Popular Protest in Japan against Nuclear Power Plants

Yoshiko Kurita

Professor of Middle Eastern History, Chiba University, Japan.

Member, Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs

Although the Japanese government has decided to resume the activities of the nuclear power plants, a growing number of ordinary citizens are protesting against this decision.
The Japanese public are beginning to realize, after the tragedy at Fukushima, that having nuclear plants in a country like Japan ( where people are destined to live always in the face of potential danger of earthquakes….) is unrealistic and suicidal. Concerning the resumption of the nuclear plant at Ooii town ( which is the focus of the issue now,), the Japanese government has declared that they have found the plant “safe” enough, but many experts has pointed out that this “safety” theory is only a product of mere desk work, and nothing substantial has been done to redress the vulnerability of the plant.

On the evening of Friday, 29 June, nearly 150,000 people gathered in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence in the midst of Tokyo, protesting against the resumption of the nuclear plant at Ooii. ( According to some media, the number of the protesters was nearly 200,000. ) In spite of this popular protest, the Ooii nuclear plant resumed its activities on 1 July. However, on the evening of Friday, 6 July, again, nearly 150,000 people protested in frot of the the Prime Minister’s Residence. One week later, on the evening of 13 July, again, approximately the same number of people gathered and protested.

Protest movements have been taking place in other cities such as Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Fukui, Saga, and Sapporo. It is expected that popular protest will continue.

In the meantime, ( as has been already mentioned in this ML), the Japanese government has amended its “Atomc Energy Law” towards the end of June, and has openly declared that Japan is developing atomic energy for the sake of “improvement of its national securuty” !!.

This is extravagant, needless to say. How can we accuse Iran for its nuclear project which “might be (potentially) turned” for military purposes, while we (Japan) openly admit that we ourselves are developing nuclear energy for “security” reasons ? !

There are many criticisms against this absurd amendment. The Japanese “Committee for Seven for World Peace” ( a group of leading intellectuals interested in the cause of peace and democracy, the present secretary-general of which is Prof. Michiji Onuma, a Pugwashite) published a statement on 26 June, denouncing this amendment, and expressing the determination of the Japanese people never to develop nuclear weapons.


Barriers Fail to Stop Japan’s Anti-Nuclear Demonstrators

Courtesy: Wall Street Journal

Police cordons and closed subway exits didn’t stop Japanese protesters from carrying on a nearly four-month tradition of holding Friday-night anti-nuclear demonstrations in front of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s residence in Tokyo.

Protesters shout slogans during an antinuclear rally near Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s official residence in Tokyo | European Pressphoto Agency

The protesters turned up for the 16th such rally to protest the restart of the first nuclear reactors since the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and future restarts. The government approved the restart of two reactors at the Oi nuclear plant in western Japan last month amid concerns about electricity shortages in the peak-demand summer months, and one reactor is already online.

Since the first rally on March 29, the number of participants has grown from 300 to approximately 150,000 this week, according to the organizers. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department told JRT it doesn’t release its own estimate of the number of participants.

Last week, organizers said the number of participants was 150,000, but local media put the number at about 21,000.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department ordered that only one of the access points to the nearby subway station be open to people exiting the station, leaving the other three as entrances for workers going home. Police also limited the areas where protesters could stand and didn’t allow protesters to spill from the sidewalk onto the streets.

Though police have limited subway-station access at past protests, Akemi Orikasa, a 62-year-old member of the Katsushika Ward Assembly who had come to observe the demonstration, said he thought it was strange the police didn’t let protesters stand along the sidewalk directly in front of the prime minister’s residence this time.

“As the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, we put the utmost priority on preventing accidents happening to the participants, which is why we are taking these measures,” a Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson told JRT. He said that closing the street to protesters was important to prevent car accidents and to allow an ambulance to reach the scene in the case of a medical emergency.

As of 5 p.m. local time, more than 30 police officers were already stationed at the one working exit to the nearest station. While JRT saw two arguments between police and protesters who wanted to be allowed into the street, once the rally started at 6 p.m., the crowd became focused on chanting anti-nuclear cheers: “Against nuclear power! Nuclear power is a crime!”

Attendees waved handmade signs bearing slogans like “Fire Noda” and “Take back the Oi restart!.” Workers on their way home snapped photographs of the protesters and joined in the cheering before police ushered them through the crowd to the nearest station.

Retired couple Masumi Tobiyama and Yukio Tobiyama cheered together; he wore a straw hat decorated with the phrase “Goodbye Nukes.” Ms. Tobiyama explained that her husband had come every Friday but that this week was her first time. Flipping open her phone, she showed off a picture of her ninth grandson.

“I’m here so that he won’t have to live in a world with nuclear power,” she said.

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