anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo
© Reuters/Toru HanaiProtesters take part in an anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo March 27, 2011. The sign on the left reads, "Change energy policy". The sign on the right reads, "Do not sprinkle radioactive material".
About 17,500 people gathered Sunday for two rallies held in Tokyo against nuclear power plants amid the prolonged crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station some 220 kilometers to the northeast.

Around the JR Koenji Station in Suginami Ward, some 15,000 people took part in a demonstration march organized by local shop owners and reported online as a call for joining the event had spread on Twitter, organizers said.

''I learned of the event on Twitter. Now is the time to stop nuclear plants,'' said Takashi Kamiyama, who took part with his 2- and 6-year-old children among participants. ''I want to do what I can do for these kids.''

As an organizer, Hajime Matsumoto said, ''It's epoch-making that so many people gathered without being mobilized by a large organization. It's become big power as we joined hands over the Internet.''

In Shiba Park in Minato Ward, about 2,500 people gathered for a civic rally to demand that Chubu Electric Power Co. halt operations at its Hamaoka nuclear power plant in Shizuoka Prefecture, saying the plant located ''right above'' the assumed epicenter of a predicted major quake may cause another nuclear crisis.

''We've learned that nuclear plants cannot be controlled by human power,'' said photographer Gentaro Todaka, 34, among the participants. ''We hope to halt the Hamaoka plant which is said to be the most dangerous, and the campaign to halt nuclear plants will spread elsewhere.''

In the wake of Japan's worst nuclear crisis at the tsunami-hit plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co., Chubu Electric has put off rebooting the Hamaoka's No. 3 reactor that had been slated for early April after regular servicing, while running the Nos. 4 and 5 reactors at the five-reactor plant.