This research aims to explore the problems encountered by children as they travel to school in a Japanese city after the disruptions of the Great East Earthquake and Tsunami 2011. Disaster recovery constitutes: short-term rescue/relief; mid-term reconstruction (temporary settlement while rebuilding community); and long-term recovery (long-term settlement and disaster mitigation). This study focuses on the impact on children's travel in a longer-term perspective. Little research has been published on longer-term impacts of disasters on the community despite the rich literature on evacuation and short-term travel behavioural changes after natural disasters. A retrospective qualitative analysis of 73 student cases in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, identified several critical and complex problems encountered during both the short- and long-term periods following the disaster. Student travel to school was compromised by: a) students being re-located to temporary residential accommodation a long way from their existing or new schools (compounded by limited transport services); b) post-disaster, school facilities had been destroyed or relocated, or were being used as temporary community shelters; and c) damage to road infrastructure, missing traffic signals/lights and debris that remained for a relatively long time after the disaster. The paper concludes with the policy implications for the different phases of recovery, and suggests directions for future research.