Baylor College Medical School

34. 1. An Account of the 1923 Tokyo Earthquake

34. 1. At Imperial Hotel Tokyo. Was talking in my room #310 on the third floor with Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Takaki of O.+Co. Ltd. here at about 11:55 a.m. when we felt a terrible earthquake. The whole building rocked and trembled, chairs and the beds slid about the room and we were all scared. As soon as the first quake passed we ran for the street. I stopped long enough to lock my door and my trunk. The halls were dark and all the guests were on their way to the street. Plaster was all over the floor in the halls and on the stairs but the building seemed little damaged.

The streets filled fast with frightened people and buildings were down all about us or badly cracked. We get into Mr. O's car and started for Ueno Park where he live....Just about that time a second quake but not as severe came. After arriving at Mr. O's house the fires seemed to cover the whole city. The fires burned all day and all night. Refugees passed his house by the hundred thousand. Most women carrying babies, the men and children carrying great loads of bedding or clothing or pushing a (rickshaw) or some (device) loaded with (household) effects. Probably their entire belongings. THey used part of Mr. O's house as a hospital and treated a great many.

One man arrived who was caught on a bridge as which the fire was burning and before he could get across because of the crowds ahead fires burst out ahead of him and he lost his mother, his wife and four children-the youngest a little boy who died of suffocation on his daddy's back.

Another woman and four small children arrived for treatment. She had left home with the young ones as her husband was at work at the time of the quake. She reached another bridge and tried for hours to get across but the passage was blocked by sick and the dying or dead and she finally resigned herself to die in the fast approaching flames. She huddled all the little ones around her telling them that they might better all go together. So this little group sat together awaiting the end when a man finally helped them and they got over the bridge and up to Ueno Park, where thousands and thousands were camped.

We waited--such a strain. I could not understand just what they were saying and kept thinking of my loved ones at home whom I had not seen for so long, and might never see again. In about half an hour word came that the fire was under control, but it looked far from under control.


1. What descriptions from Blauvelt's diary give you a sense of the seriousness of the earthquake's aftermath?

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The thousands of refugees, the flames in the streets and thousands camped at Ueno Park are descriptions of the earthquake's gravity.