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On Northeast Coast, Portraits Of Japanese Resilience

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On Northeast Coast, Portraits Of Japanese Resilience

Rebuilding Japan

On Northeast Coast, Portraits Of Japanese Resilience

On Northeast Coast, Portraits Of Japanese Resilience

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Riku Zentaka, Japan: Neena Sasaki, 5, carries some of the family belongings from her home that was destroyed after the devastating earthquake and tsunami. Paula Bronstein/Getty Images hide caption

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Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Riku Zentaka, Japan: Neena Sasaki, 5, carries some of the family belongings from her home that was destroyed after the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

NPR's Rob Gifford left Sendai near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan and headed north. He drove for two hours and ended up at a hill in the town of Rikuzen Takata.

It was snowing and the birds were singing. It all seemed so normal.

But a half mile away, at the bottom of the hill, the scene was of utter devastation: back hoes were clearing a path; debris covered the streets: there was a kitchen sink, clothes, blankets, things that used to be part of somebody's home.

And now, Gifford reports, it's just nothing.

Gifford made his way to the town's gymnasium, where many of the town's people have sought shelter and all the devastation of the outside was in stark contrast to the order inside. One woman who had lost everything was sorting the trash, separating glass, from cardboard and plastic so it could be recycled. Here's a bit of their conversation:

Rob Gifford From Japan

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Gifford spoke to another man, a long time resident and teacher:

Rob Gifford From Japan

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In the car, Gifford reports, the news on the radio was all about the earthquake —about the two million Japanese without electricity, the 1.5 million without water, the hundreds of thousands displaced. But one thing, said Gifford, that struck him was the resilience and the dignity of the Japanese people as they work to recover from an unthinkable disaster.

(Note that we'll post full audio of Rob's piece at 7 p.m. ET.)