Tokyo: Thousands of demonstrators, some wearing gas masks, marched on Japan's parliament today where they will form a human chain to protest the use of nuclear power after the Fukushima crisis.
They marched through Tokyo chanting "we don't need nuclear power" and "stop operating nuclear plants", in the latest demonstration since a recent decision to resume using nuclear power in Japan following a total shutdown.
The protesters were also wearing white protective suits similar to those used by decontamination workers at the crippled Fukushima plant, and drummed on yellow barrels emblazoned with atomic waste warnings. AFP journalists estimated there were at least 10,000 demonstrators in the early stages of the march. They will form a human chain around the parliament in the evening.
"After the Fukushima disaster, I thought that the government and vested interests were telling us lies about nuclear power being safe," said Miho Igarashi, 46, an architect from Ibaraki prefecture south of Fukushima.
"We have to raise our voices against" the danger of atomic power, she told AFP. The rally is the latest in a string of protests in Japan, which has seen a rising tide of anti-nuclear sentiment since Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in June ordered the restart of two reactors.
Noda defended the move citing looming power shortages after Japan switched off its 50 nuclear reactors – which provided the resource-poor country with a third of its energy -- in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
Weekly demonstrations outside the prime minister's residence have drawn tens of thousands of people and a rally in west Tokyo earlier this month saw a crowd that organisers claimed was about 170,000-strong. Today's protest took place in high temperatures under a blazing sun, and the crowd included families with small children.
"I decided to join the protest because nuclear reactors are resuming even though their safety is not guaranteed," said Sayaka Suzuki, 28, who was with her three-year-old daughter. The latest rally comes less than a week after a damning government-backed report on last year's crisis said Japanese officials and Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), operator of the crippled Fukushima plant, ignored the risk of an atomic accident because they believed in the "myth of nuclear safety".
A separate parliamentary report said the worst nuclear accident in a generation was a man-made disaster, marked by a lack of oversight and collusion between TEPCO, the government and regulators. (AFP)