NPR : News

One Year Later: Japan's Wreckage And Recovery

On March 11, 2011, at 2:46 p.m. (JST) Japan changed as a nation. A magnitude 9.0 earthquake, the largest to ever hit the island nation, and subsequent tsunami claimed more than 16,000 lives. One year later, the recovery efforts continue, as does the mourning.

As much of Japan washed away, the rest of the world experienced the story in images — scenes that showed a nation crippled by the Earth's brute natural forces. And crippled by man-made forces, too: Shortly after the tsunami came news of a meltdown at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in northeast Japan — the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

One year later: Barges can still be seen in unlikely places on land; the search for missing people continues; the damaged nuclear reactor is still leaking. Though according to scientists, it's not enough to be considered a threat.

There has also been progress, which we can see in images, too. The before-and-after juxtaposition shows that from destruction springs resilience.

In one pairing, a boat has found its way to the top of a building, and debris covers the ground entirely; one year later, the debris and the boat have evaporated and what remains is a solitary building on a clean landscape.

The most remarkable pair of images shows, in one frame, a woman wrapped in a blanket, gazing absently at the horizon. A year later, that woman faces the camera with a little boy — on a street that looks ostensibly untouched.

Immediately after the disaster, Yuko Sugimoto had stood shocked and immobile, separated from her son, Raito. He was eventually found safe on the roof of his school. And one year later, they stand together holding hands, smiling.

Interactives by Nelson Hsu

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


In The 'Golden Age Of Television,' Advertising Intersects With Programming

NPR's Robert Siegel speaks with New Yorker television critic Emily Nussbaum about her essay on the new model of advertising in the so-called "golden age of television."

California City Orders Restaurants To Use Disposable Plates, Cups

Officials in Fort Bragg also ordered restaurants to serve water to customers only upon request. As part of a stage 3 water emergency, things like washing cars using city water are prohibited, too.

The Year In Space: U.S., Russian Spacefarers On The International Station

NPR's Kelly McEvers speaks with NASA Commander Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, who are spending the year on the International Space Station.

Why You Should Keep A Tighter Grip On Airline Boarding Passes

You might want to think twice before shoving that boarding pass into the seat pocket in front of you. Security reporter Brian Krebs says there could be sensitive information on it.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.