Leaders of the Tokyo 2020 bid on Saturday used their one official campaign event during the London Olympics to compare the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami with the devastation of Japan during World War II.
Yoshiro Mori, a former prime minister of Japan, said the 1964 Tokyo Olympics helped "reconstruct our country and join in again with the international community."
"We need to come back again," Mori said through a translator, describing last year's events as an "unprecedented disaster. Now we would like to show the people who supported us ... that we are certainly on the way to recovery."
The earthquake and tsunami hit Japan's northeast coast and killed more than 19,000 people.
Tokyo is competing for the 2020 Summer Games hosting rights with Istanbul and Madrid. The International Olympic Committee will choose a winner in September 2013.
An IOC technical assessment of the candidates' potential projects appeared to place Tokyo as the early favourite.
Tokyo's rivals also have well-documented issues, regarding the struggling Spanish economy and perceived conflicts between Istanbul's bid and Turkey's wish to host football's 2020 European Championship. UEFA has said Turkey can't do both events in the same summer.
Masato Mizuno, Tokyo 2020 chief executive, insisted Saturday that a "tough race" would be just as difficult as the four-city contest for the 2016 Summer Games won by Rio de Janeiro.
Tokyo finished third behind Rio and bid leaders never convincingly showed that Japanese people truly backed their project.
Mori is vice chairman of a "2020 Council" aiming to generate public enthusiasm and help persuade the IOC this time round.
"We will make sure that 100 per cent of the nation will be in line wanting to host the Olympics," Mori said.