Japan marked the fifth anniversary of one of the worst natural disasters in history on Friday with solemn memorials and nationwide moment of silence.
The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan devastated the north-east of the country on March 11, 2011.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Emperor Akihito and 81-year-old Empress Michiko attended a memorial in Tokyo, and joined a moment of silence nationwide at the exact moment the quake hit.
Japan will continue to show the world the lessons learned from (the disaster) and the way we are recovering.
The imperial couple helped console a grieving nation by visiting emergency shelters and evacuation centers following the disaster, which killed nearly 20,000 people.
Prime Minister Abe expressed sympathy for the victims and said the lessons of March 11, 2011, would contribute to global disaster preparedness.
“Japan will continue to show the world the lessons learned from (the disaster) and the way we are recovering,” he said.
While paying tribute to both survivors and victims, Akihito said progress had been made but much work need to be done.
“It is important that everyone’s hearts continue to be with the afflicted, so that each and every person in difficulty, without exception, will be able to get back their normal lives as soon as possible,” he said.
Schools, businesses, government offices and Tokyo’s vast subway and train system came to a halt at about 3pm local time on Friday, the exact moment the magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck about 40 miles off Japan’s northeast coast.
Bells rang and citizens bowed their heads nationwide during a minute of silence.
The earthquake on March 11, 2011 was one of the most powerful ever recorded.