The assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the attempted assassination of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida have rocked the nation into a more robust state of security surrounding this week’s G7 summit in Hiroshima.
The Japanese government brought in 24,000 security guards for the summit and took potentially overzealous precautions, such as unplugging vending machines.
Machines have been registered – with apology notes affixed to them – all the way to Tokyo, nearly 800km from Hiroshima – the site of one of the two 1954 nuclear explosions that ended World War II .
Trains to Hiroshima warned travelers that limited bins would be available at stations. Instead, a man held up a trash bag that passengers could use before exiting through the station’s turnstiles. Garbage cans in public places in Japan are generally scarce.
Tourists have also been warned that they will be banned from visiting Miyajima Island, home to Itsukushima Shrine and its iconic “floating” gate, from Thursday to Saturday because leaders are expected to visit it.
A group of police stand guard in the street on Wednesday near the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima ahead of the G7 summit
Workers place barricades around Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park ahead of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan. President Joe Biden arrives in Hiroshima late Thursday afternoon
The sanctuary is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the hours before President Joe Biden arrived on Thursday afternoon, officers – wearing raincoats and white pants – were spread about every 20 feet on downtown streets.
There were also several events planned ahead of the rally, which brings together the leaders of the United States, Japan, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and Canada, and invited guests, including South Korea, Australia, India, Brazil, Comoros, Cook Islands, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Most of the security measures implemented by the Japanese were aimed at preventing the use of bombs or improvised explosive devices, as firearms are hard to come by in the Asian nation.
Gun laws are extremely restrictive, with only police and military personnel allowed to purchase a handgun or rifle.
Abe, who was shot and killed at a campaign event in July, was murdered with a homemade firearm.
In the year before Abe’s death, the country – with a population of 125 million – had recorded just 10 gun-related criminal cases.
The 67-year-old former prime minister – who left office in September 2020 – was killed by Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, who targeted the leader not for his politics but for his family’s ties to the Church of unification.
Yamagami was able to approach Abe from behind, fire one shot – which missed – and then fire another, which hit the leader’s left arm and damaged the arteries below both of his collarbones, creating massive and fatal internal bleeding. .
Security had to call medical professionals to help Abe.
On Thursday, workers were pictured installing a fence around the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
Protesters marched through the Peace Memorial Park ahead of the G7 in Hiroshima, Japan on Wednesday
He had stopped breathing and his heart had stopped by the time he was airlifted to the nearest hospital.
The attack raised major security questions in Japan.
As an expert put it to the Associated Press“political terrorism” in Japan is extremely rare – and therefore senior officials do not have the kind of security presence enjoyed by, say, the President of the United States.
Even after the departure of American presidents, they still benefit from the protection of the secret services.
The Japanese were also rocked by a more recent near miss as Kishida was targeted.
Last month, a man threw an explosive device at the prime minister ahead of a campaign speech in the Japanese city of Wakayama.
Kishida was not injured, but the incident renewed calls for the leaders to be given tight security.