60,000 rally in Tokyo for the elimination of nuclear power

by Kohei Okata, Staff Writer

In the wake of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 (Daiichi) nuclear power plant, nine prominent cultural figures, including Nobel-winning writer Kenzaburo Oe, headlined a “Farewell Nuclear Power Plants Rally” at Meiji Park in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo on September 19. About 60,000 people, including residents of Fukushima Prefecture, took part in the event, organizers said. With voices calling for the elimination of nuclear power plants resounding in downtown Tokyo, the rally urged citizens to act.

The rally was organized by an executive committee comprised of the Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs, which serves as the secretariat for the campaign's founders, and other entities. The goals of the campaign are the decommission of existing nuclear power plants and the cancellation of construction plans for new nuclear plants, as well as a shift in policy toward the use of natural energy sources. According to the organizers, the rally was one of the largest to call for the elimination of nuclear power since the accident in March.

Speaking at the rally, Mr. Oe stressed, “Nuclear power is always accompanied by ruin and sacrifice.” Continuing the use of nuclear power plants heralded a crisis for the nation, he said, and urged those in attendance to press the political and business establishment to turn away from nuclear power by engaging in further rallies and demonstrations. “We have the will to oppose it,” he said. In addition to Mr. Oe, four other founders of the campaign, including writer Satoshi Kamata, spoke at the rally.

Ruiko Muto, 58, a member of a citizens’ group in Miharu, Fukushima Prefecture that is seeking the elimination of nuclear power, took the podium on behalf of fellow residents of her community. Ms. Muto was one of the local residents who traveled to Tokyo in a dozen buses from Fukushima Prefecture and other locations where evacuees currently reside. “We can't continue using nuclear power plants,” she said, reflecting the day-to-day sentiments of local citizens who have been horrified by the radiation contamination in their midst. “Please help by joining hands with us.” Actor Taro Yamamoto was there as well, shouting “No nuclear power plants!”

After the rally, the participants marched along three different routes of about two to four kilometers in length. They made the appeal of “Farewell nuclear power plants!” to shoppers and passersby on Omotesando Street and in other areas.

Mr. Oe and his colleagues have also been pursuing a petition drive, hoping to gather 10 million signatures in support of eliminating nuclear power from the nation, and they plan to submit these signatures to the government and the Diet next March.

(Originally published on September 20, 2011)