The Protest Movement in 2011 & 2012

Oe speaks at anti-nuclear rally to gather 10 million signatures

(& Buddhist Priests Join In)

Monks from Nipponzan Myohoji lead the march with an anti-nuclear Pure Land flag in the background

June 06, 2012


More than a year after the reactors first melted down, the cost of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, ensuing evacuations and an envisioned massive cleanup, is still impossible to comprehend in numbers.

For marchers who gathered in central Tokyo on June 6, the salient number is 10 million.

That’s how many signatures the organizers behind the “Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants” rally at Hibiya Park hope to gather in an effort to halt the planned restart of two reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.

Drawing nearly 3,000 participants, the march took a route past the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co. and to the edge of a district filled with government ministries and entities that many blame for leading the country to its nuclear predicament.

The rally began with songs by Tokiko Kato, a popular folk singer and long-time anti-nuclear activist, and drew such speakers as writer Keiko Ochiai, journalist Satoshi Kamata and the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Kenzaburo Oe.

“I think that March 11 has given us Japanese an important moral,” said Oe, who during last year’s initial call for self-restraint was one of the first major voices to speak against a nuclear future. “Nuclear energy is fundamentally mistaken. Even if it offers some success, when we look at it in the big picture it can only lead to damage and to our fall. I think that’s the lesson that we Japanese as a whole have come to realize.”

Oe also recounted how he himself helped gather signatures, standing in front of a train station together with a mother from Fukushima Prefecture, home to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, facing occasional rejection.

“Writing your name on a petition is no easy decision,” he said, which calls for an examination of each person’s stance. “Everyone has their own set of morals.”

The Citizens’ Committee for the 10 Million People’s Petition to say Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants began the drive in May last year. The group so far has collected 7.22 million signatures, which it plans to hand to the prime minister’s office in the middle of this month. For scale, Tokyo, which nearly 10 percent of all Japanese call home, has a population of 13 million. A previous rally in September drew 60,000 participants, according to organizers.

The petition comes just as the Noda administration is calling for a nuclear restart: All of the country’s functioning 50 reactors have been offline for maintenance since May 5. Yet about a third of the country’s power needs are served by nuclear power. Officials are anxious to get the reactors running again–starting with the Oi facility–to avert possible power shortages during the summer and a later drag on the economy.

Rev. Hidehito Okochi and Rev. Kobo Inoue (Jodo denomination)

The petition makes three demands: An end to the building of nuclear power plants; total shutdown of plutonium-powered fast-breeder facilities such as the Monju prototype in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture; and an immediate shift in energy policy toward conservation and the use of other energy sources.

EXTRA: The rally was also attended as usual by the monks and lay people of the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist denomination. In addition, there was the unusual attendance of a few priests from the traditional Buddhist denominations; this time two Jodo Pure Land priests, one of whom was Rev. Hidehito Okochi, a leader of the Inter Faith Forum for the Review of National Nuclear Policy. The Lotus Sutra tradition of Nipponzan Myohoji and the independent Pure Land tradition have  historically been rivals for the devotion of the Japanese people. On this night, despite their different forms of chanting, they were united in the struggle for a non-nuclear Japan and the sanctity of life in this and future times. View videos of their march below: 

Masses turn out to protest nuclear power
Tokyo rally draws estimated 60,000

Over 50,000 Rally at Meiji Park against Nuclear Power

After a short summer lull, the Japanese anti-nuclear movement has actually grown stronger with the largest mass rally to date. Compared to the Spring, the average person on the street not participating in the rally appeared more sympathetic and sometimes even supportive as the rally passed by. Still, besides a core group of dedicated alternative youth, young people were not well represented at the rally. Young teens seem to caught up in posing and playing amidst consumer brand name shopping districts, and even more disturbing, there is a continual lack of university student organizations at these rallies. Buddhist groups, outside of the dedicated Nipponzan Myohoji Order, were also absent. With 14 Buddhist denominations with over one million followers respectively, not including a nationwide total of 340,000 priests, it was remarkable that outside a few individuals, there were no groups of self-identified Buddhists at the rally. As public opinion is now clearly against nuclear power with differences only in how fast it should be phased out, Buddhism’s lack of participation shows its continuing struggle to provide leadership on important social and ethical issues. – Jonathan Watts (JNEB representative)

The Nipponzan Myohoji Peace Drum

listen and watch
more youtube video footage:
1) large crowds
2) alternative youth party and protest

The Japan Times Monday, Sep. 19, 2011
By Kazuaki Nagata – Staff writer

Rev. Hidehito Okochi of the Inter Faith Forum for the Review of National Nuclear Policy

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.

Disinterested teens at the Harajuku shopping district as protesters march by

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.

Demonstrations against Nuclear Power Blanket Japan


Asahi Shimbun 6/12/2011

Marking three months after the crisis erupted at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake, protesters marched against nuclear power generation in rallies across Japan on June 11. In Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, where about 20,000 people participated in a march that started at about 3 p.m., 43-year-old company employee Makoto Saito joined the protest along with his wife and two sons. “Above all things, I care about my children’s future. There is no way except for suspending the operations of nuclear power plants immediately,” said Saito, who was taking part in a demonstration of this kind for the first time.

