In the run up to the second anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that caused the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, tens of thousands have taken to the streets of Tokyo in protest against nuclear power.
Two years ago on Monday, an earthquake caused a devastating tsunami which set off the meltdowns at Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant in Japan, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and killing some 19,000 people.
160,000 have had to leave their homes around the plant, whole communities nearby have become ghost towns and there are fears about cancer and other illnesses caused by the radiation. It was recently found that around 36% of Fukushima children have abnormal thyroid growths, almost definitely due to the radiation in the area.
Since then there have been several mass protests against nuclear power in the country.
Now, with the second anniversary coming up on Monday, around 13,000 people gathered on the streets of Tokyo on Saturday, carrying banners reading "No nukes" and "Let's save the children," urging the new Prime Minister to change the pro-atomic agenda in the country.
Some protesters also attempted to garner support for the rescue of animals that are still in the ‘no-go’ high-radiation zone.
At one stage, Japan had said that they were closing all remaining nuclear power plants, but since then the country has changed its stance, yet again.
Protesters from all walks of life have been occupying Tokyo's public spaces on every national holiday ever since and assemble outside the parliament building in Tokyo every Friday evening, trying to get their point across.
Some are there every week, including 64-year-old Morishi Izumita, who told Reuters, “We need to be out here protesting. Not giving up is the important thing.”
Saturday heard demonstrators stating their dismay at how the government has ignored their pleas.
“I can't see what lies ahead. It looks hopeless, but if I give up now, it's over,” said Akihiro Nakata, a 47-year-old owner of a construction company. “I'd rather die moving forward.”
Another protester, 36-year-old Kazuko Nihei sells soap and trinkets that she and other mothers from Fukushima have made, in the hopes of raising funds for health check-ups for the children and for their new life in Tokyo. She stated, "When the government talks about recovery, they are talking about infrastructure. When we talk about recovery, we are talking about the future of our children."
Using other nuclear disasters in Japan's history to attempt to dissuade the government from returning to atomic power, Nobel Prize-winning writer Kenzaburo Oe told the gathered crowd:
“I am going to fight against those who act as though Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Fukushima never happened.”
He then continued by saying that he will fight to prevent any more nuclear reactors from being restarted in Japan.
The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster has been labeled the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Since then, only two of Japan's 50 working nuclear reactors have been reconnected, due to the power of the protesters' demands. However, with the election of a new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe in 2012, this is likely to change.
The new PM represents a party that not only nurtured the pro-nuclear policies in Japan, but also wants to restart more reactors, as well as build even more. It has recently been revealed that Japan has plans to restart six reactors by the end of 2013.
Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University's Japan campus told RT, “All the noises from the government are in favor of restarts ... They own the corridors of power.”
However the Fukushima disaster has show clearly the myth of nuclear power's safety and various public hearings in Japan have shown that around 70% of Japan's residents want to phase out nuclear power completely by 2030.
Lawyer Izutaro Managi told AP, “We can't believe the government is thinking about restarting the reactors after the horrendous damage and human pain the accident has caused.”
"It is tantamount to victimizing the victims one more time," he added.
Choosing the anniversary as a historic date, a class-action lawsuit is to be filed on Monday against both the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the administrator of Fukushima Dai-ichi. This class-action suit will demand that the natural environment and the homes in it – animal and human alike - are returned to their pre-disaster state and has attracted 800 plaintiffs so far.
A concert featuring Oscar and Grammy-winning musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, a vocal opponent of nuclear power, was held on Saturday evening. Protests are planned to continue on Sunday and on Monday commemorative services will be held throughout Japan to remember the almost 19,000 people who died in the disaster.