It was Japan's worst disaster since World War Two and the worst nuclear meltdown since Chernobyl in 1986.
Japan remembered on Monday the almost 19,000 people killed in the March 11, 2011 tsunami that displaced more than 300,000 people and destroyed eastern coastal towns.
Two years ago at 2:26 p.m., an undersea megathrust 9.0 magnitude earthquake rumbled in the Pacific Ocean, and soon a tsunami struck Japan's northeast, carrying away homes and cars like broken debris.
On Monday, people in Tokyo and in towns across Japan bowed their heads in a moment of silence for the people they lost.
"I pray that the peaceful lives of those affected can resume as soon as possible," Emperor Akihito said at Tokyo's National Theater.
Two years on and Japan has struggled to rebuild barren towns and decontaminate areas suffering from radiation released during the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant meltdown.
"What I really want is to once again have a 'my home,'" Migaku Suzuki, a 69-year-old farm worker who lost his son and home, told the Associated Press.
About 310,000 people are still without permanent homes, according to Al Jazeera.
More from GlobalPost: Japan: Tsunami town mayor says survivors were abandoned
The Fukushima plant is now stable, according to Reuters, and undergoing a "cold shut down" that the newswire says will cost billions of dollars. Many of the 160,000 people who escaped from the area will be unable to return.
Here's a look back at amateur footage that captured the horrible power of the tsunami: