FUKUSHIMA – With energy policy turning into one of the focal points of Sunday’s Lower House election, more than 1,000 people opposed to atomic power staged a march in Tokyo on the eve of the poll to demand a nuclear-free society.
“Japan will face a crossroads tomorrow,” Yuko Tanaka, a professor at Hosei University, told a crowd of hundreds who gathered in Hibiya Park, Chiyoda Ward, on Saturday ahead of the march.
“Depending on the result of the election, I feel that Japan could wind up in hell,” she said, voicing fears that the final tally may fail to reflect the views of many citizens who want to see Japan’s nuclear plants scrapped.
The Liberal Democratic Party, which media polls show will oust the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and form the next government, has pledged to make efforts to reduce the country’s addiction to atomic energy, but it is not promising to do away with nuclear plants altogether. The party oversaw the creation and expansion of Japan’s atomic power industry during its long postwar rule.
The DPJ and many other parties contesting the election have meanwhile set the medium-term goal of eliminating all nuclear power plants as a key tenet of their platforms.
Hosei University’s Tanaka said she hopes an antinuclear party wins Sunday so her fellow activists won’t have to continue staging such rallies after the election. However, she is pessimistic about the final outcome.
Other protesters believe the demonstrations that have sprung up nationwide to oppose atomic energy since the start of the Fukushima No. 1 disaster should continue, regardless of the poll results.
“No matter which party takes power, we must not lower our voices for the abolition of nuclear power,” said Satoshi Kamata, a writer who has long warned of the dangers of atomic energy.
Kamata believes the antinuclear energy movement has significantly impacted society, and noted most candidates running in the election are campaigning on a promise to end Japan’s dependence on nuclear power.
After assembling in Hibiya Park, the demonstrators marched to the high-end Ginza shopping district despite rainy, chilly weather.
In addition to the rally, Japanese and overseas opponents of nuclear energy started the two-day Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World in Hibiya to discuss such issues as Japan’s atomic regulatory system and what politics and tactics to pursue in order to achieve a society free of atomic energy.
The conference, which activists from at least nine countries are attending, overlaps with an international nuclear safety gathering that also began Saturday in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, hosted by Japan and the International Atomic Energy Agency — the Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety.
Although the two events happened to coincide, organizers of the Hibiya conference said this presents an ideal opportunity to further their cause, by emphasizing the importance of abandoning atomic energy.
“It seems that the goal of scrapping nuclear power is not being taken seriously (in the election). . . . So the significance of the conference is really big and I think we will be able to send a strong message to the electorate,” said Tatsuya Yoshioka, an organizer and director of nongovernmental organization Peace Boat.
The inaugural Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World, held in Yokohama in January, drew some 11,500 participants.