Great Kanto Earthquake Photograph Album
string-bound with fifty images of scenes of the destruction of Yokohama and Tokyo, several with text along a border of the print or across the image itself identfying the location, all mounted on black pages, many accompanied by typed informational labels in English, ca. post-September 1923-1924
7 1/4 by 11 3/8 in., 18.5 by 29 cm
On Saturday, September 1, 1923 at 11:58 a.m. an earthquake emanated from Sagami Bay, thirty miles south of Tokyo struck the Kanto Plain, lasting somewhere between 4 and 10 minutes. After the initial shock which registered at a magnitude of 7.9, a tsunami with waves estimated at up to 10 meters (33 feet) high hit the coast only minutes later, while merciless firestorms (triggered by disrupted midday cooking fires) swept across Tokyo and Yokohama. All told, some 140,000 people were killed, and huge portions of the area was in ruins leaving as many as two million homeless.
This album documents the physical destruction of Tokyo and Yokohama, and records the struggle of displaced survivors. It includes several images of landmarks of the disaster accompanied by paper labels identifying locations in English, with a particular emphasis on views of the port city of Yokohama, the entry-point for foreigners in Japan. As the album was discovered in Canada, the person who assembled it may have been Canadian or American. The Yokohama Specie Bank, which famously remained intact save for the distinctive steel framework of its dome, is visible in multiple views standing in a sea of debris. There are photographs of twisted railway lines, collapsed bridges, buildings with melted steel beams, and huge fissures in the roadways. An image labeled as the Asakusa amusement park shows the shell of the famous brick Asakusa Twelve Stories building, a well-known tower that cracked and lost its uppermost floors. The American Consulate building is photographed teetering at an angle; both the American Acting Consul General and his wife were killed in the quake.
Care was taken to record the deplorable conditions that the survivors endured, noting the digging out of the ruins, building of shacks, and lines of refugees escaping the city. The collector of the images stayed in the area long enough to record evidence of the reconstruction as some images show roads that have been cleared. A photograph shows figures walking (mimicking the manner of vehicle traffic with each side going in one direction) on an avenue dotted with steel relics of street cars and destruction all around. Another shows a bustling scene with figures filling the street in front of the shell of Shinbashi Station, not labeled but recognizable by the distinctive stiped brickwork facade.
(inv. no. 10-5429)
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site last updated
December 2, 2021
Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
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