Photo Essay

  • A memorial for the victims of the 2011 tsunami stands in the Arahama district of Sendai, in Miyagi prefecture, Japan.  March 11, 2014 marks the three-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s northeast coast, killing an estimated 15,000 and displacing hundreds of thousands more.
  • A surfer walks by a still-devastated coastline in Kesennuma, in Miyagi Prefecture, on Feb. 25, 2014.
  • Six-year-old Rio Mitsuboshi skateboards on Feb. 22, 2014, at Arahama, Niigata Prefecture, where so many people lost their lives.
  • The still-devastated landscape of Otsuchi, in Iwate Prefecture, is seen through dead flowers at a cemetery on Feb. 24, 2014.
  • A man has a cigarette at a Jodo temple cemetery in Arahama, Japan, where so many people lost their lives. Due to the severe impact of the tsunami, the cemetery must be relocated.
  • Two girls play on the playground of Matsushima Daiich elementary school on Feb. 26, 2014. Unlike HIgashi-Matsushima, Matsushima city was lucky – it was not as damaged by the tsunami, despite being near the coastline.
  • Two girls play on the playground of Matsushima Daiich elementary school on Feb. 26, 2014. Unlike HIgashi-Matsushima, Matsushima city was lucky – it was not as damaged by the tsunami, despite being near the coastline.
  • Jyo Sasaki, 83, at the temporary housing complex where she is currently living, Feb. 24, 2014. The rebuilding of her community, Otsuchi, Iwate, is very slow so she must wait to return home.
  • A man visits the cemetery at Jodo temple in Sendai, in Miyagi Prefecture, on Feb. 23, 2014.
  • Fishermen take care of their fish net on Feb. 24, 2014, in Otsuchi, Iwate, where the fishing industry is recovering but the rebuilding of the community is still slow.
  • Katsushige Onodera, 75, cuts wakame, a type of Japanese seaweed, at Ouya fishing port in Kesennuma, in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. The fishing business has been recovering, but was damaged this winter by extreme snow storms.
  • A man in Minami-Sanriku picks up Konbu, a variety of Japanese seaweed, along the still-devastated coastline on Feb. 23, 2014.
  • Construction workers build a new school in Rikuzen-Takada, Iwate Prefecture, on Feb. 25, 2014. The rebuilding process is still slow for most tsunami survivors.
  • A woman climbs down a hill in Kesennuma, in Miyagi Prefecture, on Feb. 25, 2014.
  • Tsunami survivor Kanno takes a morning coffee and cigarette break in the sitting area of a temporary housing complex in Rikuzen-Takada, Iwate Prefecture, on Feb. 25, 2014.
  • Trees in the mountains near Rikuzen-Takada, Iwate Prefecture, are cut for creating a new road on Feb. 25, 2014.
  • A worker’s jacket hangs neatly inside a shed in Nobiru, Higashi-Matsushima, on Feb. 26, 2014. The workers have been instrumental in the rebuilding of the Tsunami-devastated areas.
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Three years later, Fukushima struggles to rebuild

Updated

Three years ago Tuesday, Japan fell victim to the worst nuclear disaster in a generation. A colossal underwater earthquake led to a tsunami that etched a deep gash along the nation’s coastline and took out three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The results were catastrophic. At least 15,884 people were killed by the tsunami, and perhaps as many as 18,500. Hundreds of thousands were evacuated from the disaster area, and countless more were put at risk of developing cancer from radiation exposure.

Now the emergency has subsided, but a long path to recovery remains. More than 250,000 people have still not been resettled since they were evacuated from their homes, and parents are still afraid to let their children outside for fear of the lingering radiation. But the healing process, long and arduous as it still may be, has begun. The photo essay above shows a slice of how that process, and everyday life, look in the Fukushima region today.

Q. Sakamaki is a Japanese photographer, based in New York, who has been capturing the aftermath of the tsunami and earthquake for the past three years.
  

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography.