<p>In the first of a series of newly released pictures showing a Japanese shoreline before and during the recent <a href="http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/tsunami-profile/">tsunami</a>, a beach in Fukushima Prefecture appears calm.</p><p>The tsunami, captured here by a researcher working on the coast, struck northeastern <a href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/japan-guide/">Japan</a> after a magnitude 9 <a href="http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/earthquake-profile/">earthquake</a>, nearly wiping away entire towns.</p><p>A tsunami isn't a tidal wave but a series of waves—or wave train—in which the first isn't necessarily the most dangerous. Seen from on shore, a tsunami may be more like a rapidly rising tide than a series of giant breaking waves.</p><p>(See <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/pictures/110315-nuclear-reactor-japan-tsunami-earthquake-world-photos-meltdown/">"Japan Tsunami: 20 Unforgettable Pictures."</a>)</p>

1. The Calm Before the Tsunami

In the first of a series of newly released pictures showing a Japanese shoreline before and during the recent tsunami, a beach in Fukushima Prefecture appears calm.

The tsunami, captured here by a researcher working on the coast, struck northeastern Japan after a magnitude 9 earthquake, nearly wiping away entire towns.

A tsunami isn't a tidal wave but a series of waves—or wave train—in which the first isn't necessarily the most dangerous. Seen from on shore, a tsunami may be more like a rapidly rising tide than a series of giant breaking waves.

(See "Japan Tsunami: 20 Unforgettable Pictures.")

Photograph by Sadatsugu Tomisawa, AP

New Tsunami Pictures: Head-on View of Approaching Wave

Newly released before-and-after pictures show what it was like to be face-to-face with the tsunami.

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