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JapanMonday, April 17

Reinvigorating Tohoku: Recovery Efforts in Minami-Sanriku

Today, we are in Miyagi prefecture at this brand new shopping center in Minamisanriku. When the massive tsunami hit this town, waves gushed in from that direction, rushing over everything for kilometers. It's been a long process, but the town has been rebuilding and trying to return to normal.

The first impression you get when you arrive in town is that an ordinary life still hasn't returned.

Most of what you can see is construction work, and what you can hear is the sound of bulldozers.

This used to be the hub of local life, filled with shops and houses.

But everything was shattered in 2011.

More than 800 people died or were never found -- a huge number for a small town. Thousands of survivors later decided to leave, dropping the population further.

Now, the town is being rebuilt. After some hard-learned lessons, it's being elevated by several meters so it will be prepared for a future tsunami.

Neighborhoods are being completed and some people have recently been able to move into new homes.

"We've been recovering up to now, and I hope it continues that way," says a woman, with her granddaughter.

Others are not so lucky.

No one in these temporary housing units would appear on camera. But they told us about their long wait for new homes. They're sticking it out because they don't want to leave their birthplace. They're hopeful, but know from experience things won't go back to how they were quickly.

But with the reopening of this shopping area, store owners are taking a first step towards that.

I met with Tadahiko Abe, the president of the shop union. He himself runs a Japanese tea shop which has more than a 100-year history.

"I'm proud that we're providing a place for our town to get together and connect," he says.

On opening day, people returned, regaining a sense of the community they'd lost.