People gathered at memorial services throughout the day to honor the nearly 19,000 people who were left dead, missing or displaced following the devastating triple disaster.
At a memorial service Sunday, attendees bowed their heads and held a moment of silence to mark the exact moment the magnitude 9.0 quake struck off Japan's coast. The earthquake was the strongest recorded in the history of Japan and set off a tsunami that swelled to more than 65 feet in some areas along the northeastern coast, bringing widespread destruction.
Two years later, more than 300,000 people remain displaced and very little has been rebuilt along the battered northeastern coast. Tens of thousands of survivors living in temporary housing are impatient to get resettled.
"What I really want is to once again have a 'my home,'" said Migaku Suzuki, a 69-year-old farm worker in Rikuzentakata, who lost the house he had just finished building in the disaster. Suzuki also lost a son in the tsunami, which obliterated much of the city.
A change of government late last year has raised hopes that authorities might move quicker with the cleanup and reconstruction.
Since taking office in late December, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promised faster action. He says that the government intends to make "visible" reconstruction progress and accelerate resettlement of those left homeless.
"I pray that the peaceful lives of those affected can resume as soon as possible," Emperor Akihito said at a somber memorial service at Tokyo's National Theater.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.