Before setting off to work, restaurant owner Atsushi Niizuma quietly prayed to his mother Mitsuko at a seaside shrine in Fukushima.
She was one of the 20,000 victims in the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan 10 years ago, destroying entire towns and triggering the world worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl when it hit the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
Thursday marks the anniversary of the disaster and the shrine is a symbol for the survivors. It was barely damaged, even as the buildings around it were swept away.
"It's been ten years since the disaster, and this town finally looks like a town after new houses were built up during the recovery. Today I came here to tell the victims in this town that people have been returning to normal life with a feeling of gratitude."
At 2:46 p.m., the exact moment the earthquake struck, Emperor Naruhito and his wife led a moment of silence to honor the dead in a commemorative ceremony in Tokyo.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told the memorial ceremony that the loss of life was still impossible to contemplate.
The government has spent about $300 billion to rebuild the region, but areas around the Fukushima plant remain off-limits - a no-man's land - and worries about radiation levels still remain.
The work to decommission the plant will take decades and billions of dollars.
Japan is again debating the role of nuclear poweras the resource-poor country aims to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2050 to fight global warming, but a Japanese public TV survey showed 85% of the public worries about nuclear accidents.
Some anti-nuclear protesters rallied in front of the headquarters of the Tokyo Electric Power Co, the operator of the Daiichi nuclear plant Thursday night.