With moments of silence and prayers, Japan today was remembering the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck the nation one year ago, killing just over 19,000 people and unleashing the world's worst nuclear crisis in a quarter of a century.
At dawn in the devastated north eastern coastal town of Rikuzentakata, dozens of people from across Japan gathered to offer prayers in front of a solitary pine tree that stands amid the barrenness, a symbol of survival.
Some returned to where their houses and those of friends once stood, and placed flowers and small gifts for loved ones lost in the disaster.
Naomi Fujino, a 42-year-old Rikuzentakata resident who lost her father in the tsunami, was in tears recalling March 11, 2011.
With her mother, she escaped to a nearby hill where they watched the enormous wave wash away their home.
They waited all night, but her father never came to meet them as he had promised. Two months later, his body was found.
"I wanted to save people, but I couldn't. I couldn't even help my father. I cannot keep on crying," Ms Fujino said. "What can I do but keep on going?"