The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

No Nukes Continues

More images of the Friday anti-nuclear protests in Tokyo above. Even months on they continue in a mostly good-natured, way to call for the ending of nuclear power in Japan. Old news and all that but think there is still something interesting here because of the fact that they are still happening even though many are dismissive of them.

These protests are distinctly Japanese in character: there is a bit of a festival atmosphere to them, people dress up, sing, dance and call for a change in energy policy. How effective all this is, is of course questionable. At times the protests have swollen to numbers that the police are scared of and the mainstream media can no longer ignore but mostly now the police control the thinning crowds easily (where they are not policed by protest organisers) and as you walk around them, you do wish that the protesters would all be a little angrier, a little louder, more inconvenient, more worrying for those that disregard their rather hubristic agendas.

To be honest, I think the anti-nuclear movement here has lost momentum. Though the idea of a nuclear-free Japan generally enjoys broad support among the Japanese population, at this moment, the protests have become mundane. They need to detach themselves from the scenery more and demand more attention and respect. They have become a sight-seeing opportunity; a part-time revolutionary experience for tourists from the usual unquestioning masses. They are a kind of ether trip in counter-culture argumentativeness for many that have neither their own opinion or anger to bring on the revolt. From 6 to 8 each Friday the people call for their voices to be heard and almost no-one but themselves listens.

I do not doubt the organisers have their heart and soul in the hope that Japan will not suffer another nuclear catastrophe; and I do not doubt the visceral hatred many Japanese have of all things nuclear. What I do doubt, however, is the belief many who take part in these protests have that their voices will ultimately make a difference. I think many know that nothing will change and that turning up here and politely asking to be heard is a waste of time. Why aren’t they angrier? Why don’t they ask for compromise more forcefully, or at all? Is it perhaps that they don’t really want it all to change that much?

Without the genuine support of many ordinary people the true believers in the movement will never get their message across, as it is put too quietly. The politicians can ignore it because it breaks the usual protocols of respect and acquiescence. The politicians expect that, even though they have long since stopped earning it, but  most of the protesters still give it to them. The demands shouted meekly by the old and respectable members of these protests, and others, are not loud enough, are not angry enough and nothing will change unless they are. The young, the tattooed and angry leaders are expected to be fickle and drift away. This is a waiting game and it has endured longer than many politicians expected it to for sure but unless the noise annoys the politicians, they do not have to actively endure it and it does not affect their policies.

Make no mistake, the Government wants nuclear power: it has invested too much in the policy to abandon it. There are also too many vested interests in its continuation for any politician to remain vehemently and honestly anti-nuclear upon assuming power. Toru Hashimoto for all his anti-nuclear, voter-attracting words now is almost certain to fall into line behind a pro-nuclear LDP if he is any part its expected return to power in the next election Indeed in Japan, with it’s lack of natural resources, there is almost an argument for the technology; assuming the facilities can be run at a level of preparedness that matches the unique geographical dangers Japan faces.

But that is not what TEPCO and the politicians that profit from it want. They want to return to the time when they were left alone to run the electric companies as they saw fit. Cutting corners and lobbying pork are seductive powers to give-up. Yet the public mood is against those exact things. The people dislike nuclear power and do not trust those that control it so what are they to do?

One answer is to find new ways to attack the protests, as TEPCO seems intent on doing with the statement it released on Friday the 12th of October that admitted the nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima could have been avoided but seems to suggest that the utility didn’t implement  globally recognised safety standards and measures because it feared outrage and inconvenience from the anti-nuclear movement.

As I remember before the events of March 11th 2011 the anti-nuclear movement here in Japan was a fringe affair at best: the band-wagoned preserve of militant unionists, who basically hate everything connected with all politicians of any hue; or the often lonely call of colourful eccentrics who could be easily caricatured and othered.  TEPCO was not scared of them which is why it could get away with running dangerously unprepared nuclear power-stations. This statement, though seen by some as an admission of culpability and thus a cuddly act of contrition by TEPCO, to me makes clear only that they aim to prove their ability to learn from mistakes by returning to nuclear generation. I expect  many moth-balled reactors to be restarted soon amid a curtaining secrecy that will quickly replace an initial, showy openness conspiratorially labelled as accountability.

The cries of the anti-nuclear movement will be louder at this time of course, the crowd angrier and the authorities more heavy-handed in the their control and scapegoating. It could get ugly as the true believers know that this is what it will take to change direction. But that unfortunately is not the mettle of many of the protesters on these Friday evenings. For them the false blame will resonate, the warranted anger of the protesters will seem excessive and the suppression by the authorities appear reasonable. They will leave the movement in droves. For them these Fridays are a chance to act-out and act-up in a safe way. If by accident the government accedes to their wishes the dislike they have for nuclear power will have been justified. If it doesn’t they will assume they were in the wrong because they don’t hate nuclear power enough to make change happen; they don’t hate the system enough to empower those alongside them that might bring about the change they think they want but are not sure.

The direction the energy of the protest will take in the future is interesting which is why i still go along occasionally to take some pictures.

Rather hard to take photos though as the police barely let you stand still a minute some great photos here of the Friday night protests by Tony McNicol though.

Heading out now.




One response

  1. Pingback: Sealing Their Future | sungypsy blog

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