Japan's recovery from 2011 tsunami: before and after - in pictures

The triple disasters of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear event devastated Japan's north-eastern coast in 2011

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On March 11, 2011, north-east Japan was struck by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake. The tremors sparked a tsunami that swept away towns and cities and even caused a nuclear emergency as it hit a power plant.

The disaster left more than 20,000 people dead or missing, and many areas are still recovering.

See how the rebuild and recovery effort has progressed over the past decade below.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant 

The tsunami triggered by the earthquake slammed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, destroying its power and cooling systems and triggering meltdowns at three reactors.

Ten years later, as the photo on the left shows, the recovery efforts are still under way. Last week, a fuel pool that had been damaged and left uncovered after the disaster, was removed. The photo taken in 2021 shows how little rebuilding had been achieved at the plant. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga visited Fukushima on March 6, promising to accelerate decontamination efforts so all remaining no-go zones can be reopened. He did not give a timeline.

Some areas up to 10 kilometres from Fukushima Daiichi are still a no-go zone.

Tagajo, Miyagi prefecture 

Two days after the tsunami swept hundreds of towns away, streets in the area of Tagajo, Miyagi prefecture, remained flooded. The area recovered its manufacturing capabilities to pre-disaster levels in 2013, and the economy grew by 19 per cent between 2010 and 2018.

Today, the area, pictured on January 25 this year, almost looks like the tsunami never happened, but over the past decade the population there has shrunk 2.5 per cent. In the aftermath, local government built 532 apartments in Tagajo to house those who had lost everything, a decision some say made residents isolated from their communities.

Otsuchi, Iwate prefecture

The photo taken on April 6 2011, as the whole of Japan still reeled from the tsunami, shows the extent of devastation coastal communities experienced.

Houses washed away as water and debris rushed into the town of Otsuchi.

The town, pictured this January on the right-hand slide, features a white phone booth where residents 'call' those dead and lost as part of the grieving process.

The phone booth was built by Itaru Sasaki, who owns the garden in Otsuchi, about 500 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, a few months before the disaster, after he lost his cousin to cancer.

Minamisanriku, Miyagi province

Minamisanriku lost 800 residents in the tsunami, and has sprung back in an unusual fashion.

Nine staff at Minami Sanriku Hotel Kanyo have lead daily hour-long bus tours showing the sites of devastation and talking about their experiences.

The bus stops at a former school that was damaged by the tsunami, a disaster prevention centre where 43 workers died and a former wedding ceremony hall.

Since the tours began, they have had about 400,000 participants.

Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture

Kesennuma, on the coast of Sanriku is famous for its plentiful fishing grounds. In the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, a trawler was left grounded in the town, pictured above.

The city lost 1,246 of its residents and the rebuilding effort has been long and arduous. But today, pictured on the right, the city is working on attracting tourists.

The nearby Karakawa Penisula Visitor Centre features an exhibition dedicated to the tsunami and its impact on the area.