Discuss as:

Fukushima disaster will make Japan 'stronger,' PM says

The 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that struck Japan is remembered across the country with memorial services and protests. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

TOKYO — Japan marked the second anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that swept through northern Japan, damaging more than one million homes and killing almost 19,000 people.

A moment of silence was observed at 2:46 p.m. local time on Monday at various locations where the scars of the disasters still remain.

While most of the debris has been cleared, progress has been extremely slow in redeveloping areas affected following the tsunami-triggered explosion at Fukushima Daicihi nuclear power plant.

More than 320,000 people remain displaced, many of them living in temporary housing units provided by the government.

Journalists have been given a rare glimpse inside Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was crippled in the 9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that hit the country two years ago. NBC News' Arata Yamamoto reports.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office in December, vowed to accelerate the speed of the reconstruction efforts and his government has already expanded the relief budget to $266 billion to subsidize many of these projects.

"Our ancestors have overcome many difficulties and each time emerged stronger," Abe said.

Meanwhile, thousands of anti-nuclear protesters marched in Tokyo. "People and the media are starting to forget Fukushima and what happened there," one 32-year-old mother of two at the demonstration told Reuters.

This fall, the operators of the plant will begin extracting fuel rods from one of the less-damaged reactor units to mark the start of decommissioning the nuclear facility. But without a clear plan to carry out the removal for the rest of the reactors, the process is expected to take at least 40 years to complete.

Reuters contributed to this report.

An earthquake, a tsunami, a nuclear meltdown -- residents of Japan's northeast coast suffered through three intertwined disasters after a massive 9.0 magnitude temblor struck off the coast on March 11, 2011.

This story was originally published on