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Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423

Punishing Violence: State-Sanctioned Killing and the Destruction of Tokyo, 1923

Kerry Smith

Associate Professor
Department of History, Brown University

On September 1, 1923 a massive earthquake leveled much of Tokyo, Yokohama and nearby towns and villages. More than 100,000 people lost their lives in the quake’s aftermath, victims of this “natural” disaster. Many thousands more, however, died at the hands of vigilantes, the police and the military. Some were victims of mobs which targeted Korean and Chinese survivors of the quake, while others were singled out for extermination because of their radical, sometimes anarchist politics. This paper considers the ways in which Japan’s modern media and the state together sought to mediate, to explain and to memorialize these acts of violence.