Anti-nuclear demonstration, Tokyo: 19th Sept. 2011

Kenzaburo Oe (2nd from left) and Yamamoto Taro(right) lead the demonstrators

[Kenzaburo Oe (2nd from left) and Yamamoto Taro(right) lead the demonstrators off...]

The Sayonara Nukes event was held today in Tokyo, a demonstration and march which it was hoped would attract 50,000 people. By my reckoning, it did.

Full gallery of about 100 pictures at the foot of this page

It was the first time my children had ever been to an event of this size. We’d demonstrated back in the UK, in our small Welsh hometown of Monmouth, to get a speed-limit on a dangerous stretch of road that bi-sected the town. We won that battle. Today’s demonstration may not have completely sunk in to the kids’ consciousnesses but it was their future we were marching to protect. They knew that much. Well, the two eldest did. Charlie, at 18-months, was on his first protest march. A fact that reminded me vividly of one of my first childhood memories: sitting in my pushchair, in the middle of the road in the small Kent village of Bridge where my mother was leading a protest to get a bypass. There had, over just a few years, been some terrible road accidents as Bridge – with a hill into the village and a hill leading out – was on the main road to Dover in those days.

Flash forward almost forty years and myself and my young family marching to protest something that is beginning to solidify many in Japan: the Fukushima nuclear disaster and its aftermath.

Our family has a stake in Fukushima; my wife’s entire family live there, just 55km from the crippled reactors of the DaiIchi power station. So, this matter is personal for us.

Demonstrations are infrequent in this otherwise politically quiet – some would say apathetic – country. My father-in-law demonstrated in the 1960s. It cost him a lot to do so as he, like many others who voiced dissent, were marginalised and black-balled for their outspokenness.

Times have changed. The stakes have changed. This is not just about reconstruction after Japan’s most crippling national disaster since WW2 [the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11th]. This is about saving this country from another nuclear catastrophe. It’s about speaking out against TEPCO, the utility company at the centre of the nuclear mess.

I am not really anti-nuclear. Myself and many people today at the rally had lots of different opinions about nuclear. But which other ‘f**k you TEPCO and everyone else involved who let this happen’ flag is there to corral under? None. Protest is thin on the ground in Japan. For me this march today was about marching for a realistic future. One where people have responsibility for their own actions beyond a deep bow, a quick, televised apology and a nice fat pension or a job on some quasi governmental board.

No excuses and no safety-net for TEPCO’s execs who oversaw the corporate regime that let this happen. A little more truth about the situation now and proper measures in place for the future. These are what we need.

And to the people who always crow ‘show me the alternative’ when it comes to people disliking nuclear power?

Here in Japan we live in an active volcanic region but how much has geothermal power been looked into or tried? It’s expensive, sure. But so is cleaning up after Fukushima. So is the construction state that we live in here in Japan. Bullet-train lines that go nowhere other than past an MP’s local town; built because of a bit of palm-greasing. Sure, it goes on. But this is the 21st Century and it’s gotta stop. Now.

How many geothermal bore-holes could that bullet-train-track to nowhere have bought?

Solar is picking up pace but needs more rollout. It’s sunny here a lot of the time so it’s a viable plan and recently ousted PM, Naoto Kan, got an energy bill through that makes it compulsory for power companies to buy back power generated by people with, for example, solar panels on top of their homes.

Renewables need more attention and investment. Nuclear needs more attention to make safer. Execs and politicians and the media need to stop rolling all the bad news under the carpet and the people here need to stop bending over and taking it…..

One could be forgiven today for hoping that the tide is turning. That people are ready to stand and make themselves heard. I hope so, for my kid’s sake…

Click each of the images below for a bigger version. Full gallery of 100+ images at the foot of the page.

A large crowd gathers in Meji Park, Tokyo, at the start of the anti nuclear demonstration

The organisers of the 19th September anti-nuclear demo lead the march on its way

Charlie, Ami, Joe and Hiromi on the march

Police move demonstrators along the road in Gaienmae, on the way to Yoyogi Park

Gallery of images from the 19th September Anti Nuclear – Sayonara Nukes – march and demonstration in Tokyo, Japan

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