Photo/IllutrationPeople offer prayers to victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on March 11 to coincide with the time the temblor struck at 2:46 p.m. that day seven years ago. A sign reads, “Hang in there, Ishinomaki.” (Yuki Shibata)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Heads were bowed and prayers offered around Japan at 2:46 p.m. on March 11, the moment the magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck the Tohoku region seven years ago, resulting in a devastating tsunami.

People gathered at beaches, damaged school buildings, sites where monuments were erected for victims, or areas that were previously off limits due to the Fukushima nuclear disaster that followed.

In Tokyo, a commemorative ceremony was held to mark the seventh anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Prince Fumihito and his wife, Princess Kiko, attended the event along with about 870 people affected by the disaster, including family members of the dead.

Abe said his government will “push to build a Japan resilient to natural disasters” while touching on the lifting of evacuation orders for municipalities struck by the Fukushima nuclear accident as progress over the past year.

Fumihito, in his address, expressed concern about the physical and mental health of the elderly and other evacuees as their evacuation is prolonged.

Bereaved family members representing each of the three hardest-hit prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima spoke about their experiences at the ceremony.

The death toll from the 2011 disaster stands at 15,895, with the number of missing at 2,539 and an additional 3,647 who died in the aftermath of a cause related to the disaster, according to government data.