Japan paid tribute Friday to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami March 11, 2011 in the northeast of the archipelago, natural disasters amplified by a nuclear accident whose country has not recovered.
In Sendai, in Miyagi prefecture, a region which deplores the largest number of deaths, survivors gathered at a Buddhist statue erected near the Breakwater Beach Arama where gigantic waves were slaughtered there five years.
Some clasped their hands, a woman threw flowers into the ocean, reported an AFP photographer.
A large number of police officers and firefighters continued on this anniversary, as so often, to comb the beach in search of bones so that the families of missing persons to finally mourn.
A minute of silence was observed at 2:46 p.m. (5:46 GMT) throughout the country, just when he was five years ago, on a Friday also occurred off the main island of Honshu a magnitude 9 earthquake that shook a large part of the country.
"Five years have passed since the disaster, more than 20 000 people lost their lives," said Emperor Akihito at a ceremony at the National Theatre in Tokyo, after bowing deeply to the Empress before a stele dedicated to "the souls of the victims of the great disaster in Japan is" surrounded by a flower bed.
"Japan is a pretty spoiled by nature, but sometimes it can be dangerous," he said, facing the monument with his back to an audience of 1,200 people: residents and elected officials in the region, foreign diplomats, journalists. "We will never forget the TV pictures showing black water wall" breaking on the waste cities by the tsunami, said the emperor in a clear, steady voice.
Each member of the public lodged a white flower and bowed before the monument and, at foreigners, the master of ceremonies welcomed "aid from many countries."
March 11, 2011, nearly 18 500 lives were swept away by a tidal wave of such magnitude that it occurs in "once a millennium," say the old Japan. Some 3,000 people died later as a result of the tragedy.
For days, the media back on that day, reviving painful memories of the hordes of panicked employees hurriedly leaving the skyscrapers of Tokyo, trains overturned in the North-East, appalling images, scarcely credible to whole towns swept away by the tsunami, unable to contact his family, each more desperate for information that cascaded each other, thousands and tens of thousands of missing persons.
And then at the end of the day, the first alarming signals from two nuclear power plants in Fukushima, the evacuation orders, days and days of anguish.
For five years, as some 140 000 refugees, Kenichi Hasegawa live a temporary prefabricated, driven from his beautiful home Iitatemura a completely evacuated settlements.
"We endure this life without getting used to, you're tired," said his wife to NHK. "In these rural areas, families often live three generations, they are now scattered because of the accident," laments Mr. Hasegawa, a farmer today aimless.
"I hope people will remember us and realize that life is difficult evacuees, including financially," said AFP Nihei Kazuko, 39, at a ceremony in a park Tokyo.
"There is no end in sight for those in Fukushima, nearly 100,000 people have not returned home, many do not and can the government continue to minimize the level of radioactivity. It is tragic and unacceptable, "says Junichi Sato, executive director of Greenpeace Japan.
"Our resource-poor country can not do without nuclear energy," launched Thursday evening Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
As night fell over Sendai, residents lit thousands of candles in paper cups.