Top picks on the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake

The 2011 Earthquake in Japan may have been more devastating a while back. But there was one, that was much bigger in Japan. More famous on.

Saturday, September 1st, 1923. At 11:58am. Two minutes before noon. Tokyo and Yokohama in the Kanto region of Japan. As the Yokohama harbor would have many ships, Tokyo was becoming a big city in the beginning of the 20th century. Everything was coming at the time there. Steam trains, clothing, industrial goods, vehicles, and more.

In fact, Jiro Horikoshi was a young man at the time when he was getting into a university. To becoming an airplane designer.

Then…it happened. With a 7.9 magnitude on the scale, an earthquake struck. Silent in the ground but the ground cracked hard. However on the surface, it woke all of Tokyo as a wave in the ground shook them. With buildings that have collapsed, some trains derailed, muddy landslides destroying houses, sparks of ashes were in the air, as the clouds turned black. From a brightest morning to a dirty blackest afternoon, thousands were killed.

Some were injured, as others were helping out. Helping the injured, and putting out fires with waters. From hundreds of firestorms to smoke billowing everywhere, everything almost was gone.

While an American, his three boys and his father in law were on the beaches, more firestorms scorched many bodies. Luckily for Jiro Horikoshi, he survived with three friends he trusted on, including Honjo.

By 1927, five years later, Tokyo and the Yokohama harbor were rebuilt again. Fast. And for the second time, Tokyo was almost destroyed again. 23 years later. Firebombed by U.S. bombers, when Japan was in WWII. U.S. General Douglas MacArthur was there, when the war in the Pacific ended.

In that hall are urns. Containing the ashes of more 40,000 innocent people. That were burned to death. In the Great Kanto Earthquake. Also, another memorial hall. More urns. Containing the ashes of more than 100,000 people killed in the firebombing of Tokyo. In the final days of WWII in the Pacific.

As a film critic, I found out about this thanks to some researching. Especially the ones in popular culture by movies and TV. And I give these top picks, that show the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.


  • “The Wind Rises”. Hayao Miyazaki’s final Studio Ghibli masterpiece before his retirement. Jiro as a young man was there when he met Nahoko. For the first time. They together, along with a friend and Honjo luckily survived. And to the way Hayao Miyazaki did the earthquake, it was a big tremor wave. As the train went like a roller coaster when the ground shooked. It went on for a few seconds as after that, the train was damaged as it went from the brightest morning, to the blackest afternoon. Remarkable thanks to Hayao Miyazaki and all on Studio Ghibli. (And as a personal note, the voters of the Academy Awards should’ve given that Oscar award for Best Animated Feature in 2014 to Hayao Miyazaki’s final masterpiece). Later in that masterpiece, that scene was mentioned when Nahoko finally met Jiro once again.

  • “Perfect Storms”. A TV show on the History Channel. To their episode ‘Fire Twister’, they believed flaming tornadoes were there. There were maybe a bit. But not like what they believed on. However, researching on that and interviewing people is good. Especially authors who wrote about the Great Kanto Earthquake. In fact, they even interviewed one survivor who was there, when she was 18 years old. By 2013 presumably, she’s around 100 years of age. Wow. Throughout telling this before the fire twisters, it was all true thanks to them. On how an earthquake can actually happen, and how Japan was getting into glory in the 1920’s. Before the earthquake happened.

  • “Tokyo: Magnitude 8.0”. An anime TV series. With perhaps maybe flashbacks of that 1923 earthquake, these kids here along with a female adult try to survive a 8.0 magnitude earthquake, that has struck Tokyo. With only 11 episodes in one whole season, they try to find the parents of these kids. Hoping if they are alive or not. Probably like “San Andreas”, but I’d say very interesting here. Besides, that little girl there looks cute.

  • “Haikara-san ga Tōru”. From the manga books of that, to an anime TV show released in Japan in the 70’s, this is really surprising. At the climax by manga author Waki Yamato, a wedding was on. And just before a love couple can kiss in a wedding, that earthquake struck. The church collapsed as everyone got out just in time. The bride almost lost her love, but the groom was luckily to be safe. They got married later on, as they remained together ever since.

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  • “Teito Monogatari” in 1991. As a four part anime adaption, there was a supernatural explanation for what caused the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. Avoiding officers possessed by evil, and disgusting parasites that go in your mouth, a lady with violet hair and some friends, were to find out about this, and save the world from dark evil.

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  • “Urotsukidōji”. An anime TV show, as it’s like Naruto and Inuyasha together. In a fight between a boy who actually looks like Naruto, against a monster with a water demon, they together accidentally released the earthquake. For where this happened, this is in one of their 96 episodes in this entire series. Somewhere. However, for that main protagonist , he absolutely better.


  • “Kasei Yakyoku”. In this anime adaption, there was a kind woman falling in love a generous man. As they were at a house where a mother in law was there, they were confessing about their marriage. When the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake struck, it destroyed the fancy house. And later, another woman living in a suburban area, she lost her home too along with her mom. But was calmed down, when these two came to help. They were glad to be okay, but must’ve sobbed in tears when they lost good characters.


And last but not least…


  • “Akatsuki no Aria”. (or Aria at Dawn). To this young anime girl named Aria, at a boarding school in this anime adaption, she was helping the injured after the earthquake. With her mom injured along with them, she had to help her before anything could get worse to her. Luckily, the injured were recovered quickly including her mom. With their house filled with some people homeless, they had to help since the earthquake happened. She was fearless enough to survive, including her mom, but she became very good later. And the way I look at her, she reminds me of another Aria who’s really beautiful like her.

So those are the top picks. That show about the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. About how these characters survived, and how in other stories, there in an explanation on what caused this than besides the plates of the Earth.

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