Despite the scorching heat on Monday, July 16th, more than 170,000 protesters marched through Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park to demand the government bring an end to Japan’s use of nuclear power. As anti-nuclear protests have been occurring nearly every week since the end of March, this easily marks the largest in the series, as well as one of the largest demonstrations in Japan’s history. Recalling the Fukushima nuclear crisis from March 2011, demonstrators shouted in chorus to stop the return to nuclear power, and for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to quit his position.
Leading participants at the rally included Kenzaburo Oe, a winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, and Ryuichi Sakamoto, a renown Japanese musician and composer. One 71 year old evacuee from Fukushima stated his anger at the lack of progress in compensating the victims who have had to abandon their homes, as well as little being done in the decontamination efforts. He added that the people of Japan will not accept a return to nuclear power until the Fukushima case has been completely resolved. Today’s protest comes shortly after the first restarted nuclear reactor at the Oi, Fukui Prefecture plant returned to full operation last week, and just before the second reactor begins its activation process later this week.
The nuclear reactor restart was the first since the Fukushima plant was hit by the March 11th tsunami, and it also brought an end to Japan’s two-month hiatus on nuclear power. Prime Minister Noda gave his approval to restart the Oi facility, regardless of the rapidly increasing anti-nuclear sentiment among the Japanese people, as well as the independent parliamentary review that determined the Fukushima disaster was essentially man-made and could have been prevented. Yasunari Fujimoto, one of the demonstration’s organizers, says that they will continue to protest until the Japanese government understands it is going against the wishes of the people.