The Beginning of New Street Politics: 15,000 gather for Koenji Rally against Nuclear Power Plants

(Japanese translation below)

The Beginning of New Street Politics:
15,000 gather for Koenji Rally against Nuclear Power Plants

Yoshitaka Mouri

When I first heard the plan for the rally on April 10th in Koenji, Tokyo against nuclear power plants, I was certain that it would gather a lot of people, as most of my friends, including even those who had never joined in this kind of political demonstration march, expressed their willingness to participate in this occasion.
Since the March 11th earthquake, everyone has been anxious and frustrated, and many angry with the everlasting nuclear plant crisis in Fukushima, while the government and TEPCO continued only to state that the level of radioactivity was still of low to harm the environment, though the situation was evidently getting worse.

On the Internet, there were thousands of anti-nuclear plant discussions, but not so much space for them in the real world, let alone in the mainstream media such as television broadcasting and national newspapers. To most, everyday life became more and more stressful under the current conditions of media self-restraint. I believed that the rally would be a great opportunity to meet each other and to express our opinions.
As soon as I arrived at JR Koenji station at 2 o’clock, one hour earlier to start the march, on the day, I realized that the rally was much larger and much more enthusiastic than I had expected. I could not even enter the meeting and starting point, Koenji Central Park, as it was already packed full with people.
There were indeed a variety of people; hippy-styled old men, men dressed in animal costumes, Cos-Play girls, hip-hop B-boys, Rastafarian-like boys and girls, punk rockers, kimono girls, families with children and expecting mothers, baby-holding-fathers, high school kids and of course, anarchists and political activists. This diversity reflected the character of Koenji: a unique town where many bars, restaurants, live houses, record and CD shops, bookshops and second hand fashion boutiques attract young people. It has noisy but warm and cheerful atmosphere where anyone could enjoy themself.
The march started at 3 o’clock. Because unexpectedly many people turned up, the police forced them to be divided into about ten groups and made the rally very long (Unlike street demonstrations in Europe and in the US, rally participants are normally forced to pass strictly through a narrow street lane). They walked whilst dancing, singing, shouting, chatting with each other, eating and drinking in the streets, following sounds systems and musicians that played punk rock, techno, hip hop, reggae, drumming and Japanese traditional music. It took more than three hours for the last group to end their walk at Koenji station north exit park, but all of them enjoyed fully this street-party-like demonstration march.
It turned out that about 15,000 people participated in the 10th April Koenji action: the number was amazingly large considering that it was organized by small local recycle shops, Shiroto no Ran (Amateur Riot) and their friends. They have organized several street demonstrations in their own unique ways over the last five years, but the number of the participants has been limited to up to 500. The rally on April 10th was far more successful than they had expected. An organizer, Matsumoto Hajime said to Kyodo News, “It’s epoch making that so many people gathered without being mobilized by a large organization. It’s becoming big power as we joined hands over the Internet.”
This is a historical moment for Japanese radical politics, in particular, in the sense that a lot of young people, who have often been seen as apolitical for a long time, began to be engaged in politics in their own way. It is also fascinating to see that they are inventing different ways of expressing themselves from designing flyers and banners, wearing dresses, dancing, to playing music, DJing and performance: they are trying to connect face to face communication and bodily experiences in the streets to cyberspace via the Internet.
It is a pity that most of Japanese mainstream media, in particular, television broadcasting, is still remaining ignorant to any anti-nuclear movements including this one, although web news, blogs and social network media are enthusiastically reporting it via the Internet.
Nobody knows what will happen in the future. We fear radiation, but cannot feel it. Strangely enough the everyday landscape is same as usual, at least, in Tokyo. Social anxiety becomes more prevalent everywhere as the situation of the Fukushima nuclear power plants is critical. This is a totally new politics we are experiencing.
However, the big success of the rally on April 10th could be only a hope for a change of politics in Japan for a moment. The street and body politics they are starting to organize is, to me, one of the most appropriate political responses to the crisis of nuclear power and the invisible fear of radiation.
















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