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Hiroshima in G7 Summit Mode Among Increased Security and Prayers for Peace

As the G7 Summit prepares to kick off in Hiroshima, the city is on high alert as it welcomes foreign dignitaries and guests from all over the world.

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"It looks pretty closed, doesn't it?" This was the comment of a Japanese young man in his 20s to his friend as he stood in front of the shut gate of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on May 18. This is just as the city prepares to welcome dignitaries from all over the world for the G7 Summit. 

The G7 summit brings together leaders of the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United States, the European Union, and host country Japan.  It is set to take place from May 19-21. Leaders of a few other countries, such as Brazil and Vietnam, are also invited as special guests. 

Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was the first G7 leader to arrive in Hiroshima in the early hours of May 18. She will be joined by United States President Joe Biden and United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak later in the day. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the G7 chair this year, has already arrived. He picked his hometown city of Hiroshima as the setting for the summit. In part, the location helps him send a message of the importance of a world without nuclear weapons

Police patrol the river at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, with the a-bomb dome in the background (© Sankei)

Preparing the City

As foreign dignitaries make their way to the city in Western Japan, local security is on high alert. The police presence is among the most strikingly noticeable aspects. Their enhanced presence was clear from the moment JAPAN Forward exited the train station gates at Hiroshima Station on May 17. 

According to local media reports, up to 24,000 police officials from all over the country are mobilized for the summit. This surpasses past security at any other Japan-held G7 event. 

Police patrol the local train line in Hiroshima for the G7 Summit (© Sankei)

Schools, Work Schedules Affected

Many schools in Hiroshima have closed from May 18 through the weekend. Companies, too, have either encouraged their employees to take leave or work from home. 

A restaurant in Naka Ward serving the local specialty of okonomiyaki was emptier than usual, commented the owner-chef. For those curious readers, okonomiyaki is also known as the "as you like it" pancake. 

"Normally you'd have local employees coming in for lunch. But there are only a few today," she said. "The summit is supposed to be only a few days, but in reality, the impact is in the previous and following days as well. It feels almost like a week-long holiday," she added.

JAPAN Forward caught up with Yoko Take, a Hiroshima resident interviewed near the restaurant. She was planning to stay home for the duration of the summit, she explained. "I had considered leaving the city, but it's cheaper to just stay put, so I think I'll just go around locally," she said smiling. 

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Student volunteers at the station helping out tourists during the Hiroshima Summit (© Sankei)

Impact on Traffic 

Among the many police officers patrolling the city are those controlling the traffic. They are especially prevalent in the area near the G7 summit site, the Hiroshima Grand Prince Hotel. According to the local authorities, the aim is to cut traffic in the wider area by half. In the area immediately adjacent to the hotel, only vetted workers and residents are permitted to transit. 

Located on an island connected to the mainland, officials are also monitoring the waters and airspace surrounding the hotel. Their intent is to deter access to the location by intruders. 

Public Transportation 

Safety protocols are implemented throughout the city and beyond. Lockers in the main train station in Hiroshima were closed off through the weekend. They were also inaccessible in other train stations, such as Okayama and Tokyo, to deter terrorist attacks during the summit period. In Tokyo station, even some beverage vending machines were closed off as a safety precaution. 

Public buses in Hiroshima are running on a holiday schedule. Tourist route buses, on the other hand, have been canceled completely. 

One British tourist who was traveling on a tour commented on how the restrictions caught his group by surprise. Martin Ferrabee told JAPAN Forward, "Our guide had to book four taxis, as we didn't know the tour buses would be canceled." He added, "It's quite inconvenient." 

Police patrol Miyakojima before the location closed during the G7 Summit (© Sankei)

Major Tourist Locations Are Empty

The ferry to Miyakojima, a popular tourist attraction due to the red Torii Gate by the water and the deer roaming the grounds, closed in the afternoon of May 18 and will remain inaccessible until May 22. 

The same was true for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, where the poignant atomic bomb dome still stands, overlooking the memorial museum. Both the park and Miyakojima are expected to be visited by foreign leaders and therefore are closed for the duration of the summit. 

JAPAN Forward met one tourist, a Japanese woman resident in Hong Kong, who had woken up at 5 AM in order to visit both Miyakojima and the Hiroshima Memorial Park in the same morning. 

"I knew that I had only half a day to see everything. So I had to rush!" she explained. 

Another traveler, this time from the Netherlands, was disgruntled that he had come to Hiroshima just for the day. He had no idea, he said, that the park and the museum were closing for the summit from that afternoon. 

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Fumio Kishida, Japan's Prime Minister, as he heads to Hiroshima for the G7 Summit on May 18 (© Sankei).

An Important Message of Peace 

Several interviewees commented that, despite the inconveniences, they thought the choice of Hiroshima for the G7 summit discussions was significant. 

"I think the minor inconveniences are worth it if world leaders can have a fruitful discussion on how to avoid war," said a local resident called Take. 

"With the war in Ukraine, it really is important to meet and discuss what to do, because what Russia is doing is terrible," said the British tourist Martin Ferabbee. 

Another, the Japanese tourist who resides in Hong Kong, explained that the location also held personal importance for her. "My grandfather was from Hiroshima, and he was within a 500-meter radius of the atomic bomb explosion on August 6, 1945. He miraculously survived." 

Because of her personal connection, she wanted to call on international visitors to come to Hiroshima. "It's different if you just read this information online. Instead, come here and see the museum." Then she added, "I would encourage everyone to visit."  

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Author: Arielle Busetto