Submersion of Japan (1973)

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Credits for Submersion of Japan

Submersion of Japan
The Japanese poster for Submersion of Japan
Alternate titles
Flagicon Japan.png Japan Sinks (1973)
Flagicon United States.png Tidal Wave (1975)
See alternate titles
Directed by Shiro Moritani
Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, Osamu Tanaka
Written by Shinobu Hashimoto (screenplay),
Sakyo Komatsu (novel)
Music by Masaru Sato
effects by
Teruyoshi Nakano
Production company Toho Pictures, Toho Eizo
Distributor TohoJP, New World PicturesU.S.
Rating PGU.S.
Budget ¥500 million[1]
Box office ~¥4 billion[2]
Distributor rentals ¥1.64 billion[1]
Running time 143 minutesJP
(2 hours, 23 minutes)
114 minutesInt'l
(1 hour, 54 minutes)
82 minutesUS
(1 hour, 22 minutes)
Aspect ratio 2.35:1JP
Rate this film!
(7 votes)


— International tagline


— American taglines

Submersion of Japan (日本沈没,   Nippon Chinbotsu, lit. "Japan Sinks") is a 1973 tokusatsu science fiction disaster film directed by Shiro Moritani and written by Shinobu Hashimoto based on Sakyo Komatsu's 1973 novel Japan Sinks, with special effects by Teruyoshi Nakano. Co-produced by Toho Pictures and Toho Eizo, it stars Keiju Kobayashi, Tetsuro Tamba, Hiroshi Fujioka, Ayumi Ishida, Hideaki Nitani, and Shogo Shimada. The film was released to Japanese theaters by Toho on December 29, 1973, and to American theaters by New World Pictures in May 1975, under the title Tidal Wave.


Two hundred million years ago, Earth had a single continent. As the millennia progressed, the single continent slowly split off into smaller continents and islands. Thirty million years ago, the country of Japan was part of the continent of Asia, and has since split off into its own archipelago. Another landmass shift is about to occur.

It’s now the modern day, and Japan’s population has grown to be quite large. Earth physicist Dr. Tadokoro, suspicious of recent seismic activities, enlists the help of Toshio Onodera and the submarine Wadatsumi to investigate the ocean floor near the Ogasawara Islands. Following a brief demonstration, it’s decided that they will go to investigate a point intersecting the Ogasawara and Japan Trench, where a violent undercurrent occurred a few days prior that sank a small island. The next day, Onodera and an adamant Tadokoro submerge to the depths of the Japan Trench, where they make the startling discovery that the crust on which the Japanese islands are situated on is collapsing into it. For reasons unknown, the geological processes involved in subduction of the oceanic crust are occurring at a drastically-accelerated rate. Tadokoro begs for an extended period of investigation, but is told the submarine would be unusable for a period of time.

Onodera goes on vacation and, thanks to a contact at work, is introduced to Reiko Abe; the two instantly fall in love. As the couple embrace on the beach, a violent eruption from Mt. Amagi interrupts their love-making and the two are forced the flee. Following the eruption, a meeting is held among Japanese officials, including Prime Minister Yamamoto, where the overwhelming damages of the disaster are discussed. Yamamoto later convenes with the Meteorological Agency, who give a thorough explanation of undersea trenches and how underground activity has affected the shape of continents, as well as how earthquakes triggered the recent volcanic eruption. During the same meeting, Dr. Tadokoro warns that a giant earthquake may occur and that the Japanese government should be prepared for it, but his claims are scoffed at behind his back. Later, Tadokoro meets with Mr. Watari, a rich and mysterious old man who he convinces to help fund his new project. After gathering members of the Prime Minister’s staff, Tadokoro comes up with an outline for the project, the D Plan, a course of action to be taken in the case of a nation-wide earthquake catastrophe. The staff agree to secure him a submarine from France that will allow him to study the Japan Trench, but the meeting is interrupted by yet another eruption, this time in the Kirishima Mountains.

