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LinkAsia | Mar 11
March 11th marks two years since Japan's devastating triple disaster of a massive earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown that left 20,000 people...
Japan's reliance on nuclear power may change in the wake of the earthquake and Tsunami -- that is, if protesters have anything to do about it. A vocal protest movement that started online in Japan has now moved to the streets. Our Tokyo contributor, Rebecca Milner, tells us more.
It's been more than three months since the earthquake and tsunami hit eastern Japan, however tensions still remain high over the Fukushima nuclear power plant and the future of nuclear power in general in Japan. Anti-nuclear demonstrations continue to take place around the country. Most recently, on June 11, organizers called for a global day of action, which resulted in several protests around the country, the largest of which took place in downtown Tokyo. Demonstrations, in general, in Japan are quite rare. In the decades since Japan began rolling out its nuclear power program, small-scale protests have erupted occasionally. However, most of these were over specific safety concerns at specific plants. But since Fukushima, everything has changed. Through Twitter and social networking sites like Mixi, thousands of web users have joined new online communities, with names such as Oppose Nuclear Power, Natural Energy, and Tepco is to Blame, which have become active clearinghouses for information, opinion and video sharing. In these forums, the language of emoticons sets a tone more palatable to young people than the aggressive rhetoric of the student and labor movements of the past. Some of the characters that have emerged include a protest organizer named Hajime Matsumoto. He also runs a second hand store, called "Shirouto no Ran", which means "amateur revolution," in the fashionably bohemian neighborhood of Koenji in Tokyo. Another face is the popular tweeter and actor Yamamoto Taro. Taro is said to have lost a role in an upcoming drama because of his out-spoken involvement in the anti-nuclear movement. He urged his 100,000 followers to join the demonstrators. He said, "Go out and call for change. The lead role of Japan is its citizens!" Those who aren't taking to the streets are taking their anger and confusion and resignation over the ongoing crisis to the web. News websites that allow for commenting have been racking up comments numbering in the thousands for stories chronicling the latest statements from Tepco and government officials. Like this recent story, for example, that had bloggers up in arms: As reported on Yahoo News last week, Diet member and Secretary General of the Liberal Democratic Party, Ishihara Nobuteru, said in regards to the anti-nuclear movement: "Considering the extent of the situation, I can understand the mass hysteria." Ishihara may be regretting his choice of words. Writes one Yahoo News reader: "His true voice comes through. This is why I can't support his party. 22,000 readers agreed with that post, while some 12,000 disagreed. Another writes, referencing a controversial foreign anti-whaling campaign: "It's just like he says. The anti-nuclear activists are as bad as the Sea Shepherd." 17,000 readers agreed with that statement, while close to 27,000 disagreed. Meanwhile bloggers took to their keyboards to vent frustration at a political class seen as being largely out of touch with public sentiment. One blogger, who goes by the name Zara writes: "Hasn't the Liberal Democratic Party been deceiving us for years about the safety of nuclear power? What's going on isn't mass hysteria, it's an awakening from a mass hypnotism, from the myth of safety." From another, who goes by the name Rikka: "On the news this morning, I learned that a dairy farmer, despairing over his business in the wake of the nuclear disaster, committed suicide. He left a note to his fellow farmers that says, 'Please keep fighting and don't succumb to the disaster.' Is that what you call mass hysteria?" Still another blogger reflects on the oddness of this new normal, where Activists and the silent majority actually have something in common with each other. He writes, "Those who see no choice but to break down Japan and you, the ordinary people, both seem to be on the same side against nuclear power." Though he adds: "But could it be that your feelings are being used?" An opinion poll taken last weekend by the liberal newspaper, the Asahi Shimbun, found out that nearly 75 percent would favor a gradual phase-out of Japan's nuclear power industry. In Tokyo, this is Rebecca Milner for LinkAsia.