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Japan | Photos One Year Later

One year ago on March 6, 2011, a trifecta of disasters hit Japan. First was a 9.0 earthquake which caused a massive tsunami to hit the shore. A tsunami so large that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered a triple meltdown. A combination of all three killed as many as 20,000 people, left tens of thousands of homes and businesses in ruins, and turned that area of Japan into a ghost town.

With the radiation contamination in the area, clean up has been slower than expected. Only 5% of the nearly 23 million tons of debris have been disposed.

I was just getting in bed and turned on CNN this fateful night last year. The news coverage had just started and I sat riveted for hours unable to go to sleep watching the disaster unfold before my very eyes. Having a degree in earth sciences, I completely understood the magnitude of what just occurred – the force and energy to displace that amount of water was, and still is, completely mind boggling.

Here are some photos of Japan one year later. All photography by James Nachtwey courtesy of TIME.

Feb. 27, 2012. Namie, Japan. Police from Futaba District Police Station, which is inside the exclusion zone, search for the dead and still-missing along the ocean front near the power plant, the stacks of which can be seen in the far distance.


Feb. 25, 2012. Ishinomaki, Japan. Cars destroyed by tsunami.


Feb. 23, 2012. Rikuzentakata, Japan. Mountains of clothes and household textiles that cannot be recycled.


Feb. 23, 2012. Rikuzentakata, Japan. Shattered stumps of trees at the edge of the sea.


Feb. 25, 2012. Kesennuma, Japan. A ship deposited inland by the tsunami.


Feb. 23, 2012. Rikuzentakata, Japan. A landscape of destruction.


Feb. 24, 2012. Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. Workers cover bags of soil contaminated by radiation.


Feb. 25, 2012. Ishinomaki, Japan. A family buries the remains of family members lost almost a year before.


Feb. 29, 2012. Namie, Japan. Cemetery near the shore.


TIME Magazine cover Japan One-year later


  1. When the flurry over our recent storms hitting Middle America hit the airwaves my first thought, no lie, was “But what about Japan!?” Not that I am negating the destruction of many lives or property because it is horrible. But I kept wondering why we haven’t had a serious update on one of the most horrific tragedies to occur in my lifetime.
    Thanks for the post.

  2. A tragedy of staggering proportions and an example of the potential for a massive natural disaster to be made even worse by a dangerously flawed man made technology. The photos are depressing and disturbing but still very striking. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I am recalling horror and sad memory… I am thinking about my brother, a soldier who was working in Fukushima for many weeks after the disaster by watching those photos. Now he is in other country in Africa to help the life of the destitute. Nobody should forget to help fellowmen in this age. Thank you for your thinking about our Japan…

  4. Mr Edano, former Cabinet Secretary, repeatedly announced, “There is no immediate effect by radiation”. Some people still pretend to believe it facing this tragedy, not having enough financial support to move.

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