Crowds of protesters rallied on Wednesday as the Diet moved closer to passing bills for a defense policy change that could allow troops to fight abroad for the first time since World War II, despite opposition by many ordinary voters.

Demonstrators carrying banners that read "Scrap the unconstitutional war bills" lined the street near a hotel outside Tokyo where lawmakers were to hear public comments on the bills, which the government aims to get voted into law by the Diet's Upper House this week after committee approval.

It was the latest in a string of protests that, while smaller, echoed those that forced Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, to resign as leader after ramming a U.S.-Japan security pact through the Diet 55 years ago.