Japanese TV showed cars, ships and buildings swept away by a vast wall of water after the 8.9-magnitude quake. A state of emergency has been declared at a nuclear power plant but officials said there were no radiation leaks. At least 60 people have been killed by the quake, which struck about 400km (250 miles) north-east of Tokyo. The death toll is expected to rise significantly.
"Roads were badly damaged and cut off as the tsunami washed away debris, cars and many other things," said Hiroshi Sato, a disaster management official in Iwate.
Bullet train services to northern Japan were halted and rapid transit in Tokyo was suspended, stranding many workers in the city centre. About four million homes in and around Tokyo suffered power outages.
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Sources: Google.com, CNN, BBC