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Seismic JapanThe Long History and Continuing Legacy of the Ansei Edo Earthquake$
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Gregory Smits

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780824838171

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824838171.001.0001

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Into the Twenty-First Century

Into the Twenty-First Century

(p.171) Chapter 6 Into the Twenty-First Century
Seismic Japan

Gregory Smits

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines the iconic function of the Ansei Edo earthquake in the modern era and the influence of early modern earthquake lore on the modern science of seismology, conceptions of Japan, and contemporary life in the country. It argues that key elements of the Tokugawa past have conditioned modern and contemporary Japan in the realm of popular thought, in the development of seismology, and in perceptions of Japan and its relationship with earthquakes. The chapter first considers understandings of earthquakes in the Western world, focusing on pioneer geologist Charles Lyell and his work, Principles of Geology. It also discusses the legacy of the Ansei Edo earthquake in modern times, with particular emphasis emphasis on how memorial services helped sustain public memory of the earthquake, and how the earthquake challenged the emerging discipline of seismology. Finally, it assesses the implications of Japan's seismicity for architecture, and especially conceptions of Japan as an “earthquake country.” A postscript reflects on the rhetoric that emerged after the Great East Japan earthquake.

Keywords:   seismology, Ansei Edo earthquake, Japan, earthquakes, Charles Lyell, memorial services, public memory, seismicity, Great East Japan earthquake

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