Extensive security measures were implemented in Hiroshima on Thursday as the city in western Japan gears up for the Group of Seven leaders' summit amid safety concerns heightened by recent attacks on a former and the current prime minister of the country.

With the three-day talks starting Friday, a tense mood has enveloped the city, with security personnel from across the country patrolling the streets, while locations set to feature in the meetings were fenced off from the public and bus and trolley services were suspended or reduced.

Among the places shuttered is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which the leaders are expected to visit on the summit's first day. The Atomic Bomb Dome, which stands as a symbol of the destructive power of nuclear weapons in the city that suffered the world's first atomic bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, was also made inaccessible for the duration of the summit.

A police officer with bomb sniffing dog patrols around JR Hiroshima Station in downtown Hiroshima on May 18, 2023, ahead of the May 19-21 Group of Seven summit in the western Japan city. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

The police presence could be felt across the center of the city on Thursday, with boat patrols making regular trips up and down the river around the peace park and its perimeter now sealed by a 1.8-meter high fence.

Miyajima Island, a popular destination near to Hiroshima known for its UNESCO World Heritage Itsukushima Shrine, was also closed to visitors from noon.

"The security has really ramped up in the last week, and it feels ten times stricter than when Obama came here," said Norikazu Hirama, the 74-year-old owner of an okonomiyaki pancake restaurant in Hiroshima.

Up to 24,000 security personnel will be mobilized during the summit, according to the police, far more than the 5,600 mobilized for then U.S. President Barack Obama's brief visit in May 2016.

The boosted measures follow an April incident in which an explosive device was thrown at Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as he was visiting Wakayama, western Japan, and the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during an election stump speech in July last year.

Amid the tense atmosphere, authorities have already been called in to deal with multiple false alarms in the city stemming from unattended items, leading to bullet train cancellations and other disruptions.

Police officers patrol around JR Hiroshima Station in Hiroshima on May 18, 2023, on the eve of the three-day Group of Seven summit in the western Japan city. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

To ensure ease of travel and safety for visiting leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, the police have designated major roads and the expressway to and from locations, including the Grand Prince Hotel, the summit's main venue, for potential closure.

The Hiroshima Prefectural Police aim to halve traffic volumes during the summit and are urging locals to limit travel by private car. Commercial drivers are asked to operate between midnight and 6 a.m. when traffic limits are less likely.

At least 140 public schools are set to close over concerns that students and staff will struggle to come in, and businesses were also affected, including major carmaker Mazda Motor Corp., which is pausing its factory operations from Thursday through Monday.

Despite the closures, a number of tourists could still be spotted trying to get a last look at the sites before they closed, including Australians Lynley Dodd and George Dubov, who only found out yesterday the G-7 was taking place in Hiroshima and got up at 5 a.m. to look around the city.

Despite the disruption, they said the police had been "incredibly polite" during their stay.

Due to the summit restrictions, atomic bomb survivor Seiko Mito, 77, said he is unable to tell the history of the bombing to foreign tourists outside the Atomic Bomb Dome for the first time in the 17 years he has been engaged in the volunteer work.

Mito, who was in his mother's womb at the time of the blast, said he intends to relocate his activity outside the park during the summit.

"It's a shame if people come all the way here and find there's nothing they can see, so it's the least I can do," he said.

Some locals took a flexible view of the restraints. Koji Ueda, head of the Hiroshima Prefectural Citizen's Culture Center, which will continue to run events during the summit, said he felt they are "needed to enable the G-7 leaders to gather here and see the atomic bombing's reality for themselves."

He added that there "may never be another chance like this, so we can't let it slip away."

Related coverage:

Biden leaves for Hiroshima to attend G-7 summit