Onodera quits his submarine company in favor of helping Dr. Tadokoro with his study of the Japan Trench. Those working on the project question the origins of Watari and his source of income, and Tadokoro becomes increasingly disturbed by the results of the study. Exhausted and angry, he determines from his findings that most of the Japanese archipelago will sink into the ocean; his fears are immediately justified when a gigantic earthquake occurs. The earthquake hits most of Tokyo, triggering an oil refinery to go up in flames and causing countless deaths from the falling debris and ensuing tsunami. Helicopters and fire fighters are dispatched to help put out the estimated 6,000 fires currently overrunning the wards, but the situation only gets worse. Crowds clash with mobile troops outside the Imperial Palace, seeking refuge from the firestorm, and the Prime Minister eventually allows them inside. By the end of the disaster, 3.6 million people are confirmed dead or missing.

Three months pass. The public has calmed down and order is slowly returning. Shaken by his wife’s passing in the tragedy, Yamamoto works more closely with the disaster response teams and starts speaking with Mr. Watari more often. The Meteorological Agency hypothesizes another earthquake, this one 1,000 times more powerful than the last, but quickly rules against confirming it until they have more evidence. Onodera is attacked by one of his former colleagues, who was worried about his whereabouts prior to the Tokyo earthquake, and the two reconcile after he tells Onodera that Reiko, who he hasn’t seen in months, visited their office before the disaster.

Dr. Tadokoro and his team meet with Watari at his private mountainside home, where the doctor reveals that in addition to the D1 Plan, which consists of investigating the state of the Japan Trench, there exists a D2 Plan, which entails the evacuation of the country. The D2 Plan was already discussed with Yamamoto, who has begun negotiating plans with other countries to immigrate Japanese citizens. Concurrently, Tadokoro has divulged too much distressing information to the public, and makes an appearance on live television that ends with him attacking his interviewer out of rage for not being taken seriously. Yamamoto has a private meeting with Watari, who provides him with three options for the D2 Plan. The first is the formation of a new country, the second is full immigration into other countries' societies, and the third is to simply wait—the third option seemed to be the most agreed-upon behind closed doors, a revelation which upsets Yamamoto. A drunk Onodera wanders the streets, grappling with the reality that Japan and its culture will soon disappear if the public remains unaware of the current crisis, and miraculously stumbles into Reiko Abe again for the first time in months.

A meeting with the Meteorological Agency yields disturbing results: that Japan won't sink in the two-year window originally projected, but rather in a mere 10 months. Plans to emigrate Japan and its 110 million people are accelerated and countries like Korea, Taiwan, and China are already refusing propositions. Production of more airports, larger ports, and other evacuation procedures are put into effect. Countries all around the world begin to leak information, and the announcement that Japan will sink into the ocean is officially made public. Meanwhile, Onodera reveals his desire to wed Reiko, and the two discuss plans to rendezvous in Geneva, Switzerland. However, the two are tragically separated amidst another earthquake, which causes Mt. Fuji to erupt and triggers a landslide that floods the valley. Onodera desperately searches for Reiko, but to no avail.

After months of foreshadowing, a U.N. summit is held to determine where Japan and its population will go. Concerns are raised about the refugee status in countries like Jordan, and how Japan’s immigration would dramatically worsen that situation. Despite this, immigration proceeds as planned, though only a mere 2.8 million people have successfully evacuated in the two months that the United Nations have spent deliberating. More upsettingly, the submergence of Japan is happening even quicker than expected, the Kii Peninsula and southeast portion of the island of Shikoku having disappeared beneath the sea. The President of the United States agrees to accept millions of Japanese refugees, and China as well as the USSR follow suit with its own rescue and immigration plans. The destruction of the main islands continues. Osaka has almost completely submerged, with its castle being the sole building left visible above the waves. The Sanriku coast in Iwate Prefecture is the next area to sink, followed by the rest of the Tohoku region, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Okinawa. There are still 63 million people in Japan, and 13 million are presumed dead or missing. It’s theorized that any islands remaining after the diastrophism may be destroyed as well. Eleven days before total submersion remain.

Meanwhile, Toshio Onodera has gained a reputation for his efforts in helping the remaining population escape, all in the hopes of seeing Reiko again, earning him the title of “Kamikaze.” The D1 team is finally let free of their duties as Yamamoto informs them that all JSDF rescue operations have ceased, and the remaining members wonder about Dr. Tadakoro's and Onodera's whereabouts. Mr. Watari lies sick in bed with Hanae and Prime Minister Yamamoto sitting beside him, the whole house occasionally shaking as the final hours of the Japanese archipelago draw near. Watari tells Hanae to find a Japanese man and get married, and then quietly passes away. As the Prime Minister and Hanae leave his room, a dirtied Dr. Tadakoro approaches them, announcing that he will stay in Japan to the end. He says he believes in Yamamoto’s ability to lead the people, and stays behind as the final helicopter escorts the Prime Minister to safety. Most, if not all, of Japan has submerged.

