On Monday, about 100,000 peaceful protesters thronged the streets of Tokyo to stand in solidarity against the reactivation of nuclear power plants in the country. Protests have been a regular occurence over the last weeks as protesters have gathered to shout slogans and resist the return to nuclear power, the New York Times reports.
Organizers estimate that up to 170,000 people gathered to protest nuclear power, while police units say the crowd was closer to 75,000, Reuters reports. Either number makes the demonstration one of the largest that has occurred in Japan over the last few months of demonstrations.
At the end of June, another peaceful protest was staged outside of the national parliament building in Tokyo. This protest coalesced after Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, announced that the government would restart the Ohi power plant in the western part of the country in July in order to meet energy demands for the nation in the peak months of energy use.
The Ohi power plant has now been restarted and a few more are scheduled to return to power later in the month. Reports make it clear that the weather during the protest was stiflingly hot as demonstrators marched through the streets in mid-July.
Demand for energy during the hot summer months have clearly challenged the government, which used to rely on nuclear power for 30 percent of the energy produced in the country.
The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal point out that the protests are impeccably neat, organized and friendly. Campaigns have gone to great lengths to create an inclusive environment for families and first-timers. The marches that have occurred over the last few months have also always ended precisely at 8pm, when demonstrations are supposed to shut down for the day. The streets are often left nearly spotless once demonstrations have ended.
Those who oppose nuclear power in the country refer to the the Fukushima disaster of March 2011 that was caused by a major tsunami and earthquake. It caused a massive nuclear disaster, with many of the damaging effects still reverberating throughout populations in Japan, and in natural ocean resources.
Proponents of the restart believe that Mr. Noda is simply doing the best he can. The country is in need of energy and many supporters believe that nuclear power is the only way to avoid dependence on foreign energy imports.
The Wall Street Journal quotes one young woman who demonstrated in Tokyo on Monday. Her statement encapsulates the worry that the demonstrators feel about these decisions in energy policy: “I wonder whether we have to maintain nuclear power even putting our life at risk. I don’t think we have to.”
Photo Credit: Wikimedia 陳炬燵