A year ago, when the powerful 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami struck the coast of Japan, thousands of families were affected and many lost their loved ones.

It was during this time that a young mother, searching for her lost son, was captured on camera by Tadashi Okubo of the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper. Her photograph became an iconic image of the disaster that destroyed thousands of lives.

Born in the city of Ishinomaki, Yuko Sugimoto lost her husband and child when the 9.0 magnitude earthquake completely destroyed the place.

The photograph, which was taken on March 13, 2011, showed Sugimoto looking in the direction of the kindergarten where her 4-year-old son Raito used to go. The kindergarten was partly submerged and surrounded by piles of debris.

At that point, I thought there was only about a 50 per cent chance he was alive. Some people told me the children at the kindergarten were rescued, but others told me that somebody had seen the children all swept away by the tsunami, the Daily Mail quoted Sugimoto saying.

It was only when she found her husband that both began the hunt for their lost child. They found their child the very next day. He and some other children had been rescued by the military from the roof of the kindergarten the morning after the tsunami.

It has been a year since the devastating earthquake and although much of the debris in the region has been removed by restoration operations, life for Sugimoto and her family has still not returned to normal.

The house they built four years ago was submerged nearly upto its second floor and they lost most of their belongings. What remains is a 31-year-mortgage of around 25 million yen ($310,000) they still have to pay.

Take a look at the iconic tsunami image of Sugimoto and the images after she found her lost family: