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  1. Masses turn out to protest nuclear power

    By KAZUAKI NAGATA

    Staff writer

    Tens of thousands of people ranging from musicians, a Nobel laureate and residents of Fukushima Prefecture rallied in central Tokyo on Monday to vent their anger about the Fukushima power plant crisis and called for a society free of nuclear power.

    Despite the unseasonably hot and humid weather, the turnout for the Goodbye Nuclear Power Plants rally was impressive and likely one of the largest antinuclear rallies the country has ever seen.

    “As six months passed, we are starting to see things a bit clearer now,” Ruiko Muto, who is from Fukushima and a member of a Fukushima citizens’ group who are discussing the future of society after the decommission of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, told the crowd from the stage.

    “We now know that the facts (about the crisis) are not revealed, the government does not protect the people, the Fukushima accident is still ongoing . . . But there are people who still promote nuclear power,” she said.

    The rally’s various organizers were hoping for 50,000 people but estimated turnout to be around 60,000. The Metropolitan Police Department said it did not provide figures.

    At Meiji Park in Shibuya Ward, protesters were armed with colorful signs, banners and outfits to express their opposition, while well-known figures involved in organizing the rally made speeches to spur them on.

    Nobel laureate and author Kenzaburo Oe, who was among the organizers, said that while Italy held a national referendum on nuclear power and the people voted it down, Japan still has forces that want to promote it.

    In order to stop them, “what we can do is to have democratic public meetings and demonstrations,” Oe said.

    The event also drew hundreds of participants from Fukushima Prefecture.

    Muto told the crowd that since the March 11 disasters, the people in Fukushima have had to make decisions every day on matters ranging from whether to stay, leave, force children to wear masks, dry laundry outside or plow their fields.

    The participants took to the streets at around 2:30 p.m. and marched through the Aoyama and Omotesando districts as they made their way to Yoyogi Park, chanting slogans like “We don’t need nuclear power plants!” and “Tokyo Electric Power Co. must pay compensation to the victims!” Passersby in the street curiously watched the long lines of protesters, which included children and senior citizens.

    The huge turnout surprised even participants themselves, reflecting that the Fukushima crisis has triggered people’s awareness of the nuclear power issue.

    Kayo Nimura, a Tokyo resident in her 40s, said she had participated in an antinuclear demonstration before but was surprised to see Monday’s response.

    She said she was never really interested in nuclear power until March 11.

    Yet “because of what happened, I did some study and found out that many things appear skeptical, such as Tepco’s management, how electricity prices are decided and what to do with nuclear waste,” said Nimura, who came with her parents who are originally from Fukushima.

    In addition to Oe, the event was designed by several anti-nuclear power celebrities including musician Ryuichi Sakamoto and freelance journalist Satoshi Kamata and author Keiko Ochiai.

    Since June, they have been trying to collect signatures of 10 million people who agree to getting out of nuclear power dependence, such as not to build any new nuclear power plants and decommissioning existing plants in a planned manner. On Monday, the organizers said they have gathered about 1 million signatures so far. They will continue collecting signatures until next March and submit them to the Diet and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20110919x1.html

    Photos

    http://english.kyodonews.jp/photos/2011/09/115654.html

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