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  • Writer's pictureBen Samuel

Akira Kurosawa describes the Great Kantō earthquake of (1923)

Updated: Mar 29, 2022

During the aftermath and riots of the Kantō earthquake of (1923) Heigo Kurosawa (1906-1933), took his younger brother Akira Kurosawa out to witness the devastation. Akira was thirteen years old. Here he describes what he saw...

"Amid the expanse of nauseating redness lay every kind of corpse imaginable. I saw corpses charred black, half-burned corpses, corpses in gutters, corpses floating in rivers, corpses piled up on bridges, corpses blocking off a whole street at an intersection, and every manner of death possible to human beings displayed by corpses. When I involuntarily looked away, my brother scolded me, "Akira, look carefully now". Looking back on that excursion now, I realise that it must have been horrifying for my brother, too. It had been an expedition to conquer fear." - Akira Kurosawa, Something Like an Autobiography

In July 1933, Heigo Kurosawa committed suicide, leaving a lasting impression on Akira Kurosawa.

“I prefer to think of my brother as a negative strip of film that led to my own development as a positive image.” ― Akira Kurosawa, Something Like an Autobiography

Below is a sequence from the documentary A.K. (1985) Director Chris Marker, which includes archive footage from the aftermath of the earthquake narrated by Marker and footage of Akira Kurosawa filming Ran (1985).

Warning: This video contains footage of corpses which some viewers may find disturbing. I have re-edited the footage to mask the worse of the images.

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