Because of that there are strict building standards in the country designed to absorb energy from tremors.
Washington and Lee economics professor Mike Smitka lived in Japan for seven years and has been through a number of earthquakes.
He says the devastation comes at a time when the country is still feeling the effects of the recession and during political instability.
Toyota has a major engine factory in Sendai which could affect global production for certain vehicles.
Smitka says it's fortunate that the epicenter wasn't closer to Tokyo which is more populated and central to Japan's economy.