As crowds of anti-nuclear protesters near the Prime Minister's Official Residence reach as many as 90,000, the networks of small groups that have organized the Friday night demonstrations are becoming victims of their own success.
"Doing this every week interferes with work and has an effect on our daily lives," said Tokyo-based illustrator Misao Redwolf, one of the main organizers of the protests. "It becomes harder to schedule volunteers. There is a difference of opinion among the various member groups about whether we should continue or not."
The huge crowds of anti-nuclear protesters that have been gathering every Friday night are becoming an increasing burden on the organizers.
While the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes is the official organizer, it itself is made up of many small groups that have little experience handling crowds that organizers have said have reached as many as 90,000. Many of the groups have asked members to volunteer in controlling the masses that march near the Prime Minister's Official Residence.
The demonstration on July 20 was the 16th held so far.
One individual trying to direct traffic shouted, "Please do not push."
However, as the night progressed and more and more people converged on the scene, some protesters got into arguments with police after straying out of line.
The Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes used about 100 volunteers to organize the protest. However, some of the groups that make up the coalition were admitting they lack the experience of large labor unions that have organized events with large numbers of participants.
One of the 13 groups in the coalition is the Energy Shift Parade, which only has about 15 members.
Norimichi Hattori, 36, of Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, is one of the central members of that group.
"It is becoming more difficult to recruit staff to help organize the protests," he said.
Because he works at a planning company, Hattori himself only arrives at the protest site after his work day is over.
When the first protest was held in front of the Prime Minister's Official Residence in late March, there were only about 300 participants.
The number of protesters increased rapidly from about the time attention was focused on whether operations would resume at the Oi nuclear power plant, operated by Kansai Electric Power Co.
Even protest organizers now admit they never expected the demonstrations to turn into such a huge social phenomena.
On July 20, a 46-year-old company employee from Higashi-Murayama in western Tokyo participated for the first time because he felt he had to do something.
"The organizers and participants are all ordinary people," the man said. "I felt no reason for not taking part because it did not seem to have close ties to any major organization."
At the same time, the demonstrations have not stopped the central government from allowing two reactors at the Oi plant to resume operations.
Moreover, since 100 days have passed since the first protest, fatigue has set in among some of the groups making up the coalition.
Those playing central roles have held meetings to prepare for the demonstrations, coordinate among member groups and consult with the police.
A major protest to encircle the National Diet Building is being scheduled for July 29, but no decision has yet been made on what to do beyond that.
At the same time, some organizers are heartened by the unexpected response.
"By being here, we are applying pressure on the government," Redwolf said. "We have to decide what the best way is to somehow continue the movement."
(This article was written by Hideshi Nishimoto and Akiko Tada.)
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