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Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011
As in New York, protesters use chance to attack wide list of issues from nuclear energy to trade
Hundreds turn out to 'Occupy Tokyo'
The Occupy Wall Street protests spreading across the United States landed in Tokyo on Saturday, as hundreds of people gathered to protest against corporate greed and social inequality.
In addition to decrying the widening wealth gap between the nation's haves and have-nots, demonstrators spoke out on a variety of unrelated topics ranging from nuclear power to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a free-trade pact promoted by the U.S.
Marching behind a large "Occupy Tokyo" banner, about 300 protesters proceeded to the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co., owner of the radiation-leaking Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. "Dissolve Tepco," "Stop nuclear power plants," they chanted.
The various signs, written in both Japanese and English, highlighted some of the issues apparently agitating the public.
"Let's firmly oppose the TPP that only makes 1 percent (of the population) happy," "No to Radioactivity," "The 1 percent who are stained with their greed for profits should disappear for the sake of the world's happiness," the Japanese signs read.
One of the organizers, Mie Yasuda, said many people in Tokyo are indignant about the way Tepco and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry are handling the nuclear disaster.
Nevertheless, she left the demands to the demonstrators.
"It is fine (to protest about) any absurdity in the world that angers you," she said Friday.
Kazuko Hirano, an 80-year-old pensioner from Setagaya Ward, said she decided to participate because she strongly believes Japan should eliminate nuclear plants.
"(I joined to get) as many people as possible angry about nuclear power plants and to make demands to the state" to halt them, she said.
Masashi Hayasaki, an employee from Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, decided to show up because he is concerned about the TPP talks.
Joining the free-trade negotiations will see the country "swallowed by global capitalism" and "destroy Japanese tradition and culture," he said.
"I just want to tell pedestrians not to be indifferent" to the TPP and nuclear power plants, he said.
Passers-by had mixed feelings about the protests.
"Although it would be good if (nuclear power plants) did not exist, it is impossible to make them disappear immediately," said a 23-year-old employee from Kawasaki who was shopping in the area.
The man, who would only give his last name, Azuma, said one of the key issues that needs to be resolved is the cost of fully making the conversion from nuclear power to wind, thermal and other renewable forms of energy.
Another man from Saitama, who came to see what the protest was like, said, "We should consider" whether to hold onto nuclear power plants.
"Japan is peaceful since people can speak with various opinions," said the man, 52, who declined to be named.
A separate Occupy Tokyo event was also held in the Roppongi district.