Somewhere in a snowy environment, Reiko Abe stares longingly out of a train window. Meanwhile, in a desert, Onodera stares intensely out the door of a boxcar train, which disappears into the distance.


Main article: Submersion of Japan/Credits.

Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.


Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.

  • Keiju Kobayashi   as   Dr. Tadokoro
  • Hiroshi Fujioka   as   Onodera Toshio
  • Ayumi Ishida   as   Abe Reiko
  • Rhonda Leigh Hopkins   as   Fran
  • Tetsuro Tamba   as   Prime Minister Yamamoto
  • Shogo Shimada   as   Watari
  • John Fujioka   as   Narita
  • Andrew Hughes   as   Australian Prime Minister
  • Nobuo Nakamura   as   Japanese Ambassador
  • Tetsu Nakamura   as   Philippines Ambassador
  • Haruo Nakajima   as   Prime Minister's Chauffeur
  • Hideaki Nitani   as   Dr. Nakata
  • Isao Natsuyagi   as   Yuki
  • Yusuke Takita   as   Assistant Professor Yukinaga

International English dub

  • Matthew Oram   as   Prime Minister Yamamoto (trailer) / Watari (trailer) / Onodera Toshio (trailer)


Weapons, vehicles, and races


Following an unsuccessful deal with Daiei, the film rights for Sakyo Komatsu's novel Japan Sinks were sold to Toho,[3] and those rights extended to the production of a television series, which would be filmed alongside the movie and shared some of the same cast as a result.[4] Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka had been planning to turn the book into a film before its publication.[5]


Production lasted a total of four months.[3] Alcohol was mixed with water in the effects sequences to make the tsunami waves appear more believable, and special effects director Teruyoshi Nakano humorously recalled how the effects team became intoxicated as a result.[6]


Main article: Submersion of Japan/Gallery.

Alternate titles

  • Japan Sinks (literal Japanese title)
  • Tidal Wave (United States)
  • Panic over Tokyo (Panik über Tokio; West Germany)
  • The Submersion of Japan (A Submersão do Japão; Brazil; La Submersion du Japon; France; French Belgium)
  • The Fall of Japan (De Ondergang van Japan; Dutch Belgium)
  • Death in the Rising Sun (Morte no Sol Nascente; Portugal)
  • The Sinking of Japan (Scufundarea Japoniei; Romania; El Hundimiento del Japón; Argentina)
  • The Downfall of Japan (Propast Japana; Yugoslavia)
  • The Sun Does Not Rise Over the Islands (Nad Ostrovy Nevyjde Slunce; Czechoslovakia)
  • Planet Earth Year Zero (Pianeta Terra Anno Zero; Italy)
  • S.O.S. The Earth is Sinking (S.O.S. Jorden sjunker; Sweden)
  • The End of the World (Dünyanin Sonu; Turkey)

Theatrical releases

  • Japan - December 29, 1973
  • West Germany - November 7, 1974
  • Brazil - January 1, 1975
  • United States - May 1975
  • Canada - August 1, 1975
  • France - May 28, 1975
  • Sweden - October 6, 1975
  • Spain - December 23, 1975
  • Finland - April 30, 1976
  • Portugal - September 1981

Foreign releases

Toho's international poster for Submersion of Japan repurposed by the China Film Corporation for release in the People's Republic of China

On May 15, 1974, Submersion of Japan played as a non-competing film at the Cannes Film Festival. Variety subsequently published a review and recorded a runtime of 113 minutes. Although Variety failed to mention the presence of an English or Japanese soundtrack, their review authenticates the earliest known screening of the export cut of the film.[7] On June 14, 1974, the official newspaper of the Italian Communist Party, l'Unità, posted a blurb that identifies an English version of the film entitled Submersion of Japan.[8]

