TOKYO—Tens of thousands of people protested against the nation’s first nuclear reactor restarts at the Japanese prime minister’s residence Friday, in one of the largest demonstrations since the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant last year set off wide opposition to nuclear power.
The massive demonstration was called to protest a government decision to restart Sunday two reactors at the Oi plant in western Japan. It was the 14th demonstration organized by a coalition of anti-nuclear groups outside the premier’s residence since March 29.
Organizers estimated the number of participants to be more than 100,000. The National Police Agency, which also releases estimates, was unavailable for comment.
After the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant last year, concerns about plant safety and public opposition kept plants that were closed for routine maintenance offline. By early May, every operating plant had been closed.
The looming restart of the two Oi reactors, a decision made by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s administration amid power-shortage concerns, seems to have galvanized support for Friday’s demonstration.
The sidewalks in front of the prime minister’s office and near the Parliament were overflowing with protesters. Some participants carried handwritten signs, while others held aloft elaborate placards reading “No Restarts.”
For more than two hours the crowd kept up a rhythmic cheer of “Against the restarts, against the restarts, against the restarts.”
Asako Miyashita, 33 years old, was marching for the first time with her three- and five-year-old sons, after learning about the event from her favorite actor on Twitter.
According to the organizers’ website, the numbers typically joining previouis demonstrations outside the prime minister’s residence have grown from 300 people to over 45,000 the previous week, helped by people spreading the word on the microblogging site.
Kozo Suzuki, 38, who works for a real-estate agent in Tokyo, showed up at the rally in a suit after coming directly from work.
He said he was indignant about the government decision to restart Oi, adding that he joined the rally because “there is no place to express our opinion.”
As night fell on the crowds, participants took turns holding a microphone and delivering their views on the issue. A young man, holding the mic in one hand and a hydrangea in another, addressed the prime minister’s residence: “How do you think you can protect us?”