About 15,000 people attended the “No Nukes” protest in the central Tokyo district of Koenji on April 10.
The rally called for assistance to those affected by the March earthquake and tsunami disaster, and for an end to nuclear power. Organisers said more than 1.23 million yen (A$14,000) had been raised for those affected by the disaster.
About 2500 people joined a separate rally in another part of the city calling for the Hamaoka nuclear plant in Shizuoka to be switched off. The Hamaoka plant is on a fault line considered likely to be affected by future quakes.
The Koenji rally, officially titled the “Great Anti-Nuclear Rock Festival Demo in Kōenji”, was called by Matsumoto Hajime of the Shiroto no ran (Amateur’s Riot) network.
The network, based in Koenji, has been trying to build alternative spaces and communities in the area.
For many of the mostly youthful demonstrators, this was their first experience of taking part in a political demonstration.
The organisers promoted the event using the internet and social media. Prominent celebrities and social commentators also backed the event.
The rally was characterised by the colourful costumes and props of the demonstrators. There were clowns, anti-nuclear dogs and many people with musical instruments. A full line-up of DJs and bands entertained the crowd.
The presence of musicians and mobile DJ trucks at Tokyo demonstrations has become a characteristic of an emerging counter-culture. These “sound demos” seek to appeal to those who may be put off by more traditional trade union and political party demonstrations.
The sound trucks ensure that the demonstration’s presence is felt far and wide. Along with the costumes and dancing of the participants, they transform the demonstration into a carnival of resistance.
The significance of the protest goes beyond its powerful anti-nuclear message. Since the anti-Iraq war movement in 2003, a growing number of young people have become involved in political demonstrations and counter-cultural activity.
Many of these young people are casual workers who are locked out of Japan’s famed “lifetime employment” system.
The demonstration was also aimed at the atomisation of society that separates people from one another and encourages them to consume more and more.
Organiser Matsumoto told Time Out Tokyo: “I really want to emphasise that people getting together is good for the environment. Rather than everybody using electricity individually, coming together is not only more fun but it saves electricity.”
Solidarity actions were held in other Japanese cities and in South Korea, Canada, the United States, Germany, Italy, France and Mexico.
Ongoing actions have been called outside the Tokyo offices of Tokyo Electric Power Company. A further large demonstration is planned for April 24.
It seems that the anti-nuclear renaissance has well and truly begun.