MJHW (Online Meeting) on 1923 Earthquake and Korean Sawagi in Central Tokyo - Thursday, July 14th

Joelle Nazzicone's picture

Please join us for the next meeting of the Modern Japan History Workshop on Thursday, July 14th at 19:00 JST.  Our presenter this month will be Kenji Hasegawa (Yokohama National University), who will present his work on the 1923 Earthquake and the Korean sawagi in central Tokyo (details below).

This month’s session will be held online through Zoom, and can be accessed using the following sign-in information:

Meeting link: https://u-tokyo-ac-jp.zoom.us/j/85498785398

The password for the meeting will be posted at the top of the MJHW website from July 11th onwards.

The workshop is open to all, and no prior registration is required.

Please direct any questions to Joelle Nazzicone at joelle.nazzicone@gmail.com.  We hope to see you there!


The 8 p.m. Battle Cry: The 1923 Earthquake and the Korean Sawagi in Central Tokyo

Kenji Hasegawa (Yokohama National University)

Chōsenjinsawagi” (Korean commotion), the contemporaneous naming of the rumor-driven mass agitation and massacres following the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, has been shunned by scholars of the massacre due to its dismissive and obfuscatory nature. As Andre Haag has pointed out, the label of Korean sawagi served to shroud the massacre in ambiguity. The term referred to rumored activities as diverse as rioting and carnivalesque merry-making, and Korean sawagi could refer to the rumored acts of violence carried out by Korean people, the violence by Japanese that resulted, or both. Due to this problematic ambiguity, “Korean Massacre” (Chōsenjin gyakusatsu) has become the accepted naming and object of inquiry in Japanese language scholarship, while “Korean Panic” has become the most common translation for the broader social responses of the Korean sawagi in English language scholarship. Yet, “Korean sawagi”was how the realities of the rumor-driven commotion and massacres were staged and enacted in the terror-filled days after the 1923 earthquake. As such, it requires critical re-examination.

The Korean sawagi was staged by state authorities from the initial aftermath of the 1923 earthquake targeting two complementary policing signs that have generally been misconstrued as oppositional: “unruly Koreans” (futei senjin) and “rumors” (ryūgen higo). The sawagi was preemptively inversive, aimed at forestalling a mass sawagi against the state by inciting a wave of collective violence that was not completely controllable but that was, more importantly, contained within the framework of joint security operations against enemies of the state expressed in these policing signs. It achieved its aim through agitational and silencing effects, and through the integrated process of spreading and quelling rumors of Korean attackers. These mutually constitutive elements of the sawagi manifested themselves in differential configurations and chronologies depending on local circumstances. An exceptionally early display of the agitational-and-silencing effect of the sawagi was the 8 p.m. battle cry (toki no koe) exercise of September 2 in the heart of the imperial capital.