Tears, prayers and resolve to pass on lessons learned swept Japan on Thursday as the country marked 10 years since a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated its northeastern coast, with services to mourn the more than 15,000 lives lost held in the hardest-hit areas and Tokyo.

Residents in the severely affected prefectures of Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi observed a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m., exactly a decade after the huge quake shook eastern and northeastern Japan, triggering a tsunami and the world's worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl crisis.

Places for people to lay flowers were set up from the morning at various venues in the region, while some residents stood near the sea and other sites to clasp their hands together in prayer.