Two years have passed since the devastating triple calamities of an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster struck Japan. The nation is marking the anniversary with a ceremony of national mourning.
Japan is mourning the deaths of nearly 19,000 people, all victims of the natural disasters and resulting Fukushima nuclear plant accident that struck on March 11, 2011.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko were expected to attend the national ceremony in Tokyo.
Many still affected
In addition to the fatalities, thousands of others were injured, and hundreds of thousands have been affected by the aftermath of evacuations. More than 300,000 people are still without a permanent home.
The disaster continues to affect the local economy. Many buyers avoid Fukushima produce, for example, fearing the possibility of contamination.
Young people are leaving the region as a result of the faltering economy, bringing more hardship to the region.
The government says the Fukushima nuclear plant is stable and no longer releasing radioactive material, and it has tried to reassure consumers that the region's food products are checked for radioactive contamination before being shipped to markets.
The government believes it will need up to 40 years to dismantle the crippled reactors.
The devastation has sparked ongoing debates and anti-nuclear protests, but Japan as yet remains undecided over whether to continue using nuclear energy.
Since the disaster, only two of its 50 commercial nuclear reactors have been restarted, but analysts believe that the lack of viable alternatives will force Japan to fire up more units in the future.
tm/pfd (AFP, AP)