Monday 11 April 2011

Earthquake incidence, with catfish

A series of Japanese woodblock prints from the mid-1800s describes the incidence of earthquakes. Giant catfish, namazu, thrashing about in underground lairs cause the earthquakes. Some folks in the prints pray that the namazu quiets while others egg him on.

This print shows a namazu engaged in a fierce game of "neck tug-of-war" with the god Kashima. A group of earthquake victims root for Kashima, while those who typically profit from earthquakes (construction workers, firemen, news publishers, etc.) root for the catfish.
Hit the link for the full set of prints. From the text descriptions under the pictures, construction workers are by far the biggest namazu abettors. Eight prints show construction workers profiting from earthquakes or praying for them while only one print shows a carpenter praying for an end to earthquakes. Prostitutes are the next biggest beneficiaries, except those in the Yoshiwara red-light district, from which I'd gather that there there were many earthquake fatalities. Other notable earthquake profiteers: sellers of ready-to-eat foods, firemen, and news publishers. Those harmed include earthquake victims, entertainers (musicians, comedians...), teahouse proprietors, eel sellers, sellers of luxury and imported goods, the elderly, young wives, and china-shop owners. Physicians get a bob each way.

In Print 9, the god of wealth, Daikoku, restrains a namazu. Wealth can't stop earthquakes, but it sure lessens their burden.

Sentiment against price gouging makes more sense if you figure those profiting were partially responsible for the disaster. If namazu caused earthquakes and responded to lobbying, I too would oppose price gouging.

HT: @adzebill


  1. Ken Ring will be adding giant catfish to his arsenal of "predictive" tools.

  2. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose