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Yuko Sugimoto (right) stands reunited with her 5-year-old son, Raito, on a road in Japan's Miyagi prefecture, 2012. This photo was taken at the same place where she was photographed immediately after the tsunami in March 2011. (AFP/Getty Images)

One Year Later: Japan's Wreckage And Recovery

by John Rose
Mar 9, 2012

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John Rose

Japan's landscape was a surreal sight to behold one year ago: Flipped cars, ships on top of buildings, completely dismantled homes. As victims of the destruction walked through wreckage in disbelief, or paddled down flooded streets in boats, the rest of the world processed the imagery from afar.

In the wake of that devastating earthquake and tsunami, videos and photos showed a nation crippled by Earth's brute natural forces. And crippled by man-made forces, too. Shortly after the tsunami came news of a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant in northeast Japan — the worst such disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

One year later, debris remains, the search for missing people continues, and the damaged nuclear reactor is still leaking — though scientists say it's not enough to be considered a threat.

There has also been progress, which we can see in more recent images. 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

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