Daily resolution data retrieved from the 1243 ground-based Global Positioning System (GPS) stations in Japan are utilized to expose surface displacements before the destructive M9 Tohoku-Oki earthquake (March 11, 2011). Variations in the residual GPS data, in which effects of the long-term plate movements, short-term noise and frequency-dependent variations have been removed through a band-pass filter via the Hilbert-Huang transform, are compared with parameters of the focal mechanism associated with the Tohoku-Oki earthquake for validation. Analytical results show that the southward movements, which were deduced from the residual displacements and agree with the strike of the rupture fault, became evident on the 65th day before the Tohoku-Oki earthquake. This observation suggests that the shear stress played an important role in the seismic incubation period. The westward movements, which are consistent with the angle of the maximum horizontal compressive stress, covered entire Japan and formed an impeded area (142°E, 42°N) about 75. km away from the epicenter on the 47th day prior to the earthquake. The horizontal displacements integrated with the vertical movements from the residual GPS data are very useful to construct comprehensive images in diagnosing the surface deformation from destructive earthquakes along the subduction zone.