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Rotten History: March 2

In 1657 – (362 years ago) — several months of drought, along with gale-force winds, brought on the perfect conditions for a catastrophic fire that consumed large parts of the Japanese capital city of Edo, known today as Tokyo. Legend has it that the initial sparks were created by a temple priest in the city who was burning a kimono that held a fatal curse after being owned by three young girls in succession who had all died before getting the chance to wear it. Whatever the fire’s real cause, it spread rapidly in a densely built city where houses and other buildings made of wood and paper stood in long narrow streets, and fiery embers were easily carried by the wind from one neighborhood to the next. The city had a fire brigade, and the firefighters rose gallantly to the occasion, but they were quickly overwhelmed by the rapidly spreading conflagration, which lasted for three days. About sixty percent of the city was destroyed — including not only vast working-class residential districts, but also many rich mansions, and even parts of the shogun’s castle. Between one and two hundred thousand people were killed — a figure unmatched for almost three hundred years until the same city, under its new name of Tokyo, was firebombed by US Army air forces in 1945.

Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi

Rotten History


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