Less than a year after Japan was devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011, the first strong earthquake of 2012 has struck Japan.
The strong earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 shook Japan off the country's coast on Sunday, the first day of the new year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The USGS said the earthquake struck 495 kilometers (307 miles) south-southwest of Tokyo at a depth of 348.5 kilometers (216.6 miles). Because the jolt was so deep, it was less likely to cause damage at the surface than quake last March 11, which caused a tsunami and, ultimately, a nuclear crisis in the country.
However, there were no reports of damage this time around, and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue a tsunami warning.
Initially, the USGS assigned the earthquake a preliminary magnitude of 7.0. It was soon downgraded to 6.8, however.
Buildings reportedly swayed from the jolt in Tokyo, but the Daily Mail reported that the quake did not disrupt the final of the Emperor's Cup football tournament being played at the National Stadium.
Also, a representative of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. said there were no reports of damage at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was heavily damaged in the March 11 earthquake. The media reported that some roads and high-speed rail services in northern Japan were temporarily suspended after the quake, but were soon restored.
Japan is in a area known as the Pacific's ring of fire, according to CNN -- an area of high seismic and volcanic activity stretching from New Zealand in the South Pacific up through Japan, across to Alaska, and down the west coasts of North and South America. The region produces 20 percent of the world's earthquakes measuring 6 or higher in magnitude.
U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos said in a message on Twitter regarding the New Year's Day earthquake: Memorable start to New Year -- about to greet Emperor and Empress for New Year when Imperial Palace began to shake.