September 4

This Day in History

Disaster

Sep 4, 1596:

Tsunami pounds Japanese islands

One of the first tsunamis ever to be recorded devastates the east coast of Kyushu, the southernmost major island of Japan, on this day in 1596.

The tsunami was set off by a relatively small earthquake in Beppu Bay on Kyushu's east coast. Despite its weakness, the quake, which was felt as far away as Kyoto and Kagoshima, caused a landslide on the bay's coast. The landslide pushed so much water across the bay that it sent a 50-foot wave towards Uryu-Jima Island.

The very small island, located a mile offshore from Oita, Kyushu's capital city, had only a six-mile circumference and was home to 5,000 people. The quake itself had little effect on the island's people, but the resulting wave totally submerged the island and killed about one in every five people. The island was uninhabitable long after the tsunami.

The tsunami also went on to destroy Saganoseki and two other small villages located on the Beppu Bay coast. About 1,000 acres of the mainland virtually disappeared in the disaster.

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