Tens of thousands of people including musicians, a Nobel laureate and Fukushima residents converged on Meiji Park in Tokyo Monday to vent their anger about the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crisis and demand the abolition of atomic power.
Despite the unseasonably hot and humid weather, the turnout for the Goodbye Nuclear Power Plants rally was impressive in scale and one of the largest antinuclear rallies so far.
“As six months passed, we are starting to see things a bit clearer now,” said Ruiko Muto, a member of a Fukushima citizens’ group, told the crowd as she took the stage at the rally point in Shibuya Ward.
“We now know that the facts (about the crisis) have not been revealed, the government does not protect the people, the Fukushima accident is still ongoing . . . but there are people who still promote nuclear power,” she said.
The rally’s organizers put the turnout at around 60,000. The Metropolitan Police Department said it doesn’t provide crowd figures.
Protesters were armed with colorful signs, banners and outfits to express their opposition, while well-known figures involved in the event made speeches to spur them on.
Nobel laureate and author Kenzaburo Oe, who was among the organizers, said that while Italy held a national referendum on nuclear power and the people voted it down, Japan still has forces that want to promote it.
In order to stop them, “what we can do is to have democratic public meetings and demonstrations,” Oe said.
The event also drew hundreds of participants from Fukushima Prefecture.
Muto, whose group is studying the prefecture’s future after the Fukushima No. 1 plant is finally decommissioned, told the crowd that since March 11, the people in Fukushima have had to make decisions every day on matters ranging from whether to evacuate and force children to wear masks to such mundane tasks as drying laundry outside and plowing their fields.
The participants took to the streets at around 2:30 p.m. and marched through the Aoyama and Omotesando districts as they made their way to Yoyogi Park, chanting slogans like “We don’t need nuclear power plants!” and “Tokyo Electric Power Co. must pay compensation to the victims!”
Passersby curiously scrutinized the long lines of protesters, which included children and senior citizens.
The huge turnout even surprised the participants, hinting that the crisis had finally stirred something in the nation’s normally passive psyche.
Kayo Nimura, a Tokyo resident in her 40s, said she had participated in an antinuclear demonstration before but was shocked by Monday’s massive turnout, admitting she had never truly had an interest in nuclear power until March 11.
“Because of what happened, I did some study and found out that many things appear skeptical, such as Tepco’s management, how electricity prices are decided and their plans for nuclear waste,” said Nimura, who came with her parents, who are originally from Fukushima.
In addition to Oe, several other antinuclear celebrities also had a hand in the event, including musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, journalist Satoshi Kamata and author Keiko Ochiai.
According to their website (sayonara-nukes.org/english/), the organizers announced two plans for action in June. One was Monday’s rally and the other a drive to collect 10 million signatures from those who favor cutting Japan’s dependence on nuclear power by not building new atomic plants and by decommissioning existing ones in a planned manner.