OSAKA -- Tourists visiting Osaka at the end of June and expecting to leave their baggage in lockers while they go shopping and sightseeing will be in for a surprise.
Anti-terrorism safeguards for the Group of 20 Summit on June 28 and 29 will include banning the use of public lockers at major trains stations in the city and elsewhere in the surrounding Kansai region. Baggage checks will also be conducted at certain locations popular with travelers.
Posters in English, Chinese and Korean have been put up at Osaka Station -- where about 870,000 passengers come through every day -- to inform visitors that lockers and trash cans will be unavailable starting June 24. But not everyone is aware of what could prove to be a major inconvenience: A tourist from Germany said he did not know the G-20 leaders would be meeting there.
Osaka has become one of Japan's more popular destinations. Last year it attracted 1.14 million foreign visitors, triple the figure five years earlier, according to the Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau. Many tourists use the city as a base for visiting Kyoto, Kobe and the rest of Kansai; 90% of the visitors hail from China, South Korea and other parts of Asia.
Most hotels agree to keep guests' baggage before check-in and after check-out. But significant numbers of travelers stay in private lodgings that do not offer this service. For them, lockers are indispensable.
The rainy season adds another unwelcome wrinkle.
"It rains a lot in Japan in June," said a Chinese woman. "Tourists who stay in private lodgings will have trouble without lockers. I will advise others on social media that they should make their baggage as small as possible."
A Chinese graduate school student visiting Japan with three of her friends said there ought to be alternatives in place. "Many people must come to Japan during the summit," she said. "There should be temporary storage space."
Individual Osaka attractions are tightening up security, too.
Universal Studios Japan is preparing to close down its lockers from June 27 to June 30, and is recommending its visitors refrain from bringing their suitcases to the theme park. The landmark Tsutenkaku tower will close its lockers from June 27 to June 29 and conduct baggage inspections, potentially clogging the entrance.
A service called ecbo cloak may be one option for tourists. The smartphone-based service uses unoccupied shop space for baggage storage. Users simply search on the app to find a nearby location. The company that runs ecbo cloak intends to increase its storage space and urge shops that accept luggage to carefully check the bags.
Informing tourists in advance would go a long way to avoiding chaos. The tourism bureau has posted G-20 information on its website and social media accounts. JR West, Hankyu Railway and nine other train companies in Kansai are letting passengers know about restrictions through posters and on-board announcements.
"We will provide information to visitors who are planning to visit Japan to minimize inconvenience in the city," said a tourism bureau official.
But it is difficult to tell how many travelers are getting the message.
Railway companies declined to disclose the names of all stations where lockers will be out of use, citing security reasons. Although late June is not a particularly busy time for tourism, the lack of available lockers is still likely to create headaches.