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In June 2011, three months after savage tsunami devastated Japan’s northeast coastline, Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako were visiting Miyagi — one of the three hardest-hit prefectures — to get a firsthand look at the gut-wrenching aftermath of the disaster and commiserate with evacuees caught in the throes of shock, despair and grief.

In the months that followed, the pair made a similar trek to the two other prefectures, Fukushima and Iwate, kicking off what would become almost yearly visits to the Tohoku region.

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