Never have so many protected so few. Some 30,000 policemen are now deployed in Tokyo to provide security for the leaders of six Western nations attending next week's economic summit. Their helmets, riot shields, and vehicles carry the emblems of police units from every corner of Japan.
The intensity of summit security preparations has been a showcase for the reputed Japanese talent for thoroughness. The police have searched every building and rooftop in the downtown area around the site of summit deliberations and surrounding the hotels housing delegations and the press. Police have visited apartments in a two-kilometer radius looking for possible launching sites for terrorists' missiles. Even police frogmen have been sent underwater to probe the murky waters of the moat surrounding the Imperial Palace.
The security measures passed their first test with flying colors Tuesday when the government celebrated the Emperor's birthday. Radicals had vowed to disrupt the event, but it passed with only a few minor incidents.
All these measures are taking a toll on the day-to-day life of Tokyo residents. Downtown traffic -- never one of the city's better features -- has been slowed to a crawl in the weeks leading up to the summit. Barriers have prevented parking throughout the area, and at police checkpoints, cars are randomly pulled over at all hours of the day or night for police inspection.
Traffic conditions will become even worse for city residents, starting Friday, when the leaders begin to arrive. Several elevated expressways in Tokyo will be closed, and traffic will be completely barred on roads near the key summit sites.
Many Tokyoites will be leaving town to escape the summit crunch. This is ``Golden Week,'' a traditional holiday period beginning with the Emperor's birthday and ending with Children's Day on May 5. This should ease the traffic jams somewhat -- except on the last day of the summit when residents return to work.
All of these efforts are not just on behalf of the visiting leaders. There will also be parallel meetings of foreign and finance ministers. All told, some 1,000 people will make up the official delegations.
Watching them will be an estimated 8,000 newsmen, 2,000 of them representing the foreign press. About 10,000 special identification cards have been issued, which is about twice the number issued for the last summit here, held in 1979.
Despite all the incoveniences, the Japanese are certain to display their usual charming politeness toward their guests. No Japanese ever wants a visitor to leave without a good impression. And Tokyoites have one bonus from the overwhelming security blanket -- their crime rate has reportedly dropped some 20 percent.