TOKYO (AFP) - Small tsunami waves hit northern Japan early on Thursday following a powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake thousands of kilometres away across the Pacific Ocean in Chile after officials issued an evacuation advisory for certain areas.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said waves of 40cm were monitored in Kuji, Iwate prefecture, at 7.39 am local time about an hour after the first 20-cm wave was recorded there.
Waves of up to 30cm were also monitored in other areas of northern Japan, the agency said, adding that bigger waves could hit the coast later.
Earlier on Thursday, Japan issued a tsunami advisory, saying waves of up to one metre above normal sea levels could hit eastern Pacific coast regions, but were unlikely to cause damage.
The advisory was lifted entirely at 6.00pm.
Large areas of the coastline covered by the advisory were damaged by the 2011 quake and tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people and triggered a nuclear accident in Fukushima.
The agency advised people to leave the coast but said it did not expect damage from the waves.
"Get out of the water and leave the coast immediately," it said.
Local authorities issued evacuation advisories to more than 22,000 people living near the coastline in Iwate prefecture, public broadcaster NHK said.
Television footage showed people fleeing to nearby shelter in Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture, where more than 1,000 people were killed in the 2011 tsunami.
Before dawn, a tsunami warning siren echoed over Ishinomaki, another city hit hard by the tsunami three years ago, and some local bus services were cancelled.
Authorities in Japan and many other countries at risk of tsunamis have well-developed early warning systems and tend to be cautious.
Television footage earlier showed officials in Kochi, south-western Japan, closing a metal barrier to seal their local breakwater in preparation for possible high waves.
Tokyo Electric Power, which runs the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant, suspended part of operations scheduled for early Thursday, a company spokesman said.
In 1960, a 9.5-magnitude earthquake in Chile sent a tsunami across the Pacific that killed more than 140 people in Japan.
Indonesia also said it could be hit by a small tsunami from the quake off Chile, which killed at least six people and caused nearly a million to evacuate their homes along the coast.
Authorities in 19 provinces were alerted earlier as a precaution and people were urged to stay away from beaches.
Indonesia, which is frequently hit by earthquakes and has scores of active volcanoes, is particular vulnerable to even small tsunamis as many people on the archipelago of more than 17,000 islands live in poor, coastal communities.
More than 170,000 people were killed in Aceh province on western Sumatra island in 2004 when it was hit by a huge quake-triggered tsunami, which also left thousands dead in other countries around the Indian Ocean.
Northern Japan was rocked by a 5.6-magnitude quake early Thursday but there were no reports of damage or injuries and officials said there was no risk of a tsunami.