A New Zealander caught up in a powerful 6.7-magnitude earthquake that rocked Japan said thoughts of Christchurch were charging through his mind.

The earthquake struck just hours after the Asian nation was battered by Typhoon Jebi, the most powerful storm in more than 25 years.

Mark Bryan, managing director of VetSouth, was woken up by alarms at his hotel two minutes before the quake.

He was staying of a ninth floor of a hotel in Obihiro, which is not far from the epicentre.

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A woman walks past a damaged building in Abira town, near Chitose, Hokkaido, northern Japan following a strong earthquake today. Photo / AP
A woman walks past a damaged building in Abira town, near Chitose, Hokkaido, northern Japan following a strong earthquake today. Photo / AP

"The alarm went off about 2mins before the quake, with flashing lights, a repeat alarm and announcement in Japanese saying there was an emergency and evacuation," Bryan said.

"Thoughts of Christchurch were charging through my head and I know Japan's had its share of earthquake activity so I was pretty keen to get outside into the middle of the street."

After realising what was happening, Bryan grabbed a few things and ran down the stairs. He said the evacuation was ordered and calm.

"People were waiting patiently in the streets until taken back into the hotels, some had chosen to stay inside," he said.

"All the power in the city went off... but everything was fairly sedate. There were lots of alarms from various hotels in the neighbourhood."

Bryan was able to return to his hotel room within the hour.

A clock stopped at the Obihiro train station at time of the quake. Photo / Mark Bryan
A clock stopped at the Obihiro train station at time of the quake. Photo / Mark Bryan

"I packed up and walked to the bus station. Nothing of course was working and they were warning of delays," he said.

"The bus for the airport left a little late. We've been told the journey may take an hour or so longer because the highway's closed for some part."

Passengers on the bus were kept updated through TV news, which also screened images of collapsed houses and landslides.

Another New Zealander, Matthew Ebrey, who is in Sapporo, said there was a massive queue to get into a supermarket that has opened.

"They have controlled entry and buying to prevent mad panic buying," he said.

Ebrey said he had the day off work because there were no buses or trains running.

The earthquake's epicentre was just 25km from the city of Chitose, where Hokkaido's main airport is based.

The night before, Bryan witnessed the tail end of Typhoon Jebi which killed at least 11 and left more than 450 injured.

"The road yesterday morning was littered with fallen trees for about 5km," he said.

The cities of Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto were some of the worst hit and Kansai International Airport could remain closed for up to a week.