Three weeks after a magnitude-9 earthquake triggered massive tsunami waves along Japan's northeast coast, mud, cars and debris were still piled high around a Sony factory in TAH-GAH-JOE.
A year later, most of the debris is gone, although repairs continue.
The streets around the factory have largely been cleared, though a few homes have been abandoned.
Today at the factory workers enter as repairs continue, they walk by dump trucks and large cranes on their way in, and park across the street from a lot piled high with stacks of smashed vehicles. Sony declined interviews and requests for access to the factory.
The plant is located is in Tagajo, a sleepy suburb of 61,000 residents. They were spared the utter devastation of other communities nearby, the 189 dead or missing a small portion of the 19,000 overall in Japan.
The factory is Sony's main production base for high-end video tapes, blank Blu-ray Discs, and other media products.
Sony is facing $3 billion in losses during the current fiscal year that runs through this month, weighed down by one-off costs like the earthquake and flooding in Thailand, but also because it’s struggling in a tough economy where consumers have plenty of options from foreign competitors. Incoming CEO Kazuo Hirai hasn’t ruled out more job cuts.
All along Japan's coast, a similar dynamic is unfolding. For residents that banded together in the days and months after the disaster, the adrenaline of surviving the first year is fading, and they are again faced with the reality of a stagnant economy.
With reporting by Jay Alabaster and Martyn Williams in Japan, Nick Barber, IDG News Service.