Google Maps gives the world an opportunity to see how far the people of Tohoku have come since a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami turned their lives upside-down.

Life has long since returned to normal for most of Japan since the devastating earthquake and tsunami that tore up much of the northeastern coast on March 11, 2011. For those living in areas not heavily affected, the day and weeks following remain a not-too-distant memory, but for the people who call the Tohoku region home, it’s something they are still living through each day.

Recovery is ongoing, albeit slowly, and Google Maps has been documenting the progress along the way through its “Great Tohoku Earthquake Archive Project”.

▼ Miyako City, Iwate

The project began in July of 2011, just four months after the earthquake. Its aim is, by using Google’s Street View technology, to record and expose the aftermath to the general public, and to preserve those images for future generations in the hopes that the realities of large earthquakes are not forgotten.

▼Onagawa, Miyagi. Affected buildings were demolished in 2013, and work is currently being done on the highway in front of the Onagawa area medical center.

Three years after the earthquake, Google updated the Street View of affected areas, capturing the (slow, often stagnate) progress of clean up and renovation. In the jump from the third to fifth year following the disaster, you can see significant improvement in many areas.

▼Higashimatsushima City, Miyagi

But there is still visible evidence of the disaster everywhere.

▼In Naha, Fukushima, you can still see flex containers filled with contaminated soil.

You can see the evolution of various areas in their video slideshow of disaster areas.

In addition to Street View, the project “Mirai e no Kioku” — or “Memories to the Future” — allows local to share photos through Picasa and videos through YouTube, using the tag MIRAIKIOKU to spread the word and allow users from all over the world to share in their memories, from the current state of Tohoku to the joy and beauty of the region that was taken so suddenly from them on that fateful day five years ago.

Source: Google Japan Blog
Top image: YouTube/Google Japan