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Guide to the Kanto Earthquake Materials, 1923 and undated

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Materials from the aftermath of the earthquake that struck the Japanese region of Kantō on September 1, 1923. Includes a map of Tokyo and the disaster area; another map of the fire in Tokyo, with text in English and Japanese; a copy of the special issue International Graphic Magazine from September/October 1923; a photo-illustrated pamphlet; 18 postcards with color-tinted photographs; and a scrapbook of photographs and newsprint about the event. An additional 120 postcards, largely black-and-white photographs (some with captions), were added in 2016.

Collection Details

Collection Number
Kanto Earthquake materials
1923 and undated
2.5 Linear Feet, 2 boxes, 146 Items
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Material in Japanese

Collection Overview

Materials in this collection include a mixture of formats documenting the aftermath of the Kanto earthquake. A set of 18 postcards, tinted with color in some cases, contain photographs of wrangled railroad systems, destroyed buildings, evacuees, and mass casualties from the earthquake. And additional 120 postcards with similar content, some with Japanese captions, were added in 2016. There is a photo-illustrated pamphlet, which includes black and white images of the devestated areas. Also included is a copy of International Graphic Magazine, which includes reporting in Japanese as well as images from the disaster. This magazine appears to be missing its back cover. Two special issues of Daishinsai Shashin Gaho, from September and October 1923, include photo illustrations of destruction along with early attempts at rescue and recovery. Finally, the collection includes two folded color maps of Tokyo and the affected area, and a scrapbook of newsprint and printed images from after the earthquake. The scrapbook has been bound as a folio, and its news articles are also in Japanese.

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], Kanto Earthquake Materials, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

Postcards (18 items), 1923 and undated
Box 1
View 18 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Postcards (120 items), 1923 and undated
Box 2
View 128 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Daishinsai Shashin Gaho (Osaka Asahi Shinbunsha), Vols. 1-3, September and October, 1923
Box 1
International Graphic Magazine, September/October Taisho^ 12, 1923
Box 1
Daishinsai Shashincho illustrated pamphlet, 1923
Box 1
Taisho^ Daishinkasai Tokyo Panorama Chizu (folded color map)
Box 1
Map of the fire of Tokyo (folded color map), undated
Box 1
Scrapbook, 1923
Box 1

Historical Note

The Great Kanto earthquake struck the Japanese island of Honshu at 11:58 a.m. on September 1, 1923. With a magnitude of 8.3 on the Richter scale, the earthquake leveled Tokyo and the surrounding areas of Yokohama, Chiba, Kanagawa, and Shizouka. Along with the destruction of buildings and land, the earthquake resulted in widespread fires, as many people had been cooking their lunch around the time that the earthquake struck. A simultaneous typhoon in Northern Japan led to high winds that caused firestorms in cities across the region.

Estimated casualties from the earthquake and the resulting fires range from 100,000 to 150,000 people. About 2 million people were left homeless. Over the next several years, Tokyo was rebuilt with stricter safety standards, and more parks were added to offer open spaces as refuges. In 1960, the Japanese government declared September 1 to be Disaster Prevention Day.

Related Material

This material was acquired along with a book on the event, Taisho^ Daishin kasaishi, which is a circulating item at Duke's Lilly Library.

Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.


The Kanto Earthquake Materials were received by the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library as a purchase from the Boston Book Company in 2007. Its collector is unknown. Additions were purchased in 2016 and 2017.

Processing Information

Processed by Meghan Lyon, February 2010; updated 2016

Encoded by Meghan Lyon, February 2010

Updated to include addition by Alice Poffinberger, November 2017

Accession(s) described in this finding aid: 2010-0037, 2016-0046, 2017-0163

Materials may not have been ordered and described beyond their original condition.