A memorial service has been held in Minamisanriku – the Japanese fishing town obliterated by the tsunami that followed last month’s earthquake.
Local officials said over 1,000 of the town’s residents out of a population of around 18,000 are known to have died or are listed as missing.
One man taking part in the service, who had lost 10 members of his family, said: “It is really something that it is very hard to cope with.”
As Japan prepared to send thousand of soldiers into the disaster zone this week to search again for bodies, the country’s Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, visited a US military base to say thank you for their help.
He watched a practise drill by a special unit that was on standby for a full-scale emergency at the Fukushima nuclear plant which leaked radiation after being hit by the tsunami – a nuclear disaster which thankfully never came.
The US team was about to leave Japan.
As they said good-bye, thousands of protesters thronged through central Tokyo waving banner reading ‘Good Bye Nuclear Plants’ as part of an Earth Day related march.
Others picketed the headquarters of Fukushima’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power, calling for the immediate closure of all its nuclear plants.