Saturday, June 14, 2008

Kyoto Police On Alert To Terrorism

Kyoto Station is an interesting place on many levels. The atmosphere, architecture and people intermingle to create visual treasures. One of my students did a blog on the "Anthropology of Kyoto Station" (link). Now, however, there is an increased police presence and signs announcing terrorism alerts. With various G8 meetings in Japan this year, Japan has been holding drills and publicizing its efforts to make the world feel at ease and/or increase paranoia. I have written before about the various photos that appear quite often in the Japanese media (link). Here's another example:

(Image borrowed from MSNBC.) The caption reads: A police dog bites the arm of a "suspect" during an anti-terrorism practice at the Tokyo shopping and business mall of Roppongi Hills on June 4, 2008. The training was held for the upcoming G8 Hokkaido summit.

See more photos of Japan's anti-terror efforts at the link below (and please don't ask me why they mixed photos of Mariah Carey in with them...).

Link to Japan G8 Security Training on MSNBC:

Back to Kyoto Station. When I was there recently, I saw the sign below.

In case you cannot read the text on the blurry picture (taken on my cell phone camera), it says: With the G8 Minister of Finance Meeting scheduled in Osaka, tighter security measures throughout the Hotel have been recommended by the Authorities. One specific measure that may inconvenience the guests of this Hotel is the removal of paper towels and trash cans during the following period: From Wednesday, June 11, 2008 To Sunday, June 15, 2008. We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you in advance for your kind understanding and cooperation.

This observation was confirmed by a recent news article, "Security Stepped Up in Osaka." (Kyoto and Osaka are relatively close and linked together by several train lines.)

Police and other authorities tightened security throughout the city on Friday, both on the ground and across waterways, as the Group of Eight finance ministers meeting got under way here.

The Osaka prefectural police will deploy about 6,000 officers during the event, including guards posted at the Osaka International Convention Center in the city's Kita Ward, the main venue for the meeting, its neighboring facilities and major train stations.

Road access to areas near the venue is restricted until the meeting concludes on Saturday, and all vehicles entering sites near the venue may be subject to police inspections. On Friday, many drivers were asked to open their trunks, and police officers also checked beneath cars for suspect materials.

Many of the trash cans at train stations in the city have been sealed.

Link to "Security stepped up in Osaka" in The Daily Yomiuri, 6/14/08

Train stations in Japan have already been removing (the few and rare) trash cans and coin lockers because apparently terrorists like to place bombs in them. But why the removal of paper towels? Will this prevent terrorists from washing their hands? Luckily, the hotel did not decide to remove the toilet paper.

The hotel sealed the trash cans while the Kyoto Station authorities removed them all. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they removed the public ash trays as well.

Is this all a bit much? (Have I asked this question before?) While I was walking around Kyoto Station I saw a plastic bag with some sort of container in it - apparently litter. But it was suspicious because one rarely sees litter at Kyoto Station - it is incredibly clean. At least two security officers passed by the suspicious bag/litter, almost stepping on it, but did not seem to notice it. Is this the real kind of alert to terrorism that we can expect?

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