Thousands rallied outside the prime minister’s office in Tokyo’s Nagatacho district to protest the government's decision to restart two reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.
The No. 3 and No. 4 reactors, operated by Kansai Electric Power Co., had been shut down for regular maintenance inspections. The No. 3 reactor is due to go back online on July 1.
Similar protest rallies were held across the country, including Osaka, which is served by Kansai Electric.
Many people joined the rally in Tokyo on June 29 in response to calls on Twitter. Holding banners and placards, the crowd filled the sidewalk on the way to the prime minister’s office.
Organizers said the crowd numbered 150,000 to 180,000, but Tokyo police estimated it at 17,000 strong.
“Make an honorable withdrawal from nuclear power generation,” one protester shouted.
“Listen to the people’s voices,” said another.
Protesters, shouting until they were hoarse, called on the government to unequivocally abandon nuclear power generation.
Protests outside the prime minister’s office have been a weekly occurrence since March. That event initially attracted only 300 or so people.
The number of people attending the rallies, held mainly on Fridays, has grown over time as a result of calls on Twitter and other social networking sites.
According to organizers, about 45,000 people attended the June 22 rally. The latest rally far outnumbered that figure, they said.
Chants of “Saikado hantai!” (We oppose the restart of the reactors) filled the street from 6 p.m.
People from all walks of life--homemakers with children, middle aged businessmen and the elderly--came over to join the demonstration until the crowd was spilling out onto the street.
A 36-year-old woman from Tokyo’s Adachi Ward, who came with her two sons, aged 7 and 3, said it was the first time she had attended the weekly rally.
“The government never cares about our lives,” she said. “I have been a silent observer so far, but I cannot stand aside any longer.”
In Osaka, an estimated 2,200 protesters gathered in front of Kansai Electric’s head office in Kita Ward, according to organizers.
Citizens’ rallies against the reactor restarts were also held in Nagoya, Nagasaki, Kumamoto and elsewhere.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda seemed to be taken aback by the noisy chanting as he left his office for the nearby official residence around 7 p.m.
At one point, he turned his head in the direction of the chanting, telling a police officer who was guarding him, “It is such a huge sound.”
Noda then continued on without pausing.
(This article was written by Takuya Sumikawa and Akiko Tada.)
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