On 3 March 2011, a massive earthquake hit northern Japan, triggering a tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people and turned towns to matchwood.
The tsunami sparked the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Meltdowns in three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant spewed radiation over a wide area of the countryside, contaminating water, food and air. More than 160,000 people were evacuated from nearby towns and some 10% still live in temporary housing across Fukushima prefecture. Most have settled outside their hometowns and have begun new lives.
Japan is mourning the thousands who lost their lives in the disaster. At 2.46 p.m (5.46am GMT), the moment the quake hit, bells rang out in Tokyo and people around the nation bowed their heads in a moment of silence. All of the trains on Tokyo's underground paused for a minute. At cemeteries along the devastated coastline, in front of buildings destroyed by the huge waves, and on beaches, families gathered to offer flowers and incense, bowing their heads and wiping away tears. Flags at central government buildings flew at half-mast.
Residents of disaster-hit regions have criticised the government for rushing the reconstruction to showcase Fukushima's safety for the Olympics rather than for the residents. The government hopes to reopen all evacuation zones by next March, except for the dangerously contaminated surroundings of the plant.