The Kanto Massacre: A Story of Disinformation and Denialism

Rumors and disinformation sparked the Kanto Massacre in the wake of the Kanto Earthquake. Today, denialism continues to dishonor the victims.

Unseen Japan


By Himari Semans

Kanto Massacre

The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 was a disaster for Japan in its own right. In the aftermath, disinformation — particularly targeting ethnic Koreans — stoked confusion, hate, and fear.

The uncounted victims

Victims of the Great Kanto Earthquake — –a total of 105,385 of them. They are who the Japanese remember.

The government designates September 1st as Disaster Prevention Day. Prime Minister Kishida Fumio takes part in central government drills and mock emergency meetings. 130 Japanese including the families of victims, Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, and Deputy Governor of Tokyo Nakamura Rinji attend a memorial service at Yokoamicho Park in Sumida Ward where 38,000 people died.

“As we arrive at the 100-year milestone since the Great Kanto Earthquake, each and every one of us must once again raise our awareness about preventing disaster,” said Deputy Governor Nakamura, as he read a statement by Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko.

Victims of the massacre of Koreans in the Great Kanto Earthquake’s aftermath — — an unknown number. People can’t remember what they don’t know.

“All I can say is that we don’t know the exact number of victims,” explains Tokyo University Professor Tonomura Masaru who specializes in the history of resident Koreans in Japan. “The reason why we don’t know is because nobody looked into it at the time.”

Nobody in the Japanese government has looked into it either, according to Mastuno Hirokazu, Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan.

Accountability unanswered

Secretary Matsuno repeated what the Japanese government has been insisting on for the past century at a press conference on August 31st.

“We cannot find records that can confirm facts,” said Secretary Mastuno.