National / Politics

Concern grows over how G20 security preparations will impact Osaka

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

U.S. President Donald Trump is set to conclude his four-day trip to Japan on Tuesday amid high levels of security, with 25,000 police reportedly deployed for his visit.

But with Trump scheduled to be back in Osaka in exactly one month for the Group of Twenty (G20) leaders’ summit, officials and residents are becoming increasingly concerned about how security preparations not only for Trump but also other world leaders, from Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russian President Vladimir Putin, will impact Osaka and the surrounding region before and during June 28-29 summit.

The venue for the conference is Intex Osaka on the city’s waterfront area. But world leaders will be staying at hotels located elsewhere, particularly in the northern Umeda area. Bilateral meetings between Abe and other leaders, including Trump, may take place at the Osaka state guest house in Osaka Castle Park, which offers more photogenic scenery than Intex Osaka and is closer to the hotels in the Umeda district.

So far, Osaka officials have announced traffic restrictions in nine parts of the city between June 27 and 30th. Much of the area around JR Osaka Station will be closed to vehicular traffic, as will the Osaka Castle Park area and parts of Namba Station. Major expressways passing through the city will be at least partially closed to vehicular traffic.

“Many roads will be shut down. There may not be any other way, but we’re asking people who normally take buses or drive their cars to use the railway and subway systems,” Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui said earlier this month when he announced the traffic restrictions for the summit.

But that has raised questions about whether Osaka’s current rail transportation system can handle more passengers than it already does, whether more trains would have to be added to accommodate the increased passenger load and what those additions might mean in terms of more crowded stations.

Vehicular traffic to Kansai International Airport will also be affected, especially buses between the airport and cities in surrounding areas. Traffic across the bridge that connects Kansai airport to the mainland will be stopped to accommodate the arrival and departure of VIPs.

Over a five day period between June 26-30, public parks and parking lots around Osaka’s Itami airport will be closed, while coin lockers and trash cans in all Osaka prefectural train stations will be unusable between June 24-30.

With heavy security across so much of the city of Osaka at the end of June, small merchants are wondering what to do.

“It might be better to take a vacation at that time. We’re in an area where traffic restrictions will apply and I’m not sure how much business we’ll get,” said Tomoko Horiguchi, 62, who runs a small coffee shop in the city’s Nishi Ward.

While Osaka is not yet officially ordering local businesses to close, some merchant associations have announced they will voluntarily shut down during the summit. These include pachinko parlors and the city’s Tobita Shinchi red light district.

Many bars, restaurants and nightclubs in Osaka’s Kitashinchi district, which is near several major hotels in Umeda where G20 leaders will be staying, may decide to close down as well, as they did during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting held in Osaka in 1995.

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