The US Geological Survey put the strength at magnitude 7.2. USGS said the quake was centred 34 kilometres east of Ishinomaki at a depth of 60 kilometres.
The Kyodo news agency said its epicentre was off the coast of Miyagi prefecture, which was heavily damaged during the huge earthquake and tsunami of 2011.
The tsunami warning was issued for Miyagi prefecture.
The shaking started just before 6.10pm.