More than 15,400 people have been confirmed dead while 8,000 remain missing and more than 100,000 are still living in shelters following the disaster.
Fashionable areas of Tokyo such as Shibuya and Shinjuku, which are normally filled with busy shoppers or people strolling on the weekends, were brimming with thousands waving banners with slogans such as “No More Nukes,” “Save the Children from Radiation” and “Energy Shift Parade.”
About 20,000 protestors, according to rally organizers and Asahi newspaper, gathered in front of Shinjuku Station in the evening, chanting “No more nuclear power” and “Save the children.”
Satomi Yashima, 29, who brought her 11-month-old daughter to the demonstration in Shibuya, said, “Japanese have always been in a passive position, but we now have to stand up and do what we can to voice our opinions. I’ve been reading the foreign media a lot. They say the Japanese people are calm and obedient. They wonder why we’re not more active and upset.
“Well, I’m upset and worried about the future health of my daughter.”Reportedly aiming at creating a worldwide anti-nuclear solidarity movement, the grassroots movement known as “One Million People No-Nuke Action” planned the demonstrations about a month ago. The group coordinated about 107 events via the Internet and Twitter. Some freelance journalists broadcast the events on cell phones, Skype and using sites like Ustream.
The organizers said Japan’s established media outlets have not reported on marches and actions taken by citizens due to long-standing relationships with the Tokyo Electric Company (TEPCO, owner and operator of the Fukushima Daiichi plant). The plant has been releasing radiation for the last three months.
Naoko Kuroki, a 50 year-old demonstrator in Shibuya, said, “I wonder why the TV or newspapers didn’t mention this demonstration would be coming up, but I found the information on Twitter,” she said.
She added, ” If you are against something, you have to take action and do something. I have always been against nuclear power, so I wanted to express my opinion.”
The demonstrators said they want the country to shift from reliance on nuclear to alternative power. However, proponents of nuclear power in Japan say that alternative energy sources, such as solar and windmill-powered generation, are far more expensive and unreliable or irregular.
The protestors also expressed opposition to the government’s decision to allow children to go to schools and play in playgrounds where the radiation levels are as high as 20 millisieverts (mSv). The government says this is the international standard; however the standard is meant for adults working in nuclear plants.
Many Japanese are still worried about the crisis and do not want any more nuclear power plants near their homes. Out of 54 reactors throughout Japan only 22 are in operation at this time.
The organizers said the Japanese have lost their patience. “We are seen throughout the world as being reserved and non-confrontational, but we’re now raising our voices,” a demonstrator in Shibuya said.