The protests across Japan were organized, through the Internet and other means, by environmental and other groups under the title, “6-11 Datsu-Genpatsu 100-Mannin Action” (June 11 nuclear power generation-free one million people action). Organizers have held similar demonstrations in Tokyo since the accidents took place at the Fukushima plant in the aftermath of the March 11 quake and resulting tsunami, which swamped the plant.

According to the groups, demonstrations and other anti-nuclear events were held on June 11 at about 140 sites across Japan, including Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima and also Fukui Prefecture, where four nuclear power plants are located. Demonstrations and rallies were also held in parts of Fukushima Prefecture where the Fukushima No. 1 plant is sited. In Koriyama, in the central part of the prefecture, about 200 people marched while holding placards that read, “No More Fukushima” and “Return our hometowns.”

Apparently due to the accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the radiation level in Koriyama remains more than 20 times higher than that in Tokyo. Madoka Hashimoto, a 36-year-old homemaker from Sukagawa in the prefecture, took part in the demonstration while wearing a mask with the attached message, “I cannot even take a deep breath.” “To tell the truth, I don’t want to take part in a demonstration. But I thought that we have to raise anti-nuclear voices from local areas (in Fukushima Prefecture),” she said.

Rallies and demonstrations against nuclear power were also held overseas in June 11 in cities such as Paris, Melbourne, Hong Kong and Taipei. In Paris, several thousands of people gathered in front of the city government building and expressed their solidarity with the Japanese who were calling for a nuclear-free world. Lawmakers from the Europe Ecology-The Greens and other political parties spoke against the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy, which is promoting the generation of nuclear power.

Protests Challenge Japan’s Use of Nuclear Power

New York Times June 11, 2011
by Hiroko Tabuchi

Anger over the government’s handling of the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant has erupted in recent weeks after revelations that the damage at the plant, and the release of radioactive material, was far worse than previously thought. Mothers worried for their children’s health, as well as farmers and fishermen angry about their damaged livelihoods, have been especially critical of the government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan.The disaster has also prompted a national debate about Japan’s heavy reliance on nuclear power despite the country’s history of devastating earthquakes and a deep public distrust of the nuclear industry. In perhaps his sole move that has won popular support, Mr. Kan ordered the shutdown of a separate nuclear power plant in central Japan until it can bolster its tsunami defenses. But recent politicking in a gridlocked Parliament has added to the public’s disenchantment.

“We now know the dangers of relying on nuclear power, and it’s time to make a change,” Hajime Matsumoto, one of the rally’s organizers, told a crowd in a central Tokyo square that eventually grew to about 20,000 people, according to organizers’ estimates. “And, yes, I believe Japan can change,” he shouted, as the crowd roared back and people pumped their fists in the air.

Supporters of the rally here in Tokyo, and in coordinated events in many other cities in Japan, say the demonstration was remarkable not because of its size, but because it happened at all in a country that so values conformity and order. “The Japanese haven’t been big protesters, at least recently,” said Junichi Sato, program director of the environmental group Greenpeace Japan, who said he had organized enough poorly attended rallies to know. “They’re taking the first steps toward making themselves heard.”

Many in the crowd said they were protesting for the first time. “I’m here for my children,” said Aki Ishii, who had her 3-year-old daughter in tow. “We just want our old life back, where the water is safe and the air is clean.” Her daughter wore a sign that said “Please let me play outside again.” Hiromasa Fujimoto, a rice and vegetable farmer, said it was his first protest, too. “I want to tell people that I’m just so worried about the soil, about the water,” he said. “I now farm with a Geiger counter in one hand, my tools in the other.” “It’s insane,” he added.

And while the rally started in a typically orderly way — “Let’s all remember good manners!” organizers said at the start, as protesters lined up in neat rows — the crowd eventually took a more rowdy turn. As protesters congregated in a Tokyo square after several marches through the city, there were some confrontations with the police. A police officer who refused to give his name explained breathlessly that protesters had not been given permission to congregate in the square. “Disperse immediately!” police officers shouted through megaphones. “Shut up and go away!” a young man screamed back. About 9 p.m., however, police officers forcibly moved in to break up the crowd. There was some pushing and shoving, but no serious skirmishes. Still, Mr. Matsumoto, the organizer, looked elated. “Who would have thought so many people would turn up?” he said. “I think that Japan is on the cusp of something new.” But some passers-by were less enthusiastic. “What can they really do?” said Airi Ishii, 21, a shopper who had stopped to watch the rally with her boyfriend. “It looks fun, but if you think anything will change, it’s naïve.”

