Asia Bizz: The tiny Asian nation of Japan woke up with a heavy heart on Sunday, March 10, 2012 with people gathered in many places across the country remembering loved ones lost in the devastating earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands of people exactly one year ago. The natural disaster also led to the world’s worst nuclear crisis in the past 25 years.

Photo: AP Photo/Kyodo News

Thousands of people offered prayers, wept for those who lost their lives and observed a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m. local tome, in remembrance of horrifying earthquake that struck the island nation on March 11, 2011.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda addresses a crowd at a memorial service Tokyo theater. He said, “A lot of lives were lost … I feel the grieving families’ pain and I cannot express my sorrow enough.” People laid flowers at a shrine set up outside the theater to remember the thousands of lives lost.

Japan’s Emperor Akihito said, “I’d like to express my mourning for the people who passed away a year ago … almost 20,000 died and others remain missing. Many of them were firefighters.”

On March 10, 2011, a 9.0-magnitude quake struck the nation and triggered a massive tsunami which saw millions of people losing their homes. The disaster claimed around 16,000 lives and 3,000 are still missing. More than more than 100,000 people were displaced following a radiation leak at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility.