The crowd starts outside Kokkaigijidomae Station, stretching down as far as Roppongi-Dori. Turn the corner and it keeps going: office workers, young mothers, hardcore protesters, nuns. The slogans – some printed, some hand-drawn, a few of them even displayed on iPads – say it all. No restarts. No nukes. No Noda.
They've been coming for weeks, apparently. Every Friday evening since April, a group of demonstrators has been gathering near the Prime Minister's official residence in Nagatacho to protest against government plans to restart Japan's nuclear reactors – and their numbers keep growing. Helmed by a group calling themselves the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes and promoted via Twitter and Ustream, the gatherings have mushroomed in size over the past couple of months. Organisers claimed that over 10,000 people turned up last week; tonight, that was the figure that the police were giving, with organisers putting attendance at as much as 45,000.
All this has come in spite, rather than because, of coverage in the mainstream media. In a move that was either malicious or astonishingly cack-handed, NHK reported on a 400-strong protest that occurred at the same spot last Saturday, while neglecting to mention the far larger demo that had taken place there the night before. And while a clutch of major newspapers picked up on previous demonstrations, tonight's was the first to attract more widespread media attention, earning a lengthy spot on Asahi TV's Hodo Station news review later in the day.
As the government pushes to restart reactors at the Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture, the protests only look set to intensify. Same time next week? Probably.
Click here to see larger versions of these and other photos
Text/photos by James Hadfield