Experiment for Urban Great Fire
Laboratory of Urban Safety Planning, 2-032 Demeure Gobancho, 12 Gobancho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0076, Japan
Tokyo had two fantastic chances to rebuild its urban areas based on ideal city planning. Unfortunately, it failed to take them. The first chance was after the Great Kanto Earthquake, which leveled Tokyo in 1923. The second chance was just after World War II, when the US Air Force flattened Tokyo with a carpet bombing that left 330,665 citizens dead, 2,316,325 houses burned to the ground, and a deserted area of 40,000,000 ha. The Tokyo metropolitan authorities failed again, mostly due to the desperate living conditions during the postwar occupation. Tokyo was therefore hastily and haphazardly reconstructed of combustible wooden housing without a planned sequence. In the decade from 1945 to 1955, Japan suffered every time typhoons hit the archipelago. These disasters prevented effective disaster management measures from being adopted to mitigate damage. National disasters continued to be local rather than national matters until well after 1955 and urban restoration based on advanced urban planning was sacrificed to economic growth, although economic growth greatly assisted restoration of urban areas. When the Korean war broke out in 1950, the US military force had many military requirements that stabilized economic conditions in Japan. Many business and manufacturing plants were restored but without long-term urban infrastructure planning. In 1959, the Ise Bay typhoon caused 4,697 deaths, left 407 missing and 38,921 injured, and destroyed 557,501 houses. This disaster forced the Japanese government, which had not formulated a framework for disaster mitigation management, to begin studying formulation of the Basic Disaster Measures Act. The Ise Bay typhoon highlighted key problems in disaster mitigation measures, resulting in the formulation of the Basic Disaster Mitigation Act in November 15, 1961.