Our photographer traveled up to the Tohoku region in February 2016 to gauge how things have changed in the five years since the March 11th 2011 Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. He visited Kesennuma, Rikuzentakata, Minamisanriku, Ishinomaki, Onogawa and Sendai; and saw both signs of hope and progress, and areas where little seemed to have changed since that fateful day. (All photos by Rodrigo Reyes Marin/AFLO)
Fukko Komachi-Minamigaoka Street in Kesennuma is part of a large prefabicated shopping mall including 7 buildings and 52 stores.
A bus operates on the new East Japan Railways (JR East) Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Line in Kesennuma.
The prefab food village Kesennuma-Yokocho in Kesennuma.
The abandoned Kesennuma Koyo High School five years after the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami.
Abandoned cars and rubble in the grounds of the Kesennuma Koyo High School.
A multi-language tsunami evacuation sign on new building built behind the new 1.61 km long tsunami barrier in Kesennuma.
The controversial new 1.61 km long tsunami barrier in Kesennuma.
Temporary prefab housing in Kesennuma. It is expected that some 2,000 out of 2,351 units built there will remain occupied after the 5 year anniversary
New public housing in the Nango District of Kesennuma. This 3 block Nango Residence was completed in 2015 and now permanently houses some 150 families.
A truck runs past a construction sign next to the highway in Rikuzentakata.
The tsunami damaged Rikuzentakata Youth Hostel.
The Miracle Pine Tree, which survived the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in Rikuzentakata. The 250 year old pine tree was the only tree left standing among 70,000 trees along the town’s coast after the tsunami’s 13 metre high waves hit in 2011. Initially the tree survived and was seen as a symbol of hope in a town that lost 1,700 lives in the disaster. Salt water exposure eventually killed the tree’s roots, but with the help of donations from around the globe experts managed to preserve the lone pine in its state inserting metal into the trunk and adding replica branches and leaves. The tree remains a symbol of hope for the town and a memorial for the events of 5 years ago.
Minamisanriku city five years after the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami.
Children’s bikes outside temporary prefab housing in Minamisanriku.
Temporary prefab housing in Minamisanriku still occupied 5 years after the disaster struck.
Minamisanriku Sansan Market.
Construction trucks and bulldozers still work on the damaged zones by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in Onagawa city.
Onagawa Hospital building which survived the tsunami and earthquake.
Temporary prefab housing designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban located inside a baseball stadium in Onagawa.
New housing in Onagawa sports park.
The temporary shopping centre FUREAI five years after the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in Ishinomaki.
A newly constructed tsunami evacuation tower in Ishinomaki.
Ishinomaki Fishing Port five years after the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami.
The view of Ishinomaki city from Hiyoriyama park.
The newly constructed Minamisanriku Hospital.
A stone tablet with a message of thanks for donations from Taiwan outside Minamisanriku Hospital.
The tsunami-wrecked Disaster Management Center in Minamisanriku on February 11, 2016, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. The 12 meter high building was gutted by waves over 15 meters high after the March 11 tsunami struck the coastal town. 43 locals were swept to their deaths from here.
Over the past five years plans to both preserve and to dismantle the structure have been debated with local’s divided as to whether it should remain. It was decided in 2015 that the Miyagi prefectural government would manage the structure until 2031 before finally deciding whether or not it should be preserved permanently.