With a minute of silence, tolling bells and prayers, on Sunday, Japan will mark the first anniversary of an earthquake and tsunami that killed over 20,000 people and set off a nuclear crisis that shattered public trust in atomic power management and the nation’s leaders.
A year after the magnitude 9 earthquake unleashed a 23m wall of water that hit Japan’s northeastern coast, killing nearly 16,000 and leaving nearly 3,300 missing, the country is still grappling with the human, economic and political costs.
In coastal communities, police and coast guard officers, urged on by families of the missing, still search rivers and shores for remains even though the chances of finding any would appear remote. Without bodies, thousands of people are in a state of emotional and legal uncertainty.
All across Japan a moment of silence will be observed at 14:46 (05:46 UTC) when the quake struck and then again, 33 minutes later when a 23m wall of water hit coastal communities.
A “bell of hope” will toll in Ofanato and mourners will sail out to sea to release lanterns.
The Japanese people earned the world’s admiration for their composure, discipline and resilience in the face of the disaster while its companies impressed with the speed with which they bounced back, mending torn supply chains.
However, in terms of the human toll, the recovery will take a lot longer as the Japanese people struggle to come to terms with their grief after having lost family members, friends, neighbours. The psychological impact of such loss is incalcuable.