Antinuclear rally draws 170,000 people

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TOKYO — An anti-nuclear power plant rally called for by a group led by Nobel literature laureate Kenzaburo Oe and other celebrities drew a crowd of around 170,000 people on July 16 at Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park, according to organizers.

The Metropolitan Police Department, which provided security for the event, said the assembly attracted around 75,000 people.

At the assembly held under a scorching sun, dubbed “100,000 People’s Assembly to say Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants,” journalist Satoshi Kamata said at the opening event, “We want to bring an end to nuclear power plants immediately.”

Oe criticized the government’s stance of trying to restart nuclear reactors when the Fukushima nuclear crisis has not yet fully been resolved. “I feel we’re being insulted by the government” due to the recent rebooting of a reactor, a move he described as “a plot by the government.”

Musician Ryuichi Sakamoto said, “We shouldn’t put the lives of children who are the future of our country, a beautiful Japan, in potential danger just for electricity.”

The rally, which also featured live musical performances by Japanese singers, was part of the ongoing antinuclear campaign “10 Million People’s Action to say Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants” that has been conducted following the 2011 crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The organizing group consists of the Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs, commonly known as Gensuikin, and other bodies.

According to the organizers, the event drew not only activists from civic groups but also numerous private citizens concerned about their future.

The number of participants in the rally at Yoyogi Park was unparalleled for an event there, they said.

Kumiko Kobayashi, 59, from Tokyo’s Meguro Ward brought her children and granddaughter in participating at an antinuclear protest for the first time. “The first priority is to halt nuclear power plants. I want the government and the general public to have a normal way of thinking and realize that,” she said.

A 90-year-old novelist and Buddhist nun, Jakucho Setouchi, said she is skeptical about whether the government will listen to the people’s wish to do away with nuclear power. “We nonetheless need to assemble. We’re taxpayers. We can and should express our opinions,” she said.
Economic commentator Katsuto Uchihashi and journalist Takashi Hirose were among others who spoke at the rally.

The participants took to the streets in three groups after the rally, marching about 3 kilometers near the park and chanting such slogans as “We don’t need nuclear power plants,” and “The government, stop deciding without public consent.” Sidewalks around the park were packed with crowds leaving almost no room to move around at one point.

Oe and others have also been collecting signatures from 10 million people as part of the action. As of July 8, around 7.85 million people had offered their signatures and some have already been presented to Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura.

In September, the group also staged a meeting dubbed “50,000 People’s Assembly to say Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants.”

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