An estimated 45,000 people took part in demonstrations in Tokyo against nuclear power yesterday (Sunday), amid growing concern that the government is putting pressure on local authorities to restart reactors shut down for safety checks.
Last year's magnitude-nine earthquake triggered a tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and caused the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.
All but two of Japan's 54 nuclear power stations are suspended, and campaigners want to prevent any reopening.
Both operating reactors are scheduled to be shut down for tests before the end of April. The government says if they are not put back into operation soon, there will be a shortfall of energy during the summer.
Environmental groups dispute that assessment, and have accused the ministry of economy, trade and industry of massaging the figures by omitting power from major users that is sold back to energy firms.
They also claimed that the government was disregarding power from all renewable sources and using peak estimates throughout its report.
Aileen Mioko Smith, the executive director of environmental group Green Action, said clumsy efforts to manipulate public opinion only harmed the government's position.
"Since the disasters, people have realised that they are not completely in control of their lives," she said.
"They have realised that the trust they had in Japanese technology and the belief that nuclear power was safe is just not true.
"They also now know that an incident a long way away affects each and every one of us, that all of us have put radiation from Fukushima into our mouths.
"They realise that this will affect all of us for years to come."
Yuko Hirono, who took her four-year-old child to the Tokyo protest, said: "I didn't want to just watch the protests on television, as if nothing has happened or changed.
"I think opposition to nuclear power is growing.
"People used to feel safe and not say anything, but if you ask most people now they think differently."
At a separate anti-nuclear rally yesterday in Osaka, marchers called on the government to drop plans to restart the plant at Oi before the end of the month.
This morning, 250 local residents were due to file a lawsuit at the Osaka district court against Kansai Electric Power Co seeking an injunction against the plant being restarted.
The last of its four reactors was shut down for a regular safety inspection in December and stress-tests on all the reactors were completed and approved on February 9, but local authorities have so far withheld permission for the plant to go back into operation.