Japan anti-nuclear protests mark 6 months since quake

TOKYO Sun Sep 11, 2011 7:03am EDT

1 of 5. Protesters stand as they form a human chain around the building of Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) during a protest against the government's handling of the nuclear crisis and tsunami aftermath six months after the disaster in Tokyo September 11, 2011. Thousands protesters gathered in central Tokyo on Sunday to make human chain around the building of METI as Japan works out a national energy policy in the wake of the world's worst nuclear crisis at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima plant.

Credit: Reuters/Issei Kato

TOKYO (Reuters) - Anti-nuclear protesters took to the streets of Tokyo and other cities on Sunday to mark six months since the March earthquake and tsunami and vent their anger at the government's handling of the nuclear crisis set off by meltdowns at the Fukushima power plant.

In one of the largest protests, an estimated 2,500 people marched past the headquarters of the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, and created a "human chain" around the building of the Trade Ministry that oversees the power industry.

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan's northeastern coast left 20,000 dead or missing and crippled the Fukushima plant, triggering the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

The accident that led to radiation and contamination fears spurred widespread calls for an end to Japan's reliance on nuclear power in the quake-prone country.

Protesters, marching to the beat of drums, called for a complete shutdown of nuclear power plants across Japan and demanded a shift in government policy toward alternative sources of energy.

Among the protestors were four young men who declared the start of a 10-day hunger strike to bring about change in Japan's nuclear policy.

"I believe it is very important that the young generation voices opposition against nuclear power, and in order to bring our point across we need to put ourselves on the line and that's why we chose to hunger strike for 10 days," said 20-year-old Naoya Okamoto.

Japanese media reported similar protests in other cities across Japan on the day many offered prayers to those who died in the March 11 disaster.

(Reporting by Olivier Fabre; Writing by Tomasz Janowski)

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