Thousands Rally Again in Tokyo
as PM Kan Calls for Close of Hamaoka Reactors

TOKYO, May 7, 2011 (AFP) – Thousands of people rallied in Japan Saturday to demand a shift away from nuclear power after an earthquake and tsunami sparked the world’s worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl a quarter-century ago. Braving spring drizzle, thousands of demonstrators gathered at a park in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, many holding hand-made banners reading: “Nuclear is old!” and “We want a shift in energy policy!” The protest came a day after Prime Minister Naoto Kan called a halt to operations at a nuclear plant southwest of Tokyo because it is near a tectonic faultline, fearing a disaster like that which hit the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March. “I’m happy to see the prime minister finally taking action,” said protester Manami Inoue, 28, who had a black and yellow “No” sign around her neck. “But I want to know when the plant will really stop operations,” she said. Organisers had said they expected about 15,000 people at the rally, with word spread through online social networks. Kan said Friday he was ordering the suspension of operations at the Hamaoka plant 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the capital while a higher sea wall was built and other measures taken to guard against quake and tsunami damage. The ruling party has said it would review government energy policy after the stricken Fukushima plant leaked radiation into air, soil and sea and forced the evacuation of 85,000 people living near the plant. But it said it would not abandon nuclear power.

CNN iReport – Today in Japan’s Capital about 5,000 people joined together to protest Japan’s continued reliance on nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.   The group gather in  Koenji and for 3 hours the parade made it way through Shibuya, a hip shopping district for Tokyo’s 20 somethings.   Hundreds of police were on hand to contain the crowd, the largest that Japan has ever seen.  One thing is for sure, it’s a new Tokyo. The protest was peaceful and well organized. ‘There wasn’t any clashing with police or other people – [they] were simply protesting and sharing their views. [The protestors] were chanting a song in Japanese that translates to ‘nuclear energy is dangerous, we don’t need nuclear energy,’’ said ShootTokyo. – nhieatt, CNN iReport producer

See youtube video links:

Thousands march against
nuclear power in Japan

(including some Buddhists)

Monk and lay followers of Nipponzan Myohoji march from Shiba Park

April 24, 2011 TOKYO (AFP) – Thousands of people marched in Tokyo on Sunday to demand an end to nuclear power in Japan and a switch to alternative energy after the crisis at an atomic plant hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Brandishing placards bearing the slogan: “Bye Bye Genpatsu” (Goodbye Nuclear Power), demonstrators — including many young people and families — walked along a route from Yoyogi Park in the centre of the capital. Organisers estimated 5,000 took part. Around 2,000 people took part in a separate anti-nuclear demonstration under the slogan “Anti-TEPCO,” referring to the operator of the atomic plant, held simultaneously a few kilometres away at Shiba Park.

“We are worried. Before Fukushima, I wasn’t thinking about it but now we must act, we must do it for our children,” said Hiroshi Iino, 43, who joined the “Energy shift parade” with his wife and two boys, aged five and nine. Schoolteacher Yoko Onuma, 48, said she was demonstrating for the second time since the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant where radiation leaks have forced the evacuation of some 80,000 people within 20 kilometres (13 miles) of the site. “Before, I wasn’t aware of the dangers of nuclear power,” she said. “But now we have to mobilise many people, as has happened in other countries, such as Germany.”

Greenpeace Japan director Junichi Sato, one of the organisers of the protest, said until now few had protested about nuclear power following the quake-tsunami disaster which left more than 26,000 dead or missing. “Over the past month, everybody was focusing on the victims of the tsunami … on how to end the crisis,” Sato said. “Outside (in other countries), they jumped directly on the energy issue,” he said. “But mobilisation is going to increase in Japan.”

The issue of possibly phasing out nuclear power is now openly debated on the political scene in Japan. “We cannot do without nuclear energy, but we have to think about the way nuclear plants are built and the speed of their construction,” Katsuya Okada, secretary general of the ruling centre-left Democratic Party of Japan, said Friday. Before the tsunami which led to the shutdown of a dozen reactors, nearly 30 percent of Japan’s electricity was generated from nuclear power. Resource-poor Japan is highly dependent on Middle Eastern oil but its high-tech companies are also world leaders in many environmental and energy-saving technologies.

Youtube video links of the march:

Nipponzan Myohoji monks at Shiba Park

Nipponzan Myohoji monks march from Shiba Park

Nipponzan Myohoji monks march in front of Tokyo Electric Power Company

A monk from the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist denomination demonstrates in front of the Japanese Prime Minister’s Official residence. April 15, 2011.

Please Stop the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant

One major earthquake can jeopardize the fate of an entire country. But this is not a question of life or death for one country. This can jeopardize the fate of the world.

Such is the overwhelming natureof atomic power.

We must understand how “the use of nuclear power” and “the sustainability of life” are incompatible.

The extreme suffering of Fukushima today should not become the Shizuoka of tomorrow.

It is our duty to the world to carry this out.

We cannot allow Japan to become a country that spreads radioactivity. In order to take a step in showing our self-critical reflection and revival, we must show to the world first that we can stop the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant.

With palms together,

Sramana Gyoju Ishihashi

Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Denomination

March 20, 2011

Anti-nuclear protesters and a monk from the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist denomination protest outside Tokyo Electric Power Co’s headquarters building in Tokyo April 5, 2011. The sign which the woman is holding reads “Anti-nuclear plants. Never forgive Tokyo Electric Power.” REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

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