Home Geography Seismic Japan
Here I use the most common name for each earthquake, with major alternative names, if any, given in parentheses in the heading. The lunar date for premodern earthquakes is also given in the heading, using the format year/ month/day. Because the epicenter of many of the earthquakes discussed here was located in or near the Kansai region, I begin with a brief description of the geology of this area.
Japan's Kansai (or Kinki) region, which includes the urban areas of Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto, sits atop many active faults. It includes the so-called Kinki Triangle Region, defined by points at the edge of Wakasa Bay, Awaji
Keicho-Fushimi (Fushimi-Momoyama), 1596 (Keicho1)/7/13
The Keichō-Fushimi earthquake (around midnight, September 5, 1596) was a shallow inland earthquake of M7.5 with an epicenter near Hirano on the outskirts of Osaka. It caused approximately fifteen hundred deaths and extensive property damage. Efforts to map all the faults under Japan
Map 1 Produced by Jeffrey Smits, Cherokee Drafting Specialists.
After the 1995 Hanshin-Awaji (Kobe) earthquake led to the discovery of the likely cause of the Keichō-Fushimi earthquake: a rupture of the ArimaTakatsuki Fault, possibly in conjunction with the Rokkō-Awaji Island Fault. The keep of Fushimi Castle collapsed, and a falling stone wall killed seventy-three high-ranking ladies-in-waiting and some five hundred maids. Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Japan's ruler at the time, was in the castle and escaped into a courtyard. Many shrines and temples in the area incurred major damage.
Kanbun (Kanbun Omi-Wakasa; Biwakoseigan), 1662 (Kanbun 2)/5/1
Approximately ninety kilometers northwest from the epicenter of KeichōFushimi, another shallow inland earthquake struck around noon on June 16, 1662. The epicenter of the Kanbun earthquake was the western bank of Lake Biwa near the present-day town of Kitahama. Magnitude estimates range from 7.25 to 7.6, and people as far away as Fukuyama and Edo felt this powerful earthquake. Some seismologists posit movement of the Hiruga Fault under Wakasa Bay, followed by movement of the central and northern sections of the Hanaore Fault, which extends from a point north of Kyoto along the western shore of Lake Biwa. In this view, the Kanbun earthquake was a two-stage seismic event, and it may have been two earthquakes in succession. According to Okada Yoshimitsu, movement of the Hanaore Fault and the Lake Biwa West Bank Fault Zone caused the earthquake. Damage was severe across the region, varying significantly as a function of local conditions. Estimates of the death toll for the western shore of Lake Biwa range from seven hundred to one thousand, including about two hundred deaths in Kyoto. The situation in some places, however, was much worse than these overall figures suggest. Landslides buried several villages, wiping out the vast majority of their populations. In Kawamura in the Kutsuki Valley, for example, collapsing mountains buried all of the approximately fifty dwellings, and only thirty-seven of the more than three hundred inhabitants survived.
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