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Security adds new dimension to Golden Week festivities

Date Posted: 2004-05-06

Near record numbers of tourists are mixing and mingling with Okinawans as Golden Week holidays peak. The new element to already crowded facilities this year is security.

Police and guardsmen can be seen virtually everywhere as provisions guarding against terrorist threats are increased across the island. They’re at most major tourist sites, the airport, and the monorail stations linking the airport with Shuri.

The Ministry of Land and Transportation is overseeing the increased security, and is providing police guidance on how to conduct full body checks.

The Naha International Airport is on its highest security condition, and has increased the number of guardsmen patrolling the facility. Body searches are now common, including inside shoes and clothes. Some visitors are expressing surprise.

In Northern Okinawa, security has spread even to Okinawa Ocean Expo Park.

Further increasing tensions and security concerns are the fears and apprehension stemming from the April 28th incident at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, where a car crashed onto the airport grounds and runway, and the driver stole two additional cars before finally plunging into the water. The intruder was killed. The incident raises concerns because it was more than ten minutes between the time of the intrusion and when police were made aware of the incident.

Some officials say the highest caution levels will remain in effect until Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces are back from duty in Iraq.

Security at the area monorail stations has increased as well. More than 20 additional security guards have been hired, and those personnel are even checking inside garbage cans. Police say Shuri Castle security has been raised as well, and checks there will occasionally include body searches for weapons or contraband.

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