A badly wounded nation has seen whole villages and towns wiped off the map by a wall of water, leaving in its wake an international humanitarian effort of epic proportions.
"The earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear incident have been the biggest crisis Japan has encountered in the 65 years since the end of World War Two," a grim-faced Prime Minister Naoto Kan told a news conference on Sunday.
"We're under scrutiny on whether we, the Japanese people, can overcome this crisis."
Officials confirmed three nuclear reactors north of Tokyo were at risk of overheating, raising fears of an uncontrolled radiation leak.
As Kan spoke, engineers worked desperately to cool the fuel rods in the damaged reactors. If they fail, the containers that house the core could melt, or even explode, releasing radioactive material into the atmosphere.
Kan also said the world's third biggest economy faced rolling power blackouts when it reopens for business on Monday.
Japan will need to go short term to more coal and natural gas power plant production as well as diesel for generators as many of the country's nuclear plants will be taken offline for safety inspections. That's leaving millions without power and water and facing sub-freezing nights. It's an epic disaster. My heart goes out to all of those affected.
I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to be there right now.