I've already waited too long to set down some version of my very intense experience at Saturday's anti-nuclear rally. The numbers coming back from news organizations paint it as a bit of a disappointment - partly due to rain, partly due to a major victory handed to activists by PM Kan just the day before, in the form of the ordered shutdown of a reactor in central Japan. Speaking strictly for myself, I think the core message of the demo - "No Nukes!" - is almost childishly simple, perhaps distracting from the really constructive project of promoting renewable energy, not to mention the more profound and radical possibilities for overhauling industrial capitalism (perish the thought).
All that aside, this was a transformative event. I came to it as someone who has attended a lot of marches put on by the central organizers of this demo, Shirouto no Ran. They frequently have demo/parties on May Day and generally are interested in poverty issues - but always with a slightly confrontational edge, including a profusion of absurdism and rnoisy music, which helped these marches palpably alienate passersby. This one was different.
All along the route, there were both people who seem to have broken off from the march (as seen here), and those who just happened to be passing by, saw what was happening, and smiled, waved, or in some cases started cheering along. The energy was amazing.
Another great thing was how wide a spectrum of people was represented, from kids to older folks, and not just fringe or freaky people. Many of these people had never participated in this sort of demonstration before.
This is a huge contrast with the regular Shirouto no Ran demo, which is made up largely of punk rockers, dadaists, and other weirdos (not that there weren't some of those here).
I suddenly found myself with a new appreciation for all those slightly alienated May Day marches, whose effectiveness I've always been pretty skeptical of. They were dress rehearsals for this - an issue powerful enough to draw in people, who just need experienced organizers to give them an outlet for their anxiety and anger.