After the occurrence of the 2011 Mw9.0 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake, an unusual shallow normal-faulting earthquake sequence occurred near the Pacific coast at the Ibaraki-Fukushima prefectural border. We have investigated why normal-faulting earthquakes were activated in northeast (NE) Japan, which is otherwise characterized by E–W compression. We computed the stress changes associated with the mainshock on the basis of a finite fault slip model, which showed that the amount of additional E–W tensional stresses in the study area was up to 1 MPa, which might be too small to generate normal-faulting earthquakes in the pre-shock compressional stress regime. We thus determined focal mechanisms of microearthquakes that occurred in the area before the mainshock, which indicated that the pre-shock stress field in the area showed a normal-faulting stress regime in contrast to the overall reverse-faulting regime in NE Japan. We concluded that the 2011 Tohoku earthquake triggered the normal-faulting earthquake sequence in a limited area in combination with a locally formed pre-shock normal-faulting stress regime. We also explored possible mechanisms for localization of a normal-faulting stress field at the Ibaraki-Fukushima prefectural border.