A large amount of data was collected that provides "the possibility to model in great detail what happened during the rupture of an earthquake." The effect of this data is expected to be felt across other disciplines as well, and this disaster "would provide unprecedented information about how buildings hold up under long periods of shaking – and thus how to build them better. .
Seismologists had anticipated that the "big one" would strike the same place as the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake—in the Sagami Trough, southwest of Tokyo. Since 1976, when Katsuhiko Ishibashi said a large earthquake in the Suruga Trough was forthcoming, the government tracked plate movements, in preparation for the so-called Tokai earthquake. Occurring 373 km (232 mi) northeast of Tokyo, the Tōhoku earthquake came as a surprise to seismologists, since the Japan Trench was known for creating large quakes, but was not expected to generate quakes above an 8.0 magnitude.