Damage in Japan may not be visible, but still present

March 8, 2012 10:00:00 PM PST
Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of the quake and tsunami which killed nearly 16,000 people. The destruction was beyond imagination, but the recovery has been almost equally impressive.

Sendai is the closest big city to epicenter of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake, and the tsunami came through, but you wouldn't know it just looking around today.

This was Sendai, population one million, on the afternoon of March 11, 2011. First, the 9.0 magnitude earthquake rattled not just this city, but much of the nation of Japan.

"I was driving in Chiba and the road was buckling," resident Kyoko Mitoh said.

Then, the tsunami - a wall of dark water - rolled through the town, washing away homes and businesses and lives, and leaving deep emotional scars. More than 20,000 people died, and more than 340,000 were left homeless in winter conditions.

For the Japanese, this is one of those days when everybody remembers what they were doing when it happened.

But in downtown Sendai on Friday night, the snow was falling as it did last year at this time.

The lights were on. People walked the streets, ate at restaurants and the damage wasn't so easily seen.

Not here in the big city, at least. Sendai being home to so many people, it got a lot of attention and a lot of the recovery effort.

It was smaller towns that didn't get as much of the recovery effort, where the cleanup has taken place and the debris is gone, but nothing has yet been built in its place.

And of course, there's the evacuation zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where people who lived there are being told they will not be allowed to come back for years.

Volunteers now are saving the pets left behind when the people around the nuclear plant were forced to evacuate in a hurry.