And The Anti-Nuclear Protests Continue…

Monday was a national holiday here in Japan, and thousands of people gathered on their day off to participate in a huge antinuclear rally and march. The event started with a rally in Yoyogi Park. The organizers claim that over 170,000 people were in attendance, which would make it the largest rally since the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in March of last year. I suspect the actual number might have been somewhat lower, but it was definitely an impressive number of people—-official estimates of participants always vary, with official police estimates tending to the low side and organizers tending toward the high. But the fact that it was a very hot and humid day in Tokyo makes this number all the more impressive.

Photo: Mainichi Shimbun

The event was called 「さようなら原発10万人集会」, which is awkwardly translated as “100,000 People’s Assembly to say Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants.” You can take a look at the official website for the event here (in Japanese). The rally included speakers and live music, and afterward, participants divided into three courses to march to Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ebisu respectively. I took the first picture above from an upper floor of the Shibuya Hikarie shopping center–I think it’s the Shibuya course, which was headed up by participants from the Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs (commonly known as Gensuikin) and Peace Forum. The Shinjuku course was led by the Japan Confederation of Railway Workers’ Union and the National Confederation of Trade Unions. The Ebisu course was led by NGOs and private citizens. But there were a much larger number of groups and individuals involved, of course.

These anti-nuclear rallies have been going on pretty consistently (albeit on a much smaller scale) since the March 11 disaster. I periodically notice marches coming through Shibuya, where I live, and at big events, such as the recent Mitama Matsuri at the Yasukuni Shrine, or at major train stations, you will often see people handing out flyers for upcoming evenings. Every protest I’ve seen has been very peaceful. The late-night ones that come through Shibuya are often accompanied by soundtrucks playing dance music, giving the marches a festive feel. It’s an interesting public display. And regardless of your feelings about nuclear power, it’s really interesting to see people coming out to express their opinions like this in Japan, which has often been noted for its relatively docile civil society. According to the Mainichi Shimbun and various other sources, a weekly antinuclear rally has been held every Friday for months in front of the prime minister’s residence in Tokyo, and it has been drawing an increasing number of people. Civic groups staging the event say a June 29 meet drew 200,000 people but the Metropolitan Police Department put the total count at around 17,000. (As I said, police and organizer estimates are often quite different–the truth is clearly somewhere in between the two numbers, but it can be difficult to make an accurate guess given these large discrepancies.).

Lots of stuff happening in Tokyo lately!

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