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Tens of thousands anti-nukes in the streets of Tokyo

June 3, 2013


Anti-nuke protesters surround Diet building with Upper House election looming





Anti-nuclear organizations turned out in force in major protests in Tokyo on June 2, looking to have an impact on the Upper House election in July and protest the planned restart of nuclear reactors.

A ring of protesters measuring about 1.2 kilometers surrounded the Diet building on the evening of June 2. Organizers said the protest drew about 85,000 people, while the Metropolitan Police Department had a vastly lower estimate of about 20,000.

Those estimates failed to match the hundreds of thousands who turned out last year shortly before the government approved the resumption of operations at the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.

Kiyohachi Oda, 68, of Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, who has been attending weekly Friday night protests around the prime minister's office in Tokyo from last summer, admitted the enthusiasm of the demonstrators had weakened.

"If no one shows up, that will be equivalent to approving of nuclear energy," he said. "It will be important to continue the protest even if there is only one participant."

Among the three groups that organized the protest on June 2 were the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes, which has been organizing the Friday night demonstrations in front of the prime minister's office, as well as Genpatsu wo Nakusu Zenkoku Renrakukai (National conference on abolishing nuclear power plants).

Two separate gatherings were held in Tokyo in the afternoon.

At one gathering in Shiba Park, Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburo Oe was among those who spoke.

Noted author Keiko Ochiai said, "It will be important to bring back to the Upper House election those people who chose not to vote in last December's Lower House election. If we can do that, the momentum will change. We have to do everything that we can."

The two gatherings then held protest marches and by evening had reached the Diet building. Lawmakers from opposition parties, such as the Democratic Party of Japan, the People's Life Party, the Japanese Communist Party, Green Wind and the Social Democratic Party, gave speeches criticizing a resumption of operations at nuclear plants, of which 48 of the nation's 50 reactors remain off line.

A number of those who took part were regulars, such as a 33-year-old woman who works out of a temp staff company in Tokyo. She has been participating in the anti-nuclear protests from May 2012, in part, because she felt that public opinion was leaning toward resignation about the eventual resumption of nuclear plant operations.

In June 2012, the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly rejected an ordinance calling for a referendum on whether nuclear plants should resume operations, which had been forced onto the agenda after a petition drive collected 320,000 signatures.

While that defeat led to a drop in participation in the protests, the woman did not become discouraged.

"It will take a tremendous effort to have nuclear power plants decommissioned," the woman said. "I feel public opinion will change gradually through not just protests, but a continuation of various activities, such as a review of wasteful use of electricity."

Aki Hashimoto, 57, from Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, was directly affected by the nuclear accident and could empathize with the concerns raised by a farmer in Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture.

"People who come here will understand the anger of Fukushima residents who have been made to suffer even while no one takes responsibility for the accident," Hashimoto said.

She has attended the protests while occasionally taking time off from her work at a cram school. The results of the December Lower House election were a shock because the Liberal Democratic Party, which has been passive about moving away from nuclear energy, won overwhelmingly even in Fukushima Prefecture.

Although Hashimoto's home is located more than 50 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, radiation levels continue to be high. Her only daughter and newly born grandchild have evacuated to Fukuoka Prefecture in Kyushu.

"I am mortified by people who feel as though nothing has happened, even while there are residents who continue to be afraid of unseen damage," she said.

Protester Oda is also originally from Koriyama. Relatives who continue to live in the city have said that grandchildren who live in other prefectures have not visited since the 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Oda's cousin has also stopped sending rice and apples grown in Fukushima.

"There are many tragedies arising from the nuclear plant," Oda said.

There were also some protesters who were relative newcomers to the event.

Sachiko Asami, 38, of Yokohama, who works as a medical care clerical worker, only began joining the protests from last week.

She voted for a candidate in the December Lower House election who supported a shift from nuclear energy, but that candidate lost. That told her how high the hurdles were in politics to affecting change.

However, her interest in the nuclear issue increased after she learned about radiation levels in her neighborhood through Facebook, which she joined late last year. She also read posts from those who took part in the anti-nuclear demonstrations and decided to participate herself.

While she shouted her opposition to a resumption of nuclear plant operations, she also felt frustration that the participation of so many people still could not influence politicians.

"Politicians are the ones who make the final decisions," she said. "That means that elections are important. I want to call on others to vote in the Upper House election."

A 33-year-old man from Tokyo's Ota Ward took part in the protest with his wife and two children. It was his first time participating in such a demonstration. He agreed with the argument made that today's generation had to take responsibility for the sake of future children.

The man works for an equipment manufacturer and supports the economic policies of the Abe Cabinet. However, he does not support resumption of operations at nuclear plants. He also takes offense at the LDP stance that it was not responsible for the nuclear accident since it was in the opposition when it occurred.

"Public opinion polls show many people want to move away from nuclear energy," the man said. "Politicians should listen sufficiently to public opinion."

Keiko Hoshina, 67, of Tokyo's Nerima Ward, first participated in the protests in April after she came to realize that she was trying to put the nuclear accident behind her.

Since last month, she has begun her own survey of 100 colleagues and friends. Her only question is, "Are you in favor of moving away from nuclear energy?"

She does not force her own opinion on others, but hopes that people will also begin thinking seriously about the issue. She has so far asked about 50 people.

(This article was written by Takayuki Kihara, Kaigo Narisawa and Takuro Yagi.)

Large anti-nuclear rally held near Diet building





TOKYO (Kyodo) -- An anti-nuclear power rally Sunday near the Diet building in Tokyo drew 60,000 people, according to the three groups that organized the event, including one led by Nobel literature laureate Kenzaburo Oe.

The Metropolitan Police Department, which provided security for the event, said the number of participants was between 20,000 and 30,000.

The protesters marched to the Diet building after holding anti-nuclear rallies at a park in central Tokyo and a site near the Diet building earlier in the day.

"Resuming (operating) nuclear power plants is a betrayal to Fukushima," Oe said at the rally in Shiba park in Tokyo's Minato Ward, adding public opinion is strongly in favor of scrapping all of Japan's nuclear power plants.

The protest was organized by the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes, which has been holding weekly anti-nuclear rallies outside the prime minister's office since the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, and a group of labor unions nationwide.

Also taking part was a group led by Oe and other celebrities which has organized an ongoing antinuclear campaign -- "10 Million People's Action to say Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants" -- since the 2011 crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima Prefecture.


Rallies held to oppose restart of nuclear plants



Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Tokyo to oppose moves to bring the country's nuclear power stations back online.

Three groups organized rallies on Sunday. They say a total of 25,000 people attended.

At one of the rallies, Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburo Oe said restarting nuclear plants is a betrayal of the people affected by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in 2011.

Miyoko Watanabe, who used to run a farm near the plant, said she regrets believing the lie that nuclear plants are safe.

She voiced opposition to a government plan to export nuclear plant technologies. She said Japan should not take the wrong path by focusing too much on economic benefits.

The participants later marched near the Diet and the head office of Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the Fukushima plant.

Sunday's rallies came as plant operators across Japan are preparing to apply to restart their reactors once the government introduces new safety guidelines in July.

Only one of Japan's nuclear plants is currently online.

The operators are working to ensure their plants meet the guidelines that require them to withstand severe accidents and natural disasters.

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