Japan mourns; grapples with tsunami aftermath
Yoko Kubota, Reuters Updated March 11, 2012, 4:53 pm
With a moment of silence, prayers and anti-nuclear rallies, Japan marked on Sunday one year since an earthquake and tsunami killed thousands and set off a radiation crisis that shattered public trust in atomic power and the nation's leaders.
A year after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake unleashed a wall of water that hit Japan's northeast coast, killing nearly 16,000 and leaving nearly 3,300 unaccounted for, the country is still grappling with the human, economic and political costs.
In the port of Ofunato, hundreds of black-clad residents gathered at the town hall to lay white chrysanthemums at an altar dedicated to the town's 420 dead and missing.
"We can't just stay sad. Our mission is to face reality and move forward step by step," said petrol station owner Kosei Chiba, 46, who lost his mother and wife in the disaster.
"But the damage the town suffered was too big and our psychological scars are too deep. We need a long time to rebuild."
Just a kilometre (half a mile) from Tokyo Electric Power Company's (Tepco) wrecked Fukushima plant, where reactor meltdowns triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, residents of the abandoned town of Okuma were allowed back for a few hours to honour the dead.
"It was a wonderful place. If it wasn't for all that's happened, I'd be able to come back. But thanks to Tepco, I wasn't even able to search for the bodies of my relatives," said Tomoe Kimura, 93, who lost four members of her family in the tsunami, two of whom were never found.
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