Every morning before work, Kenichi Kurosawa refuels a kerosene lantern at an altar beside a large billboard that reads, “Ganbarō! Ishinomaki,” which can roughly be translated as, “Let’s keep going! Ishinomaki.”

Kurosawa created the signboard after his two-story house was smashed by towering waves set off by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck off the nation’s northeastern coast on March 11, 2011.

Since then, the 11-meter-long wooden panel has become a symbol of one of the deadliest natural disasters in Japanese history.