Keito Hirabayashi

People protesting on Tokyo Streets (Courtesy: Tokyo Shinbun)

The Fukushima meltdown has inspired a whole new generation of public  protest in Japan, with different chants, music and ways of organizing. There has been much discussion of the role of Facebook and Twitter in protests around the world and Japan is no exception. On Sunday (June 24) about 2000 people staged a protest in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, which is the Prime Minister’s electorate. Many of the participants had heard about this protest on social networking sites and this type of demo was dubbed ‘imadoki’ (demo of today) by Tokyo Shinbun. It was remarkably well-organised, beginning with ‘occupying’ the Sobu line train, which runs from western Tokyo to Funabashi. The train to board was the 12.43 from Mitaka. Participants all wore yellow (also the color of the train) and occupied the first 2 carriages, so it was easy to identify each other when they boarded the train from different stations along the way. When the train crossed the border from Tokyo into Chiba, a cheer went up from the people in yellow.

The idea for the demo came from Hizumi Kazuo, a lawyer and journalist who was working, until his death, on TEPCO’s responsibility for the Fukushima disaster. In fact this idea was one of his last tweets before passing away on the 12thof this month and one reason for organizers was to honor his dying wish of holding the ‘rakusen demo’ in Funabashi in order to ensure that PM Noda looses the next election.

Independent journalist Tanaka Ryusaku reports one of the local women’s comments— that Noda seemed like he was on the side of the people when he used to stand in front of the train station and campaign. Even when he became PM he promised that Japan would move away from dependence on nuclear power “and I believed him” she commented. “I was betrayed. Now I wish I could take my vote back.”

Protestors occupying the Sobu Line train. Photo:Tanaka Ryusaku