People across Japan bowed their heads in silence today as they remembered those who died in the tsunami two years earlier.
Ceremonies were held in towns and cities throughout the disaster zone as well as in Tokyo, where Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko led tributes to almost 19,000 people who died in the disaster that sparked a nuclear emergency.
The city's tsunami alarms sounded at 2.46pm to mark the moment a 9.0-magnitude undersea earthquake hit, sending a massive tsunami into Japan's north-east coast.
A total of 15,881 people perished and 2,668 others remain unaccounted for.
Police in Miyagi prefecture are still continuing the search for those listed missing, with a 50-strong team scouring the coastline.
"We haven't found any bodies for a year," said police spokesman Toshiaki Okajima.
"But there are still 1,300 missing people in Miyagi alone and the feelings of families haven't changed.
"That's why the police need to keep looking."
Efforts to rebuild the disaster-hit region have been slow.
Figures show that 315,196 people are still without a permanent home, with many surviving in cramped temporary housing units.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he wanted the anniversary of the disaster to serve as a beacon.
"March 11 has to be a day for hope," he said.
"When March 11 comes next year, it will have to be a day when people in the disaster zone can feel their communities are on the mend."
But anti-nuclear campaigners Greenpeace accused the government of failing to provide enough support for survivors who fled leaking radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, saying some are "in financial ruin and divorces and mental breakdowns are mounting.
"They need proper compensation and support to rebuild their lives," a Greenpeace spokesperson said, urging Japan to phase out the nuclear industry.
The tsunami battered the Fukushima plant, which went through meltdowns and explosions in the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.
The government said that the plant is now stable and no longer dangerous.
But dismantling the crippled reactors will take up to four decades and the nation remains divided over whether to continue using nuclear energy.
Only two of its 50 commercial nuclear reactors have been restarted so far.
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