Waving fans and guzzling water in the sizzling heat, protesters gathered in Tokyo over the weekend for another large demonstration against nuclear power.
While demonstrations with tens of thousands of participants in front of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s residence have become a Friday night tradition since March, Sunday was the first time demonstrators surrounded the Parliament building, a move reminiscent of the anti-U.S.-Japan security alliance rallies of 1959 and 1960.
Adults and children, carrying signs that read “Against restarts” and “Listen to our voices,” and even some signs that doubled as fans, marched near Hibiya Park in downtown Tokyo in the afternoon before moving to the Parliament building in the evening. For more than four hours, participants kept up a steady call of “Against nuclear power,” and people dressed in white radiation suits and gas masks banged on huge metal canisters.
Estimates were varied: organizers put the number of participants at 200,000, but local media cited police estimates of about 12,000.
As night fell, protesters gathered in front of the Parliament building to hear short speeches from representatives of Japan’s major political parties, including political kingpin Ichiro Ozawa’s newly-formed People’s Livelihoods First party. Some people held candles, while others made do with cell phones and flashlights.
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“There will definitely be another election within a year. When that time comes, I want to represent your voices.”
In between the politicians, a second-year middle school student also spoke, to a much more positive response from the crowd.
“Nuclear power is something that has a big impact on our lives and futures. So even children have the right to make a choice about nuclear power,” the student said. “If nuclear power plants continue to run, there could be another accident like Fukushima in my life. Even if one doesn’t happen, there will have to be nuclear trash thrown out in the future.”