1923 Land Survey Bureau Map of the Destruction Caused by the Great Kanto Earthquake

東京及近縣罹災地一般圖 / [Map of Destroyed Areas in Tokyo and Surrounding Prefectures]. - Main View

1923 Land Survey Bureau Map of the Destruction Caused by the Great Kanto Earthquake


The immediate aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake.


東京及近縣罹災地一般圖 / [Map of Destroyed Areas in Tokyo and Surrounding Prefectures].
  1923 (dated)     34 x 44.5 in (86.36 x 113.03 cm)     1 : 200000


This is a stark 1923 map of Tokyo, Yokohama, and the Kanto region produced by the Imperial Japanese Land Survey Bureau depicting areas severely damaged or destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake and consequent fires. It was issued shortly after the disaster, as the government struggled to suppress fires, quell social unrest, and assess the widespread damage.
Reeling from Disaster
This map reflects the sheer power of the earthquake, the magnitude of the destruction it caused, and the desperate efforts of the Japanese government to understand and regain control over a chaotic situation. Explanatory notes next to towns and infrastructure describe the damage and other critical information, sometimes in great detail, but in other cases bluntly as 'completely destroyed' or 'mostly collapsed.' The areas outlined in red circles were damaged (被害區域) while the areas shaded in solid red were burned (燒失區域).

Standalone numbers indicate the number of destroyed households by area, while numbers expressed as a fraction show the ratio of destroyed homes to total homes, and a number in parentheses notes the number of deaths. Red x's indicate areas where roads, railways, and communication lines have been severed, whereas the areas shaded with red vertical lines show where tsunami damage occurred.
The Earthquake and Immediate Aftermath
The Great Kanto Earthquake struck the Kanto Plain on September 1, 1923, and lasted between four and ten minutes. At 7.9 magnitude, the enormous earthquake caused severe destruction in Tokyo, Yokohama, and the surrounding prefectures. Small fires from stoves and heaters were driven by strong winds from a typhoon off the Japanese coast, leading to a massive firestorm. Aside from the earthquake damage and fires, the situation was chaotic and terrifying for days afterwards as telegraph, telephone, and most transportation infrastructure was also destroyed. In total, over 142,000 people lost their lives, thousands of whom died in the fires.

Following the earthquake, a false rumor targeting ethnic Koreans spread throughout Japan. As a recently colonized people, Koreans already faced discrimination, and tensions were heightened by the Korean independence movement. The rumors, which stated that Koreans either were responsible for the earthquake or were taking advantage of the disaster, led to a massacre, today known as the Kanto Massacre. Between 6,000 and 10,000 ethnic Koreans died, and the Japanese government imposed martial law. Several prominent socialist and anarchist political figures were also murdered by the Imperial Army and local police in the post-earthquake chaos (the Amakasu and Kameido Incidents).

In light of the damage caused by earthquake, the Japanese government considered moving the capital away from Tokyo and studied several possible sites. Ultimately, they chose to reconstruct Tokyo. Although rebuilt in the following years, both Tokyo and Yokohama would suffer similar levels of ruin in the final months of World War II at the hands of American bombers.
Long-term Effects
The Great Kanto Earthquake left deep imprints on Japanese culture and history, and in retrospect presaged the turn towards militarist nationalism, racism, and the collapse of democracy in the following two decades. It also is part of a much longer history of natural disasters in Japan, especially earthquakes, tsunamis, and typhoons. Tokyo, Yokohama, and several other cities needed to be almost entirely reconstructed at considerable cost. The earthquake set back the national economy and the government issued emergency 'earthquake bonds' to help businesses survive. When the government proposed to start redeeming these bonds in 1927, it caused a financial panic and many small banks collapsed, causing more economic strain, and leaving the large zaibatsu-affiliated banks as the sole survivors. This financial crisis caused Japan to experience the Great Depression earlier than other industrialized economies and discredited the political, financial, and bureaucratic elite, to the benefit of militarists and other illiberal forces.
Publication History and Census
This map was produced based on a September 1923 investigation (no exact date given). Given the context, it was likely produced soon after the earthquake on September 1, in early-mid September, for internal government use by the Imperial Japanese Land Survey Bureau (陸地測量部). It is held by the by the National Museum of Japanese History and the Saitama Prefectural Archives. It has no known history on the market.


Japanese Imperial Land Survey (陸地測量部; 1888 - present) was a Japanese governmental mapping agency established in 1888 to map the home islands. By 1925 the Land Survey had completed a 1: 50000 scale map of the home islands. Then expansionist, the Imperial Japanese were keenly aware that, like railroads, telegraphs, and guns, maps were tools of empire indispensable to governance, surveillance, commerce, and countless other imperial initiatives, the very lifeblood the state. As Japan expanded into Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and elsewhere, imperial cartographers followed closely behind imperial soldiers. Their work was of the highest caliber and incorporated the most modern and sophisticated survey techniques - resulting in mappings that exceeded all previous work in their respective regions for both thoroughness and accuracy. After World War II, the Japanese Imperial Land Survey was folded into civic administration, but still functions as part of the Japanese government. More by this mapmaker...


Good. Some verso repair and reinforcement along original fold lines. Minor infill near Mt. Fuji. Minor dampstaining to upper margins.


Moroi Takafumi and Takemura Masayuki, 'Generation process of casualties during the 1923 Kanto Earthquake (Part 4) Original documents of Matsuzawa's data in Reports of the Imperial Earthquake Investigation Committee,' Earthquake History, No. 25 (2010) pp. 145-155. [諸井孝文, 武村雅之, ’1923年関東地震における死者発生のプロセス(その4 : 震災予防調査会報告第100号甲の松澤データの原典 : 報告, ‘ 歴史地震 第25号 (2010) 145-155頁].