In 2009, the LDP suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of the DPJ in the House of Representatives elections. The DPJ was expected to initiate significant reform, but there was no consensus, either within the party or in public opinion as to what direction reform should take. Everybody recognized that the LDP’s politics of distributing favors had reached its limit. There was no consensus, however, as to whether reform should be carried out on neo-liberal or social-democratic premises.
The 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident occurred in this context. The large antinuclear movement that emerged in the wake of the accident included actors drawn from all the social strata discussed above. These included farmers and fisher folk confronting radioactive contamination, housewives alert to the radioactive contamination of foodstuffs and the special risk to infants and children, intellectuals critical of nuclear power in an earthquake-prone nation , and other social groups that engaged in anti-nuclear movements.
The group that organized the street demonstrations in Tokyo, however, centered on the new social groups that had first emerged in the 2000s. One month after the nuclear accident on , an antinuclear demonstration of 15,000 people took place in Koenji in Tokyo’s inner-west. The demonstration was called over the internet by a group of workers in their 20s and 30s who were involved in the precariat movement. Drawing on the style of earlier precariat movements, the demonstrations and rallies organized by this group had a “free” style and made effective use of music and design. 13 In , 30,000 people occupied a plaza outside Shinjuku station in the middle of Tokyo’s entertainment district. The action, which was inspired by the occupation of Tahrir Square in Egypt in , took place three months prior to Occupy Wall Street (OWS) in New York.
Strong public opposition and the need for more stringent safety standards made it impossible to restart them
The Koenji group was only one of a number of small groups in Tokyo that began to organize demonstrations after Fukushima. In e together to form the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes (MCAN). From , they began to organize weekly protests on Friday evenings outside the prime minister’s residence. Although these demonstrations started with only a handful of participants, they grew rapidly into the tens of thousands.
This did not result in any major electricity shortages, in part due to a growing public consciousness of the need to save electricity
In Japan, nuclear reactors are shut down for routine checks after every 13 months of continuous operation. After the Fukushima disaster, Japan’s nuclear reactors were shut down one after another for these checks. By , all of Japan’s nuclear reactors had been shut down for safety checks and Japan was without any source of nuclear power. The government nevertheless decided to restart two reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in western Japan’s Fukui prefecture on June 8th. There was a huge backlash against this decision. Organizers estimated that 200,000 people took part in an MCAN protest outside the prime minister’s residence on June 29. By August, the weekly Friday protests had spread to 87 cities across Japan. On August 22, a number of MCAN activists met with then prime minister Noda Yoshihiko and demanded that the government shut down the Oi nuclear power plant and abandon nuclear power.
In , the DPJ administration adopted a policy of eliminating Japan’s dependence on nuclear power by 2040. Facing criticism for its handling of the nuclear accident, however, the DPJ lost the House of Representatives elections to the LDP, which promptly scrapped the DPJ’s policy of eliminating nuclear power.