A massive under-sea earthquake in Japan's southernmost Okinawa islands recently set off a tidal wave scare, briefly disrupting the summer vacations of thousands of holidaymakers enjoying the "Golden Week." This period is one of Japan's most popular holiday periods, falling at the start of summer when there are three consecutive public holiday.

The earthquake was measured 7.7 on the Richter scale, which originated 20 km below the sea, striking Japan's most popular scuba diving region. This area is rich in rare coral and sea life, which at this time of the year is packed with tourists.

A Japan Meteorological Agency spokesperson said that there was no casualties or damage from the quake that jolted the area early in the morning. The epicentre was in the Pacific Ocean, 260 km south-east of Ishigakijima, one of the southernmost islands making up the Okinawa group.

Its effects were also felt hundreds of kilometres away in east Taiwan where buildings shook, but again there was no damage or casualties reported. The agency issued warnings of tidal waves of up to two metres high but the sea surges that followed did not go over 10 centimetres, the spokesperson said.

The warnings extended north to two of Japan's four main islands - Kyushu and Shikoku. Authorities ordered brief precautionary evacuation of coastal areas in the Okinawa chain, including the capital of Naha. However, within two hours residents were allowed to return to their homes and tourists to beaches.

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