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JPNS 3881 Environment, Nature, and Disaster in Japanese Literature and Culture (Brown) - Rare Books Collection Virtual Visit

A guide to materials relating to Japan and the environment in the Rare Books Collection, Rare and Distinctive Collections, CU Boulder Libraries.


Earthquakes are a perennial issue for the islands of Japan. Because of their frequency, earthquakes figure prominently in Japanese thought, culture, folklore, and science. The following sources from CU's Rare Books Collection highlight their devastation, particularly relating to the Great Earthquake of 1891, which was one of the first major natural disasters in Japan that was documented with photography.  

Earthquake Folklore

The following book is an English edition of a compilation of Japanese fairy tales. Turn to the front cover to see an illustration of the god Kashima (or Takemikazuchi) holding down the catfish Namazu. In Japanese folklore, Namazu lived under the island of Japan, and its thrashing about caused earthquakes. The book also includes a story titled "The Earthquake Fish," beginning on page 223.

NOTE: You can turn the pages on this volume simply by clicking on a page. To view this book in a new tab (where you can zoom in), click on the title link below the book.

The Mino-Owari Earthquake of 1891

The Mino-Owari Earthquake of 1891 remains Japan's largest recorded inland earthquake at 8.0 on the Richter scale. It was centered near Nagoya in the present-day Gifu prefecture. The following items, from CU's Ira Wolff Photographic History Collection, document the damages of the earthquake in the region. The first two items are published books, while the final three are original photographs taken after the quake.


John Milne, W.K. Burton, and K. Ogawa, The Great Earthquake in Japan, 1891 (Yokohama, Japan: Lane, Crawford and Co., 1894).
This photography book about the 1891 earthquake was a collaboration between Kazumasa Ogawa, Japan's most prominent photographer and photography publisher at the time, and Americans John Milne and W. K. Burton (who wrote the English text).

NOTE: Click on "Go to Source" in the upper-right corner to open this book in another tab (where it might be easier to navigate).

The Great Earthquake in Japan, October 28th, 1891 (Kobe: Office of the Hyogo News, 1892).

This book on the 1891 earthquake provides detailed first-hand accounts of the earthquake and its aftermath. Notice that it uses illustrations instead of photographs.

NOTE: you can turn the pages here by clicking on them! To view this book in a new tab (where you can zoom in), click on the title link below the book.

Three Original Photographic Prints Surveying the Destruction of the 1891 Earthquake in Ogaki, Japan (Gifu Provence)

Rare and Distinctive Collections


Classroom: Norlin N345

Reading Room: Norlin M350B



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