Japan is preparing to mark two years since the devastating earthquake and tsunami which slammed into the country's north-east coast, killing nearly 19,000 people.

The magnitude-nine earthquake sent waves up to 40 metres high crashing into Japan's Tohoku coast, destroying or damaging 1 million homes.

The resulting tsunami left nearly 19,000 dead and nearly 3,000 unaccounted for, and helped to trigger the worst nuclear crisis in a quarter of a century at the Fukishima nuclear plant.

Two years on, more than 300,000 Japanese affected by the natural and nuclear disasters are still living in temporary housing.

It has been estimated it will take at least 40 years to decommission the Fukushima nuclear plant, with the compensation bill coming in at at least $33 billion.

Since the massive earthquake, Japan has been shaken by more than 10,000 aftershocks.