Some Japanese men and women of a certain generation may feel their emotions being stirred when they hear about a huge demonstration in front of the Diet building.
In June 1960, hordes of demonstrators surrounded the Diet building to protest Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi's decision to renew the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. During a rally on June 15, which the organizers claimed was attended by 330,000 people, a Tokyo University undergraduate was trampled to death. Police put the turnout at a more conservative 130,000.
Last Friday, the area around the Diet building and the prime minister's office teemed again with protesters in the latest "Friday rally" against nuclear power generation. This weekly event had started out in June with about 300 participants, but it has since grown rapidly in scale. Lately, tens of thousands of people have been showing up every Friday. This is reportedly the first time in half a century that such massive protest rallies are taking place right in the heart of the nation's capital.
But unlike the anti-Security Treaty demonstrations in 1960 that mainly attracted students, labor union members and supporters of leftist political parties, the participants today come in all ages and represent a broad cross-section of society. There are parents with small children holding balloons; men and women after their day's work; senior citizens curious to see what is going on; and various groups, such as one brandishing the Japanese flag and a poster proclaiming, "Protect our beautiful mountains and rivers."
Even people who are generally apolitical are galvanized into action when they feel their own and their loved ones' health is threatened. And since the great majority of people today are able to instantaneously obtain information online or via their mobile phones, their shared sense of crisis spreads infinitely faster than back in the days of posters and fliers.
If the Fukushima disaster was caused by human error, there is no guarantee that something similar will not happen again. That is why 7.5 million people have signed petitions for the government to abandon nuclear power generation. But the government's response was to order the restart of two nuclear reactors at the Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture.
If the government does not heed the voice of the people, the people will just have to raise their voices louder.
A 100,000-strong rally against nuclear power generation is slated for July 16 at Tokyo's Yoyogi Park. The planners of this event include the Nobel laureate novelist Kenzaburo Oe and the pacifist Buddhist nun Jakucho Setouchi. Rain or shine, I think this is a good opportunity for anyone to express their resolve to abandon nuclear energy. And the event should be an indicator of whether the current anti-nuclear movement, which has spread during the season of hydrangea, will grow into something much bigger.
--The Asahi Shimbun, July 15
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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