The Great Kanto Earthquake struck at two minutes to midday on September 1, 1923. Tokyo, was flattened, devastated and destroyed. In the forty-two hours that followed, numerous fires broke out. Wooden buildings that survived the quake were now, wooden death traps. Seventy per cent of the city was lost, together with fifty-eight thousand lives.
The Kanto Earthquake Memorial Museum is a fairly small museum set in the grounds of Tokyo Memorial Temple. As well as remembering those who died in 1923, the temple is also a memorial to those that died at war.
There are two floors. As you go in, make sure you pick up the English leaflet. Most of the exhibits are labelled in Japanese only, but with lateral thinking and a stretch of the imagination you’ll only be momentarily baffled.
The first floor acknowledges the devastation and destruction. Charts and maps show which parts of Tokyo were most affected. The ferocity of the fires that followed, and the sheer intensity of the heat can almost be felt from the various contorted metal and glass objects on display.
Up onto floor number two and pictures by local artists, school diary accounts and personal notes and jottings once again highlight the enormity of the damage. These are exhibited alongside some scale models of the city.
Once you’ve finished inside the museum, the grounds with its temple and pagoda make for a diverting wander. This site was chosen for the memorial, as it was here that a colossal thirty-eight thousand people burnt to death! Why such a large number in such a small area? The answer – empty plots of land in the city were few and far between. Refuge from fire was hard to find. This was the only place to go…. The temple was built in 1930.
Open: 9:00am to 4:30pm
How to get there
Take the JR SOBU LOCAL LINE to RYOGOKU STATION. Leave via the exit for the sumo stadium. Find the stadium’s main entrance, then look for the over-head expressway. Keeping the sumo stadium on your right, follow the line of the expressway until you come to a set of traffic lights. Turn right here and follow the road until you get to another set of traffic lights. At this point, if you look to the right you should be able to see Tokyo Memorial Temple and Pagoda. The museum is the sandstone building situated just behind.
Suggested Amount of Time Needed (Excluding journey time)
Around 30 minutes.
Tel: 03 3623 1200
Other Places Nearby
Kokugikan Sumo Wrestling Stadium and Museum
Featured image in this article Kakidai, CC BY-SA 4.0