For some, the incident brought pain flashback to 2011 when an earthquake triggered a tsunami that caused a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plant, a disaster that is still being felt today.
Although the quake occurred in a similar area, Wednesday’s quake did not result in a national emergency for a number of reasons.
Here’s what you need to know.
Earthquake hit around 00:30 local time (11:30 ET) off the coast of Fukushima, north of the capital Tokyo.
It was originally rated as a 7.3 earthquake, but on Thursday it was upgraded to 7.4.
As of Thursday, all tsunami warnings issued in the wake of the quake have been lifted.
The epicenter of Wednesday’s quake was about 89 kilometers (55 miles) from center of the devastating 2011 earthquake.
Robert Geller, a seismologist and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, suggested that Wednesday’s quake could have occurred in 2011. aftershock. “Geologically speaking, aftershocks will persist for 50 to 100 years, but over time, the frequency of aftershocks and their size will decrease,” he said.
On Thursday, Japanese authorities said four people, including a man in his 60s, had died and at least 160 others were injured.
Footage from the capital Tokyo shows street lights and apartments shaking. Tens of thousands of households lost power throughout the city, but it was restored within hours.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said no “anomalies” had been found at the country’s nuclear power plants.
A bullet train traveling through Miyagi Prefecture derailed during the earthquake, 78 people were trapped on board for four hours. According to public broadcaster NHK, everyone ended up unharmed through the emergency exit.
Photos from Fukushima and Miyagi show earthquake-damaged buildings with broken windows, broken tiles and floors, and collapsed ceilings. The floors of shops and supermarkets are littered with goods and rubbish.
Wednesday’s quake struck off the coast at a depth of 37 miles (60 kilometers), which may have limited damage. According to Geller, the most destructive earthquakes occur close to the earth’s surface, not deep in the earth’s crust.
How does this compare to the 2011 earthquake?
The difference between Wednesday’s 7.4 quake and the 9.1 quake in 2011 is staggering.
While Wednesday’s quake generated tsunami waves only 8 inches (0.2 meters) high, the 2011 quake produced waves 30 feet (9.1 meters) high that damaged several nuclear reactors in the area.
In the 2011 disaster, more than 22,000 people died or went missing as a result of the initial earthquake, tsunami, and post-disaster health conditions. As of last year, more than 35,000 people remained displaced, 10 years after the collapse.
The cleanup is expected to take decades and cost billions of dollars.
Since 2011, Japan has stepped up its response systems to better deal with such disasters, including improving earthquake early warning systems and seismic observation technologies.
Could there be new earthquakes or tsunamis?
The Japan Meteorological Agency has warned the public to be vigilant for aftershocks and the possible risk of landslides or landslides. He also urged people in the affected areas to stay away from the coast and not go into the sea.
In a tweet, the Prime Minister’s Office said the government has set up a response office that will work with local governments to take emergency action, including searching for and rescuing potential victims.
Geller, a seismologist, said Japan could expect more aftershocks next week that will gradually decrease.
Though he said there was also a possibility that Wednesday’s quake was a “foreshock” before a larger quake, warning that the chances of that happening are very slim but “not zero”.
“Yesterday’s earthquake is a good reminder to the people of Japan that Japan is prone to earthquakes and that earthquakes can happen at any time,” he said. “So people have to be ready.”