For seaside village residents in Tohoku, it seems only yesterday that a devastating tsunami crashed into their town on the Japanese coast. And as science reporter Jamie Morton found, their recovery is far from complete.
In seaside Minami Sanriku, residents have been arguing over what to do with the ruined red steel structure in the centre of town.
The tower has become something of a grim memorial since its innards were blown out by a 16m-high wall of water, reducing it to a mangled shell.
About 95 per cent of the town around it was washed away in the March 11, 2011 tsunami, with hundreds of its residents.
That day, Mayor Jin Sato had chaired a meeting about how best to protect the community from such a disaster.
When the disaster came shortly after the meeting, even a 5m-high seawall could not save the town.
Mr Sato and others rushed from the town hall to the roof of the nearby disaster readiness centre.
A girl's voice blared over a loudspeaker, "Please go to higher ground!", but three storeys wasn't high enough.
The red steel wreckage is all that remains of the disaster readiness centre.
Mr Sato was underwater for three minutes, clinging desperately to the building's radio antenna as his town vanished around him.
By the next morning, only a third of the 30 who had been on the roof with him were still alive.
Forty-two people died in the centre, including 24-year-old Miki Endo, whose voice was heard on the loudspeaker.
Her body wasn't found for a month.
The town government wanted to keep the centre's remains as a monument to victims, but some grieving families could not bear the sight of it and demanded it be demolished.
Submissions circulated in the community until a final decision was made to tear it down after the town government decided it would hamper the rebuilding programme.
Nearly three years later, the structure that only just saved Mr Sato's life isn't the only obstacle to recovery.
"Honestly speaking, for the last 2 years, we have been fighting a battle against the national government over all of the regulations and laws they have," he said.
His community wanted to move a recreation space, around a third of which was destroyed, to higher ground where much of the new town was being planned.
But citing zoning rules, state bureaucrats requested it be rebuilt on part of its low-lying site. There were hundreds of other examples, Mr Sato said.
The town's residents remain scattered across nearly 60 different residential areas; 670 families live in temporary apartments spread around the country.
Many are still in cramped temporary housing units, of which there were about 2000 around Minami Sanriku alone.
There are efforts to help repopulate the area in 28 new residential complexes, but only a dozen are being built.
Mr Sato acknowledged reconstruction, costing hundreds of millions of yen, was moving much too slowly.
"Disasters are a very cruel thing."
Getting tourists back to the town had been a challenge, "but we are still facing the serious issue, which is our declining population".
Residents have been fighting fiercely to restore the town to the bustling little resort it once was.
Planning is in progress for a new 8.9m seawall to shield Minami Sanriku against a one-in-100-year event.
Tourism and fishing, the two planks of the economy, have recovered to be about 80 per cent of what they were before the disaster.
The makeshift Minami Sanriku Sun Shopping Village, across the road from a heap of debris, has little more than a fish monger, a sportswear shop, a beauty parlour and a few other kiosks.
About 300 households no longer exist in the area, but there's hope the people will return, and the village seems to serve a more important purpose than a business hub anyway.
"Having this place for people to gather and talk is very important," one shopkeeper told the Herald.
Their optimism is echoed in messages written by primary school children, amid drawings of smiling faces, on a banner hanging at the local evacuation centre.
"We are all together," they read. "Move forward with courage."
"Please continue to value the heart that allows you to live on."
Out in Shizugawa Bay, fisherman Manuba Sugawara checks on his oyster farm, which after a year has begun to yield a livelihood again.
Many of the 33-year-old's friends were at sea when the tsunami bore down upon them. They never returned.
Of 1100 fishing boats that operated in the area, only 70 remained, and Mr Sugawara, who was not working that day, was able to flee with his family.
Those who survived kept themselves employed by clearing debris, and then began cultivating seaweed, which took much less time than shellfish to seed and harvest.
Asked whether he now feared being near the sea, Mr Sugawara said: "Of course." But fishermen knew it wasn't the ocean's fault that so many of their loved ones had died.
"It is true, people get nervous, but they hate the tsunami, not the ocean," said Noriko Abe, owner of the Minami Sanriku Hotel Kanyo.
"We have benefited directly from the ocean. A lot of people still love the ocean, despite what happened."
The bottom two floors of her bayside hotel were ravaged by the tsunami, but the building remained intact because of its solid rock foundation.
Feeling a duty to protect the town, she opened the hotel's doors to survivors with businesses or young families, most of them left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
"The town was swallowed in an instant by the tsunami. We were all devastated."
Not far up the coast road stands Togura Junior High School, the concrete building's doors and windows still boarded up since the tsunami's waves climbed to even its hilltop heights.
The school itself had been designated as an evacuation zone, but school officials had sense enough to move the children higher.
With the exception of one girl who died after being caught in a wave, the students survived as the tsunami engulfed their school below, before forming a swirling whirlpool above the building.
The 9.0 megathrust earthquake was powerful enough to send a tsunami crashing into 500km of coastline, but it was the Tohoku region's 160km or so of shoreline that bore the brunt.
Port towns like Minami Sanriko, Miyako and Inshinomaki gave shockingly disproportionate contributions to the disaster's overall death toll of some 16,000.
Today, recovery among business in the wider Tohoku region is chugging along slowly.
A survey by the region's university found just a third of businesses had earthquake insurance before the disaster, but those firms were able to cover only half the cost of damage.
Overall, earthquake insurance could cover only 13 per cent of the total damage caused by the earthquake, because of a low insurance contract rate.
The Government has been criticised for being "inactive", and responded by offering loans, to be repaid back once businesses have recovered.
Although business conditions are considered to be recovering, particularly in real estate and construction, which are prospering because of the rebuilding work, large firms arestruggling compared with before the disaster.
Many companies have shifted their headquarters away from seaside areas.
Agriculture is the slowest recovering industry, as farmland and fishing companies have been wiped out.
All along Tohoku's coast, hundreds "coastal measures" are being planned and built to better shield its exposed communities.
The work will combine hard engineering solutions such as barriers and breakwaters with natural obstacles such as raised dunes, hills and plantations dubbed "coastal disaster-prevention forests".
At Sendai, Tohoku's largest city, defences will put a breakwater, a forest, a canal, a hill and an embankment between the city and another tsunami.
More than 1500 homes within newly designated disaster risk areas are to be moved, with city support.
But the chief city official overseeing reconstruction, Mitsuya Suzuki, said that despite these measures, people needed to know the best protection against a tsunami was to leave the area immediately.
Because there was no means of communication, many of the 800 who died in the city had no idea a tsunami was washing through its suburbs, he said.
"The only defence against tsunami ... is to evacuate."
The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami
What: 9.0 undersea megathrust earthquake, tsunami reaching heights of up to 30m, nuclear power plant meltdown
Date: March 11, 2011
Affected areas: Northeastern Japan, primarily Tohoku region
Deaths: 15,883 (2651 missing)
Cost: $286 billion.
Monday: China's fight against earthquakes
Tuesday: New York after Sandy
Yesterday: Japan's tragic lesson
Today: Tohoku: life in the aftermath
Tomorrow: New Zealand: living with disaster.
Read Jamie Morton's previous stories in the series: tinyurl.com/mortonstories
Jamie Morton travelled to Japan as a fellow of the East-West Centre.