To mark the 94th anniversary of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and the 1945 air raids on Tokyo on Friday, family members of those who died in the two tragedies offered prayers.
At a joint memorial service, Tokyo Vice Gov. Tatsumi Ando read a message on behalf of Gov. Yuriko Koike in which she vowed to “make the utmost efforts to create adequate anti-disaster measures to make Tokyo a place where everyone can live with a sense of security.”
The ceremony was held at Yokoamicho Park in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward. In the same park, several hundred people attended a separate ceremony at a cenotaph for the Korean victims that organized by the Japan-Korean Society and other entities. A Korean dance performance was also held to console the souls of the victims.
Tokyo’s governors historically send tributes to the ceremony and Koike herself sent one last year. But this year, the governor decided against it, saying she would commemorate all of the victims at the joint memorial service.
Koike’s move came after a Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly member urged at an assembly meeting in March that she think twice about sending a message to the ceremony, since there are different views on the number of Korean residents murdered.
But the move drew criticism from Korean residents.
Yasuhiko Miyagawa, chief of the Korean ceremony that organized the committee, criticized Koike for not showing empathy to the families and others involved.
The committee said in a statement that the governor’s response equates to “saying that murder victims and those who lost their lives in a natural disaster are equivalent and thus she does not need to send a tribute.”
The Great Kanto Earthquake devastated much of Tokyo and surrounding areas on Sept. 1, 1923, claiming the lives of an estimated 105,000 people.
In the chaotic aftermath, Koreans and Chinese were killed by military and paramilitary forces apparently acting on a rumor that they would stage an uprising. Many groundless rumors circulated at the time, including one alleging that Koreans were poisoning wells.
According to a report compiled by the government’s anti-disaster council, those killed in the massacre account for “1 to several percent” of those who died in the quake.
The cenotaph at the ceremony venue states that the “precious lives of slightly more than 6,000 Koreans were robbed.”