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Japan: anti-government criticism on the rise

Public criticism is rare, but that isn't stopping people from protesting the government's handling of the nuclear crisis.

Like Hatta, many Japanese are beginning to speak out, loudly, against their government.

Protester Yuki Nakatsu shouted slogans as she carried a large sign that read, “Local Energy Resources.” She said she wants the government to consider alternate energy options. “I’m angry at the Japanese government,” she said. “I can’t help by sitting at home, so I came here to participate today.”

Jennifer Teeter, an American English teacher who lives in Kyoto, said she attended the protests daily, and saw the size of the group increase each day. “More information is spreading through Twitter and the internet,” she said.

A recent demonstration in Tokyo drew 1,000 people, many of whom had read about the protest on Twitter.

“It was organized by a regular person who felt guilty about not speaking out on behalf of the people of Fukushima,” said Ayako Mie, a Tokyo-based journalist who covered the event. The initial Twitter message about the protest was re-tweeted 2,000 times, she said.

Mie said people in Japan are now actively discussing nuclear energy alternatives for the first time. “People don’t really think about things until it really affects their lives,” she said.

But it’s hard to know how long this increase in vocal dissent will last, Mie added.

“I don’t know if people will capitalize on this newfound voice to speak up on other issues,” she said.