Tsunami generated by the magnitide-8.2 earthquake that struck off the coast of northern Chile on April 1 took nearly a full day to cross the Pacific Ocean.
The arrival of the tidal waves was a painful reminder of the earthquake and tsunami disaster that ravaged the Tohoku region in March 2011.
Because of the time difference it was 3 a.m. on April 3 when the Japan Meteorological Agency issued tsunami advisories to Pacific coastal areas, stretching from Hokkaido in the north to Chiba Prefecture in the south, as well as to the island chains of Izu and Ogasawara.
But unlike three years ago, towering tsunami did not hit Japan this time. In Kuji, Iwate Prefecture, the waves reached 60 centimeters high just past 12:20 p.m. Elsewhere, the maximum tsunami height as of 12:45 p.m. was 30 cm in Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture, and 20 cm both in Sendai and Hachijojima island south of Tokyo.
Agency officials said tide levels began to rise just before 7 a.m. along coastal areas in Hokkaido and the Tohoku region. Its advisories predicted a maximum tsunami height of 1 meter.
Evacuation advisories were issued to about 30,000 residents in coastal areas, including the municipalities of Rikuzentakata and Kamaishi, both in Iwate Prefecture, Higashi-Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, and Mutsu, Aomori Prefecture. Residents took refuge in evacuation shelters.
No major damage was reported.
The residents had another good reason for exercising caution. A tsunami originating from Chile in May 1960 claimed 142 lives in Japan, mostly in the country's northeast.
Kaoru Oikawa, a 51-year-old part-time worker, said she took her son to an evacuation shelter in a hospital complex in downtown Kamaishi.
"I have to give my son the lesson that he should flee as soon as a tsunami advisory is issued," Oikawa said.
Fishermen assembled at the Momonoura fishing port in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, at 4:30 a.m. to move their fishing gear from areas near the wharves to higher ground. The fishermen maintain farming racks close to the port to raise oysters that are shipped from autumn.
"Our farm was finally getting back on track three years after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami," said Katsuyuki Oyama, the 67-year-old head of an oyster farming company. "I am relieved to learn that there has likely been no major damage."
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