It takes more than a keen eye and an agile hand to give a semblance of life to the dead.

But for former police forensic artist Shuichi Abe, 65, it is a profession he aims to pass down through generations of police officers after his groundbreaking work in identifying victims from the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.

"The eyes and mouths have changed in autopsy photos. You have to think about when they were still living," said Abe, who is now retired from the Miyagi Prefectural Police.