The Tohoku earthquake triggered a huge tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear meltdown.
Candles spell out "3.11 memorial" in Japanese in Ishinomaki, a city in the Tohoku region.
Candles spell out "3.11 memorial" in Japanese in Ishinomaki, a city in the Tohoku region.
Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images

Five years ago, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck Tohoku, a region along Japan's northeastern coast. The March 11, 2011, disaster unleashed a massive tsunami, which produced waves up to 133 feet high locally and sent water surging as far away as the U.S. west coast.

The earthquake and tsunami left some 18,500 people dead or missing, according to Japan's national police agency. Experts say the Tohoku earthquake was the strongest ever measured in the earthquake-prone country.

The earthquake and tsunami also triggered the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power station over the following few days. Radioactive material was released into the surrounding atmosphere and sea, and over 160,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes.

A Tokyo pedestrian walks past a display of messages mourning the victims of the earthquake.
A Tokyo pedestrian walks past a display of messages mourning the victims of the earthquake.
Masashi Kato/Getty Images

Shortly after the disaster, the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company vowed to rebuild and restore the affected regions. The government has since been criticized for its inadequate nuclear decontamination efforts, and three former power company executives were charged last month with failing to take measures to prevent the nuclear disaster.

On Friday, people across Japan paid tribute to the victims of the Tohoku earthquake, from a moment of silence at a Shizuoka baseball stadium to candles arranged to form the 3/11 date.

Take a look at how Japan remembered the disaster in the photos below.

Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images
People pray for the earthquake and tsunami victims as candle boats display "3.11" -- for March 11, the day the earthquake struck -- in Kamaishi, a city in northeast Japan.
David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
People pray in a lighted dome in Tokyo.
David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
A woman prays in a dome in Tokyo.
David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Messages remembering the disaster and its victims are displayed on the window of a Tokyo store.
Ken Ishii/Getty Images
A woman throws flowers into the sea at Fukanuma beach in Sendai, a city in the Tohoku region.
Ken Ishii/Getty Images
People release balloons in Sendai.
Ken Ishii/Getty Images
A boy walks among paper lanterns marking the fifth anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake in Natori, a city along Japan's east coast.
STR/AFP/Getty Images
The Tohoku Rakuten Eagles baseball team observes one minute of silence at a baseball stadium in Shizuoka prefecture.
Ken Ishii/Getty Images
A man touches a memorial engraved with the names of the earthquake's victims in Sendai.
Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images
Buddhist monks pray for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Minamisanriku, a town in the Tohoku region.

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