Tokyo (1923) I Importance of Road and Railway Transport

Tokyo (1923) I Importance of Road and Railway Transport

The deficiency in transportation network came into concern after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, as the rescue services could not reach the affected areas efficiently. The major roads and bridges were strengthened to secure the basic transportation network.

Fig5.1 Aerial photograph of the burning capital, front page. “Full Record of the Great Earthquake” (Daishinsai zenki), special issue, Asahi Graph,October 1923.

Fig5.2 Map of Tokyo-Area Fires and Victim Gathering Sites (Tōkyō kasai chiiki oyobi risaimin shūdan chizu), with hatches indicating areas of destruction. Dai Nihon Yūbenkai Kōdansha, Taishō Daishinsai daikasai (The Great Taishō Earthquake Conflagration) (Tokyo: Dai Nihon Yūbenkai Kōdansha, 1923).

The transportation networks that had survived and refugee facilities were marked in Fig5.2, which was released by the authority of the state. The red hatches indicated regions of complete destruction. Blotting out areas with red pigment indicating the damages caused by fire was common in the mapping done at that time.


Long ago the Japanese relied on less advanced transportation methods until the late nineteenth century. They travelled either on foot or by riding on horses. As for longer travelling distances, they travelled by small ships. Whenn modernization started to emerge in Japan, railways were introduced and lower priority was put on improvements in road transport, both in Tokyo and other cities.


After the disaster in 1923, urban renewal plans were proposed for reconstruction works, but only small parts were implemented. Emphasis was put in developing the private railway system and the relocation of housing in suburban areas.


Apart from the railway development as mentioned in Tokyo (1923-1930) l The Great Kanto Earthquake and Railway Development, transportation at street level should also be planned after the disaster to prevent and prepare for the next. However, the government only tried to build new streets in a more systematic way to improve the transportation links, and only some of the existing streets were widened to allow higher vehicle usage rate.


How are railway and road transport essential in surviving through the frequent earthquakes in Tokyo?

As mentioned above, assistance and rescue resources either from external or internal failed to reach the affected areas at its earliest time due to the deficiency in transportation system during the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. In fact, for disasters happening after this, the rescue works were mainly done through aerial transport instead of railway or road transport. Yet, it is also noticeable that by strengthening the railway and road transport, related accidents can possibly be minimized during the frequent earthquakes.

For instance, the construction materials of the railway structure can be strengthened to minimize the shaking effect caused by earthquakes. As for the road transport, streets can be further widened and the design of street network can be thought thoroughly to increase accessibility of different places. In case of emergency, improved road system can support short distance of travel for the survival of people and transfer of resources.

Therefore, maintaining the fluidity of human and vehicle flow is essential in surviving through the frequent earthquakes in Tokyo and that railway and road transport should both be improved as inspired from the Great Kanto Earthquake.