There were no smiles. There were no handshakes.
Yoshihiko Noda conceded nothing and angry protesters stormed out of the room on Aug. 22 after a 30-minute face-to-face confab between the prime minister and representatives of the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes.
The meeting at the Prime Minister's Official Residence in Tokyo came after months of weekly anti-nuclear protests outside Noda's office that have swollen from hundreds of people to thousands of irate citizens upset over Noda's decision in June to restart two reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.
"I don't think our demands meant anything to him," said a coalition member who attended the meeting.
Undaunted, the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes said after the meeting that the weekly protests will continue.
It all came about on July 31, when representatives of the group consulted with lawmakers who favor a gradual phaseout of nuclear energy. During that meeting, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he would act as an intermediary to try and set up a meeting with Noda.
The prime minister's office initially said the gathering would take place only if initial parts of the meeting would be disclosed and that there would no live television coverage. However, the prime minister's office eventually gave the OK for media coverage and a live broadcast of the entire meeting, coalition members said.
Both sides agreed to meet for just 20 minutes. The protesters agreed beforehand among themselves to avoid any conversations that could allow Noda to make long remarks.
"There will be no petition or negotiation," a group member said. "This will be a protest inside the prime minister's office."
The meeting got under way at 2 p.m. After Noda's opening remarks, the 10 members of the protest group demanded the shutdown of the restarted nuclear reactors and stressed the "change" their weekly protests have generated.
"There has long been an aversion to social movements and demonstrations in Japan," one of them said. "But that is undergoing a major shift now."
"Demonstrations are venues where people express their anger," another said. "The protesters are maintaining their strength because you (Noda) keep throwing fuel into the fire."
But Noda gave no nod of approval or recognition of their demands. Instead, he reiterated his government's policy of deciding on a mid- to long-term energy policy after listening to various opinions. He talked for three minutes in total.
When the allotted 20 minutes were up, the protesters demanded more time. They were given 10 minutes, after which they angrily left the room.
"There is almost nothing we can approve of," one of them said.
"Representative democracy is not functioning in Japan," illustrator Misao Redwolf, a key member of the protest group, said at a news conference after the meeting. "Nuclear reactors were restarted, although more than 80 percent of the people prefer a departure from nuclear energy."
"It was the dormant democracy of Japan that has been restarted," another group member said.
The weekly protests outside the prime minister's office in Tokyo have spawned similar protests in dozens of other cities across Japan.
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