From a hillside above Ogatsu Bay drifts a sound that vanished from the area 4½ years ago.

The crescendo of children's giggles and excited squeals seems incongruous with what lies below, where the landscape is void of life, erased as it was by the March 2011 tsunami like chalk from a blackboard.

But in the playground of a once-deserted school, children are climbing trees, removing weeds from a rice paddy and carrying wood for a stove. Third-grader Daiki Yokota has spotted a small fish in the pond near the school entrance, while 7-year-old Sawa Kurahashi is chasing a butterfly.