On August 18, 1975, an English-dubbed version of Submersion of Japan with Spanish subtitles played at the Cine-Rio in Curaçao. It had the Spanish title La Cátastrofe Más Grande del Siglo XX (The Greatest Catastrophe of the 20th Century) and newspaper showtimes rated the film "boven 18 jaar," for persons aged 18 and up.[9] Three days later, Statens Biografbyrå - Sweden's film censorship board - reviewed Submersion of Japan, recorded a runtime of 115 minutes, and gave the film an age limit of 15 years and up. AB Svensk Filmindustri distributed the film in Sweden, premiering it on October 6, 1975 as S.O.S. Jorden sjunker (S.O.S. The Earth Is Sinking). The Swedish Film Institute (SFI) possesses a 35mm deposit print of the film, and in the entry for the film on the Swedish Film Database published by SFI, the catalogers indicate Submersion of Japan as the on-screen title of an English-dubbed version.[10]

On December 20, 2023, Toho released a three-disc 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray set of Submersion of Japan. The second Blu-ray disc includes the export cut with an actual runtime of 114 minutes, but with the English dubbing redacted and replaced by the Japanese audio. Its presentation also fails to include Japanese captions for the hearing impaired, unlike the main presentation of the uncut version. However, the first Blu-ray disc features the export trailer with the English dubbing intact, recorded in Hong Kong with Matthew Oram playing several roles. The international English dub of the full film has yet to be released in the U.S. or appear on any home video format anywhere in the world.

Box office

Submersion of Japan grossed 1.64 billion yen in distributor rentals,[1] making for a total gross of approximately 4 billion yen.[2] It was ranked the #1 highest grossing Japanese film of 1974—tying with its co-feature Road to Guam—and was the third highest grossing film to be released in Japan that year, after Enter the Dragon and The Exorcist.[11]


Japanese trailers
Export trailer
U.S. Tidal Wave trailer
U.S. Tidal Wave TV trailer
U.S. Tidal Wave TV spot
West German trailer
Spanish trailer


  • Based on Sakyo Komatsu's 1973 novel Japan Sinks, this was not the first attempt at a film adaptation of the source material. In 1972, Daiei president Masakazu Nagata announced a film adaptation of Komatsu's then-upcoming novel, at that time a raw manuscript, and titled it Submersion of the Japanese Archipelago. However, not only was there no prior notification to the staff at Daiei before the announcement, but the film rights had not been procured from Komatsu yet. The film never got past the planning stages, and the film rights were eventually sold to Toho.[3]
    • On September 30th, 1998, Shochiku announced their own film adaptation of Japan Sinks, slated for a 1999 release and Kazuki Omori attached to direct. However, Shochiku was experiencing budget issues at the time, and by March 5th it was announced that all staff members involved with the project had been transferred and that production on it had been cancelled.[3]
  • Stock footage from the film would be employed in numerous Toho tokusatsu films afterward, including Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Prophecies of Nostradamus, The War in Space, The Return of Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Biollante, and Godzilla vs. Mothra.


This is a list of references for Submersion of Japan. These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: [1]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Godzilla Toho Champion Festival Perfection. ASCII MEDIA WORKS. 29 November 2014. p. 126. ISBN 978-4-04-866999-3.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Toho Special Effects Movie Complete Works. villagebooks. 28 September 2012. p. 165. ISBN 4-864-91013-8.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "日本沈没". Japanese Wikipedia. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  4. "Submersion of Japan: Television Series". Toho Kingdom. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  5. Toho Special Effects Movie Daizenshu. villagebooks. 28 September 2012. pp. 164–167. ISBN 9784864910132.
  6. "中野昭慶". Japanese Wikipedia. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  7. Variety 1974, p. 19.
  8. textsl'Unità 1975, p. 7: "La prospettiva di un Giappone sommerso dall'oceano infuriato è descritta con ampiezza di mezzi in un nuovo film di fantascienza giapponese, intitolato, nella versione inglese, Submersion of Japan."
  9. Amigoe di Curacao: weekblad voor de Curacaosche eilanden 1975, p. 8.
  10. "S.O.S. Jorden sjunker". SFdb.
  11. The Complete 85-Installment History of Kinema Junpo's Best Ten: 1924-2011. Kinema Junpo. May 2012. p. 322. ISBN 978-4873767550.



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