All elementary and junior high schools in the central Japan areas hit hardest by a powerful quake three weeks ago were back operating on Monday, in a sign some aspects of life in the badly damaged area are returning to normal.

In Ishikawa Prefecture, the final two schools in the city of Suzu and all nine schools in the town of Noto resumed classes, meaning students are back at all 20 elementary and junior high schools that were closed in the municipalities in the wake of the temblor.

Junior high school students in Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture, go to school on Jan. 22, 2024, as classes resume after the city in central Japan's Noto Peninsula was hit hard by a powerful earthquake on Jan. 1. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Roughly 140 junior high school students from the areas on Sunday left their families to travel more than 100 kilometers to the prefectural capital of Kanazawa where they will continue their studies in more suitable surroundings.

The magnitude-7.6 earthquake hit the Noto Peninsula in the Sea of Japan prefecture on Jan. 1, claiming at least 232 lives and leaving more than 20 missing as of Sunday.

Transport has also been gradually recovering, with the JR Nanao Line between Hakui and Nanao stations resuming services Monday, with some limited express services made available.

At JR Nanao Station, the return of the trains brought relief to students, including Reona Hamamichi, a 17-year-old attending Nanao High School who has evacuated from Wajima to Kanazawa.

"I was worried about whether I could return to school, but with the trains now running again, I'm able to attend. It's wonderful to reunite with my friends after a long time," the student said.

In Wajima, a nursery school became the first to reopen among the 11 that closed in the city.

The Kawai nursery opened to care for the children of workers engaged in relief efforts, looking after the children for free on weekdays from 8:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

"I am grateful (for the service) because I have to work," said Yuka Hikimochi, a 33-year-old employee of an electricity utility, who dropped off her two children, Nika, 6, and Taki, 3.

With no water supplies, the nursery has been forced to offer meals and snacks from relief supplies and has prepared makeshift toilets.

Kanae Uehata, 51, the temporary head of the nursery, cited the nursery's commitment to helping families, saying, "We want to provide child care so that everything can return to normal as soon as possible."

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