Cities across northeastern Japan have been holding their own memorials for the tsunami’s victims, and those of the nuclear crisis that followed.
In Iwaki along the Fukushima coastline hundreds gathered for a moment of silence on the beach.
Nearly 80,000 across the area have been forced to leave their homes due to radiation fears.
Katsuko Ishii and her family are evacuees from the exclusion zone.
“My home is in Namie town, and so we can’t go home. There aren’t really any words for it. To be honest, we haven’t really had any good signs,” said the 42-year-old mother.
Politicians and bureaucrats have come under fire over the past year for their response to the nuclear disaster and reconstruction challenge.
The political row has even affected children.
12-year-old Shiori Anzai was overcome with tears as she said:
“I’ve hardly noticed the year go by, but you really have to wonder what politicians have been doing the whole time.”
In Ofunato hundreds of black-clad residents came to the town hall, and laid white chrysanthemums to remember the 420 people from the town who are still missing.
While the country observed a minute’s silence to mark the time the earthquake struck a year ago, Ofunato paused again 33 minutes later, the moment the 23-metre tsunami engulfed the town of 41,000.
Despite their grief some managed to look on the bright side.
“I’ve come here to tell my grandfather who was killed that I’m ok and enjoying life,” said 21-year-old Yoshiyuki Morishita, dressed in a dark suit but wearing a bright smile as he spoke.
12 months after the disaster, while Japan still struggles with the human and economic cost, many people have gained widespread admiration for their stoic reaction and and resilience.