Faculty Research & Creative Activity

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

January 2008

Abstract

On September 1, 1923, two minutes before noon, the earth began to shake, signaling the biggest natural disaster in modern Japan. A fierce wind and raging fire followed what came to be known as the Great Kantō Earthquake, devastating the densely populated Tokyo metropolitan area. The experience of calamity soon became subject to human interpretation and political manipulation, leading to organized violence against Koreans in the metropole. Triggered by rumors that Koreans were committing arson, poisoning the water, and plotting an uprising, local vigilantes and government authorities massacred approximately six thousand Koreans. In the year following the catastrophe, various commemorative activities reveal competing modes of mourning and remembering among diverse social forces across the empire. Focusing on post-massacre discourses in the metropole, I discuss how, in spite of surveillance and control, persistent tension and conflict at the sites of mourning bring to surface opportunism, the changing character of dissent, and the incompleteness of narrative control in the Japanese empire.

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