Posted by debito on July 4th, 2008
Good morning blog. I’ll just put up a brief entry for today, as things are so hectic and full of distractions that it feels like the first week of college. Out every night with journalist friends, corresponding every day with a number of projects (including stringer stuff) both Summit-related and non.
For now, here’s an on-site report from a Sapporo resident (me) re the final days before the Toyako Summit:
The feeling right now is one of holding one’s breath, waiting for the Summit to come in like a great fog and enshroud us for a few days. Media has the perfunctory reports about goals, logistics, and the occasional voice from the curbside decrying inconvenience. But it at times almost feels like the journalists are taking a deep breath for a few days before exhaling.
Security, naturally, is pretty tight. Friend Olaf reports from Chitose (where he works, and where everyone flies in for the Summit) that there are dozens of cops standing guard around bridges, intersections, sidewalks, traffic arteries, you name it. He’s been stopped at the airport for ID checks (same as all foreign-looking passengers), but so far, even when cycling to work, no stoppages so far. He anticipates that will change once the bigwigs fly in, understandibly.
Around Sapporo and environs, the trainspotter-types are playing “collect the cop cars”, i.e. police vehicles from all over Japan (their prefectural affiliations are written on their sides) are now careening, lights flashing, around Sapporo city streets, Hokkaido toll expressways, and all the arteries between Tomakomai and Sapporo (including cities in between of Kitahiroshima and Eniwa). And we aren’t even talking about going into the mountains (something I will be doing tomorrow) where the Summit is being held. One friend remarked about how the pilferers around the rest of Japan must be having fun with the reduced police presence elsewhere.
Police are guarding every corner nearby Sapporo’s five consulates (US, South Korea, Russia, China, and Australia), and are no doubt keeping an eye on the honorary consulates and trade missions. Nearby parks have either daystick-brandishing cops, or else the occasional private-security watchdogs on alert (the Subway between government buildings and Odori has carried marshalls on either end of the car, for one stop only). And of course, major train stations have our boys in blue in reasonable riot gear. Traffic delays are starting to appear (one of my students reported he would be late to class this morning due to them), and yesterday, the toll roads indicated that the security forces would be carrying out a drill to seal off on-ramp entranceways (I missed it, fortunately.)
This is, of course, Sapporo, 70 kilometers as the crow flies from Toyako. I shudder to think what’s happening in Tokyo (700 kms away), Osaka (even further), and elsewhere (where reports in the comments section to Debito.org indicate similar developments).
Naturally, racial profiling continues at Chitose Airport unabated, with all of my NJ journalist friends (and only them, they say) so far being stopped by police and ID-ed as they exit baggage claim. My complaint seems to have had no effect. All any terrorist group has to do is send an Asian and they pass unscreened.
Final word for now: It seems the Japanese police are more concerned about giving the appearance of security than creating actual security. A friend of mine, trained in undermining infrastructure and assassination (yes, I talk to a lot of people) due to his stint in a foreign military, has eyewitnessed numerous flaws in the Chitose security (such as being able to drive a van into Chitose with tinted windows–and not be stopped! Could have brought in all manner of subversive elements that way). And that any trained assassin is capable of coming months before the event and hiding out in the woods until needed. He doubts that we’re significantly more secure after all this expense, public inconvenience, and precedent renewed of subverting Japan’s civil society.
Forget these summits. How about a video conference for world leaders? Stop putting overreactive societies like Japan through these sorts of things. Arudou Debito in Sapporo