Discuss as:

Remains of the day: Tsunami debris creates striking images

Carlos Barria / Reuters

Remains from the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in Ofunato and Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture.

With a minute of silence, tolling bells and prayers, Japan will on Sunday mark the first anniversary of an earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and set off a nuclear crisis that shattered public trust in atomic power and the nation's leaders.

A year after the magnitude 9 earthquake unleashed a wall of water that hit Japan's northeastern coast, killing nearly 16,000 and leaving nearly 3,300 unaccounted for, the country is still grappling with the human, economic and political costs.

Along the coast, police and coast guard officers, urged on by families of the missing, still search rivers and shores for remains even though the chances of finding any would appear remote. Without bodies, thousands of people are in a state of emotional and legal limbo.

-- Reported by msnbc.com news services

Related content: Tsunami survivors in PhotoBlog

Slideshow: Then and now

Carlos Barria / Reuters

Remains from the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in Ofunato and Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture.

Carlos Barria / Reuters

Remains from the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in Ofunato and Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture.