footage in its possession related to the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake by 2023 to mark 100 years since the disaster. In the meantime, the quake still remains in the collective consciousness as September 1 has been known as Disaster Prevention Day in Japan since 1960–a day on which all kinds of emergency drills are practiced at schools and workplaces in an effort to lessen the loss of life if a natural disaster were to strike again.

Source: National Film Archive of Japan via Japaaan
Images: National Film Archive of Japan
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