The blaze that flared on the evening of April 15 led to the collapse of part of the 96-meter-tall spire at Notre-Dame Cathedral as firefighters struggled to contain the damage. (Footage from posting on SNS by French Ministry of Interior)

Japanese awoke to the gripping news April 16 that an inferno had ripped through the iconic Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, leaving much of the medieval structure in a smoldering ruin.

And like people all over the world, Japanese quickly turned to Twitter and other social networking sites to express their shock and dismay at the destruction of one of the world's great landmarks.

Japanese philosopher Tatsuru Uchida, who is well-versed in French culture, said, “I made it a rule to visit Notre-Dame to pray for a safe trip whenever I went to Paris. It was one of my great joys to look up at the stained glass on the South window,” he said.

TV personality Shoko Nakagawa was also shocked at video footage of flames engulfing the roof of the structure that caused part of the spire to topple.

“It is beyond cruel that such a beautiful structure that has transcended time and enchanted countless people was destroyed in a moment,” she said.

A Tokyo man in his 30s who planned to visit the cathedral during his honeymoon to France during the Golden Week holidays between late April and early May tweeted “sorry” in an April 16 post.

“I was very much looking forward to seeing the cathedral with my own eyes, having learned about the beauty of Notre-Dame and its history through a recent TV program,” he said. “I still cannot believe this has happened. If the cathedral is not off-limits when I go to Paris, I plan to visit the site to get a feel for history.”

Travel companies scrambled to confirm the safety of clients on tours to France.

On the morning of April 16, employees with Nippon Travel Agency Co., based in Tokyo, were busy inquiring about the whereabouts of 78 people visiting Paris on group tours.

The company is considering changes in proposed tour sites for visitors to Paris, and looking for potential alternatives, in light of the catastrophic damage.

Tokyo-based tourism company H.I.S. Co. contacted its arm in Paris to confirm the safety of clients who joined its tour.

“Notre-Dame Cathedral is a place where tourists can visit freely so we tend not to include a visit to the cathedral in our itinerary,” said an H.I.S. official. “We are still gathering information, but we do not expect a big impact on our tours.”

This year, long-haul flights are more popular than usual as most Japanese will have 10 consecutive days off due to the ascension of a new emperor on May 1.

Paris was the eighth most popular foreign destination for the company this year, up from 11th last year.

JTB Corp. in Tokyo plans to announce a revised itinerary for participants of group tours that had previously included a visit to the cathedral.