(Dateline Osaka, 7:15 AM) – Since 6:30 AM, my neighbourhood has been subject to swooping Death-From-Above helicopter formations. Although I can’t from this angle catch a glimpse, there are quite a few of them and they are often right overhead. They’re probably Japan Air Self-Defense Force choppers sweeping the area around Nagai Stadium, where the IAAF championships are opening today, about 500 metres from this table. We’ll probably have to listen to this every morning for a week or so.
At the airport on Tuesday, I was stopped by an undercover cop when I hesitated after walking through customs (I was looking around for the baggage delivery service desk, and deciding whether I really needed it). Police cars with lights flashing were seen in Soemon-cho last night. Protective fencing has been put up around all the “parking trees” near Nagai Station, causing consternation among the neighbours and myself (Osakans see illegal bicycle parking as their birthright – after all these years, so do I). I expect a lot of Osaka Police at the station when I go to work later this morning.
The odd things is, most people in Osaka know little and care less about this event. It hasn’t been all that well publicized – if I didn’t live in the neighbourhood where it’s all taking place, I wouldn’t have a clue about it either. The world’s sporting press will be on hand though, so the city government has pulled out all the stops. I haven’t seen security like this since the Emperor himself opened the Japan Games, an athletic youth tournament, c. 1996. That time, I remember seeing frogmen climbing from the sewers, and for two weeks before the opening, one could pass policemen standing all night on every corner (up to three blocks away from the stadium) holding two-metre-long riot sticks. I didn’t live in Nagai during the World Cup of 2002, but I can just imagine what it was like.
These preparations began with the ceremonial chucking-out of the homeless colony some months ago, and have continued with the renovation of the park, and the building of acres of temporary security and media buildings in the open spaces where the kids usually skateboard. Now that my jet-lag has dissipated somewhat, I might go over and take a few pictures, if I’m permitted.
As Morrissey (as witnessed by my Esteemed Colleague in Toronto) remarked from the stage at a concert in the 90s when overzealous stadium security began roughing up kids in the audience, “No doubt this is being done for your protection.”
Addendum, 12 hours later: Coming home from work an hour ago, I saw three helicopters still noisily circling the vicinity, like buzzing cicadas looking for somewhere to die. I found out that all the racket this morning was due to the Emperor and Empress again, opening the whole shebang.